Teaching Traveling: Ever imagined a career traveling around the world as an on-camera host for an educational video curriculum about global education? Meet Katherine Lonsdorf.
Kat, tell us about yourself.
Kat: I am originally from a small town near Madison, Wisconsin. While Madison is not a big city by any means, or even known for being that culturally diverse, I remember brief interactions with other cultures that had a lasting impact with me growing up. For example, the Japanese girl that I befriended in my group piano lesson at age five inspired me to start learning Japanese, and eventually study abroad in Japan in high school.
I was also lucky enough to grow up in a family with parents that had traveled and encouraged cross-cultural understanding. By the time I graduated high school, I had been to ten different countries. I was hooked. I headed off to Los Angeles to study Diplomacy and World Affairs at Occidental College. I learned Arabic and lived in Amman, Jordan my junior year, traveling all around the middle east. By the time I graduated college, I knew I wanted to travel as much as possible for a living–but I just didn’t know how I would ever fund it. And that’s where ProjectExplorer.org came in.
TT: Tell us more about ProjectExplorer.org.
K: Founded in 2003, ProjectExplorer.org is a nonprofit organization that produces online global travel series (videos, photos, blogs, and lesson plans) for free for teachers and parents. Our aim is to boost students’ global awareness and cultural understanding by providing them with access to people and places they would not otherwise see or know about.
TT: What a fantastic resource! What is your job like?
K: I am an on-camera host and writer for ProjectExplorer.org. It’s funny; I’ve never considered myself a teacher exactly, because I don’t directly interact with students. At the same time, I always try to write and present with clarity, while making sure nothing is over-simplified. Basically, I like to act like I’m speaking to my seven-year-old niece all the time– I would never want her to feel like I was talking down to her! Most importantly, though, I’m usually learning right along with students as we film, and that’s the best part. I’m fascinated by other cultures, just like I was when I was a kid, and I hope the content that ProjectExplorer.org produces can spark that same curiosity in the students we reach.
My latest travels with ProjectExplorer.org took me to Azerbaijan, which is a country I had never even thought of visiting before, but I am so glad I got the chance. The series will feature anything from the science of mud volcanoes, to the history of the USSR, to prehistoric rock petroglyphs, to an introduction to Islam, to a day in the life of a member of parliament. One of my highlights from the series was learning how to weave a traditional Azerbaijani carpet by hand– an art form that was nearly forgotten during the mechanization of the Soviet Union. The series is set to premiere in March. I learned so much while filming it, I can’t wait to share it!
TT: Awesome! What’s next for your filming schedule?
K: For our 2013 series — ProjectExplorer.org‘s 10th anniversary year — we will embark on a 10-country world tour to produce our most ambitious project yet. “The Rise and Fall of the British Empire” will be filmed across 5 continents, and this series will explore both the positive and negative sides of colonialism to create a complete picture of this rich history. History class meets the “Amazing Race” when our small crew travels the globe to capture footage in Australia, Barbados, Canada, Ghana, Hong Kong, India, Jamaica, Malta, Singapore, and Tanzania/Zanzibar. Do consider supporting our free educational programming by making a donation here.
TT: Nice! How have your travels impacted you as a person?
K: I really believe that traveling is the number one way to learn, and I think ProjectExplorer.org shows that every subject can be covered while exploring the world around us. Not only is the world a fantastic classroom, traveling also has taught me patience and problem solving, in a way that I’m not sure I could learn any where else. Most of all, traveling has taught me that people are people, all over the world, and a smile can get you a really long way.
TT: What advice do you have for teachers who are dreaming of travel, or travelers dreaming of teaching?
K: Do it. Traveling and teaching go hand-in-hand. I can’t imagine a better way to learn.