Teaching Traveling: Are you interested for funding for travel to study the environment? Let’s meet Micah Sewell, Fellowship Director of an organization that might interest you! Micah, tell us about the EPI Teacher Fellowship Program.
Micah: Hello! I work at Ecology Project International (EPI), a non-profit focused on education and conservation based in Missoula, Montana. Their mission is to inspire the next generation of conservation stewards through field-based partnerships, and teachers are on the front lines of this work.
In 2013, EPI started offering an 8-day Teacher Fellowship program, designed as a unique opportunity for professional development. Selected teachers travel to one of EPI’s field sites – in Yellowstone, Baja California Sur, or Costa Rica – and participate in a modified version of EPI’s field ecology program, where they collect data alongside field researchers on endangered species and critical ecosystems. From leatherback sea turtles in Costa Rica to bison and large mammals in Yellowstone, it’s an incredible experience.
Our goal with the Teacher Fellowship is to empower teachers to bring field science and experiential learning into their classrooms, and to (re)ignite their passion for teaching. Since the original Fellowship, EPI has worked with over 100 Fellows and expanded the program to four unique field sites. Applications are accepted each year from July 1st to September 1st.
TT: Sounds phenomenal! Tell us more about your own travels.
M: In 2013, I took a leave of absence from my work to undertake my first long-distance solo bike tour. Starting in Amsterdam, I rode 2100 miles to Tromso, hugging a narrow pathway between Norway’s rocky spine and the North Sea.
I connected with my long-lost Norwegian relatives, wild camped in incredible spots, stayed on tiny islands with wonderful hosts, and ended at Norway’s first Finnish Tango Festival, held under the northern lights up in tundra country.
TT: That’s awesome! Now, can you tell us more about the EPI Teacher Fellowship? What costs are covered?
M: I’ve had the privilege of developing this professional development & travel opportunity over the past four years as part of my work at Ecology Project International.
EPI covers most of the costs for selected Fellows. The costs that fall to participants are a program fee ($250 for Yellowstone, $350 for Baja/Costa Rica) and airfare to the starting location. Many teachers are able to draw on professional development funds through their school or district to cover these expenses.
TT: Excellent. So, tell us one moment from your travels that was particularly funny.
M: On the Yellowstone Fellowship in 2017, my group headed out for a backcountry snowshoe trek to collect samples from a site where some of the park’s large mammals had been hanging out, according to the tracking info provided by our researchers. After a couple miles, we spotted a pygmy owl, just off the edge of the trail.
Strange to see one during the day, and even stranger that it wasn’t flying away, what with a group of 10 humans less than 3 feet away. The owl had snagged a cedar waxwing and was attempting to take it away in one piece, but it weighed more than this little industrious owl did. And so, not wanting to give up its meal, but unable to fly away, the owl stared at us intently as we stared back.
TT: Hah! What advice do you have for teachers who are dreaming of travel, or travelers dreaming of teaching?
M: My advice is, don’t get bogged down in research or searching for the “perfect”. Find what interests you, make your plan, and get out there! If your work doesn’t support you, it’s probably a good time to find other work.
TT: Agreed. Thanks, Micah! Readers, what questions or comments do you have?