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Posted: August 15, 2023

Garfield Teacher Plans to Use His Summer Adventure to Engage Students

Chris Speck recently returned from two-week expedition to Arctic Svalbard.

Chris Speck looking at the ocean.

Chris Speck looking at the ocean.

A majestic polar bear dives into frigid waters, perhaps in search of a meal. A relaxed seal lounges on a snow bank. A pod of orcas navigates the waters. Endearing walruses nurture their young.

Garfield STEM School teacher Chris Speck saw stunning wildlife during his expedition to Norway’s coast and the Svalbard archipelago. But, as the planet experiences its warmest temperatures, the middle school biology teacher was also taken by the melting glaciers and by the Sami, Indigenous people living in northern Norway, Sweden, and Finland who have been successfully managing the animals and the land in the area for thousands of years.

Speck is one of 50 educators from the U.S. and Canada selected as the 13th cohort of Lindblad Expeditions and National Geographic Society Grosvenor Teacher Fellows. He is grateful for the once-in-a-lifetime experience. But he notes that the whole point of the program is to take what he experienced and use it to engage his middle schoolers and to help them connect with the world and with the spectacular things in their own environment.

“It’s not just about what I saw and the people I met,” he said. “It’s, ‘How can I bring them back to Albuquerque? How do I bring the Arctic to the desert?’”

“For this, we’re going to be looking in and looking out,” Speck added. “Looking into their own experiences, and how do we live in our communities? What are the wild spaces around us? And then looking outward? What are the bigger environmental issues here in New Mexico? What are the wildlife around here? How do we work with them to make sure that all populations are sustainable and that we ensure safety for ourselves and for them?”

Speck said he plans to explore every opportunity within National Geographic to bring geographic knowledge to his biology teaching and to his English Language Arts teaching so his students can see how everything they do connects to different parts of the world.

“That’s just a really great opportunity for them to explore the world,” he said.