Chilliwack teacher heading to Antartica with National Geographic

Chilliwack teacher Jenn Long joins select group for expedition in Antarctica through National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions.

Biology teacher Jenn Long has been teaching Darwin’s expeditions through the knowledge of a textbook for years.

Now, she’ll live it first hand.

National Geographic has selected the Sardis secondary teacher for a Grosvenor Teacher Fellowship in Antarctica.

She is one of 25 selected, out of 1,300 applicants, and one of the first three Canadians since the program started four years ago.

Long got the call last month.

“As soon as I heard Antarctica, I was blown away; I didn’t hear anything after that,” she said.

The Grosvenor Teacher Fellowship is a partnership between National Geographic Education and Lindblad Expeditions. The program is designed to give K-12 teachers an opportunity to experience geographic education in remote areas including Iceland, Artic Svalbard, Greenland and the Canadian Maritimes.

Long, who didn’t have a choice of where to go, but secretly wished for the coldest place on earth, was paired with the 14-day journey through Antarctica.

Wish come true.

“Antarctica was by far my number one choice, I mean, how often do you get to go to Antarctica in a lifetime?” she said. “How can you not be excited about seeing penguins in their natural environment. And the wildlife, the glaciers, experiencing all that is the Antarctica is going to be really exciting.”

Aboard the National Geographic Explorer, a fully stabilized ice-class vessel, Long will be joined with two other fellows, a National Geographic photographer, an undersea specialist, and several ship naturalists to help identify the different species, as well as the area’s geographic and natural subjects.

The journey will include close encounters with the continent’s iconic penguins, leopard seals, and marine mammals. There will be kayaking among the icebergs, exploring the glaciers, investigating the unfamiliar landscapes and habitats.

“In some ways, it’s a really big professional development opportunity,” said Long.

“Being a biology teacher, we teach our students about how Darwin was a ship naturalist, so to go and actually be on a ship and live in close quarters with true ship naturalists, and experience this stuff first hand, on a professional level, and a biology geek level, it’s going to be really, really awesome.”

Long isn’t new to teaching expeditions.

She’s led house building projects in Mexico, volunteer trips to Costa Rica and China, and in 2010, she took a two-year leave from the school district to teach at a not-for-profit environmental school in a cloud forest in Monte Verde, Costa Rica.

Like the others, she hopes her Antarctic experience will ignite a renewed excitement and passion she can share in the classroom.

“Hopefully this makes [the lessons] more real for my students,” Long said. “If I can get my students excited for travel, or excited about learning about the environment and the natural world, if I can get a fire lit in them – that’s the big thing I hope to bring back.”

Long will be on the fellowship from Dec. 18 to 31. Prior to going, she will participate in a pre-voyage workshop in Washington, D.C. that will include hands-on sessions on outreach planning and photography.

This is the eighth year of the Fellow Program, established in honour of former National Geographic Society chairman Gilbert M. Grosvenor’s lifetime commitment to geographic education.