Teaching Traveling: How can teachers see the world for free though travel grants and scholarships? California teacher, Michael Wing, has advice on how to to it! Michael, tell us about your background.
Michael: I’m in my eighteenth year teaching science at Sir Francis Drake High School. Before that, I was an environmental consultant and an academic. I’ve traveled to:
- The Galapagos and Ecuador (Toyota International Teacher Program) 2007.
- Finland and Alaska (National Science Foundation – funded PolarTREC Program) 2009.
- Namibia, the United Arab Emirates and the Mojave Desert (NASA’s Spaceward Bound Program) 2009-2012.
- Canada’s High Arctic (NASA’s Houghton Mars Project, funded through a National Geographic Society Waitt Grant that I applied for) 2012.
- The Pacific Ocean (NOAA Teacher at Sea Program) 2015.
- Costa Rica (Earthwatch Teach Earth Fellowship) 2016.
I’ve also taken my own students, co-workers, and parent volunteers on trips. In particular I have lead over a dozen trips to the University of California’s White Mountain Research Center, in California’s White Mountains (12,500’ elevation) where my school has several ongoing research projects that I started.
TT: Astounding! Tell us more about your travels!
M: My very first trip led to all the others. In 2007 I was lucky enough to be selected to go to the Galapagos through the Toyota International Teacher Program. We were two dozen teachers, no two from the same state, traveling together from island to island meeting with local teachers and seeing the wildlife. Strangely, some of the teachers I was with seemed to know each other very well. I would ask about this, and they would say things like “Oh, we were together two years ago in Korea.” Or, “We were together three years ago in Saudi Arabia.”
Gradually it dawned on me that even though there are about four million teachers in the USA, the same very few teachers apply to all the cool teacher travel programs. I decided to become one of them. On the way home in the airport in Ecuador, I went around to each person and said “what other programs like this one have you heard about, or done?” I made a big list. I’m about halfway down it.
TT: Such a brilliant insight and idea. More people should do this! How did you find this first travel opportunity?
M: A co-worker sent around an email about the opportunity. Discovering opportunities for free teacher travel is the easy part. The hard part is finding the courage to apply. Because any application involves risk – the risk of wasted time, and of disappointment. Everyone thinks “Oh, I don’t have time and besides, the chances are I won’t get it.” Believe me, I had those thoughts too, but something made me sit down at the computer and bang out an application anyway. The Galapagos are expensive – I would never get there any other way. After eight years of just teaching my classes and going home I was ready for a challenge. My own kids were old enough to live without me for a couple of weeks.