By Diego Román (Assistant Professor in Teaching and Learning at Southern Methodist University and ESG Program leader for Science Education) and Amy Doherty, GC’s Operations Manager.
When we tell people we conduct research projects in the Galapagos Islands, the first thing that usually comes to mind is scientists examining the unique flora and fauna of the Archipelago. While protecting and increasing our understanding of the ecological systems of the Islands is critical to Galapagos Conservancy’s mission, the future conservation of these islands will also depend greatly on the local populations who live there.
To address the social component of conservation, Galapagos Conservancy has partnered with educators from universities in the US, Ecuador and other countries, as well as the Ministry of Education in Ecuador and the Fundación Scalesia in Galapagos, to provide high-quality professional development to all the 400+ teachers working in schools in Galapagos via the Education for Sustainability in Galapagos program (ESG).
Many do not know that a human population exists in Galapagos, yet there are more than 30,000 residents across four different islands who live there and whose daily activities impact the fragile environment in which they reside. Among these individuals are 7,500 school students who will become the future of Galapagos. We believe that providing these young people with knowledge and an appreciation for the natural environment in which they lead their daily lives will directly impact the long-term conservation of Galapagos.
Since the ESG project began in 2016, we have had the pleasure to work with many highly committed educators who care about teaching and protecting Galapagos. The ESG program has been providing teachers with the tools and strategies that can allow them to integrate teaching conceptual knowledge with environmental practices. These practices promote learning that is grounded in conservation issues that are particular to Galapagos, while also addressing the type of conceptual and practical knowledge children need to succeed.
For instance, in the most recent set of workshops (which we call Teacher Institutes), Rebeca Changostasig, a school teacher at Liceo Naval on San Cristóbal Island, used approaches she learned through the ESG Program to create a science lesson that covered recently discovered underwater geological formations. In her lesson, Rebeca used the 5 E model (Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate) to engage her students in powerful discussions of science topics using examples relevant to the lives of her students.
In this particular lesson, Rebeca shows a video of divers exploring the site as well an interview with the local diver who discovered the caves and now coordinates tours to that area. In this manner, Rebeca not only helped her students explore the unique geological characteristics of Galapagos, but also addressed issues of sustainable tourism and the balance that needs to exist between the needs of the local population and the long-term conservation of the Archipelago.
The work we are doing with teachers in Galapagos has been presented at research conferences around the world, including the 2018 annual conference of the American Education Research Association (AERA) in New York and the 2017 European Science Education Research Association (ESERA) in Dublin, Ireland. This coming year (2019), we will present a 2-hour session at the AERA conference to be held in Toronto to discuss the policy, environmental, scientific, and partnership factors that make our educational and research work in Galapagos possible. If you are in Toronto in April, please join us!
We hope to continue our work with teachers like Rebeca to continue improving the educational experiences of Galapagos students, while also supporting teachers to become mentors and local education leaders. It is our goal that these teachers will be the ones guiding local efforts that can positively affect the long-term sustainability of the Galapagos via high-quality education programs.
Diego Román is an Assistant Professor in Teaching and Learning at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. Diego is originally from Ecuador and worked as a volunteer at the Charles Darwin Research Station in 1999. He conducts research in the areas of bilingual, science, and environmental education. Diego earned a B.Sc. in Agricultural Sciences at Zamorano University in Honduras and his graduate studies at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and at Stanford University. Diego has been involved in the Education for Sustainability in Galapagos project since it started and leads the science education team.
Amy Doherty provides program coordination and support for the Education for Sustainability project area and supports internal operations for Galapagos Conservancy. She holds Bachelor’s degrees in Environmental Studies, Spanish, and Anthropology, and has traveled, studied, and worked in Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia, and the Pacific.