Off to the Arctic: Lynnwood teacher earns fellowship and it’s all for the kids

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    Jennie Warmouth inside the National Geographic logo. (All photos courtesy Jennie Warmouth)

    She’s devoted to her second-grade students at Lynnwood’s Spruce Elementary, which is one of her motivations for tracking polar bears in the Arctic this June.

    As a 2019 recipient of the Lindblad Expeditions and National Geographic Grosvenor Teacher Fellowship, Edmonds School District teacher Jennie Warmouth flies to Oslo, then takes a charter flight to the islands of Svalbard in the Arctic Ocean. There, Warmouth joins 140 guests, 13 scientists and another teacher on board the National Geographic Explorer for two weeks of a Lindblad expedition. There’ll be hikes, Zodiac boat excursions, cruising and lectures.

    It’s the ultimate field trip for a teacher and for her students.

    “I work at a Title 1 school,” she said. “It’s very diverse, with 39 world languages represented.”

    Jennie Warmouth teaching at Spruce Elementary.

    Even with federal funds to support a school with many low-income students, there aren’t a lot of extras. “We don’t have field trips,” Warmouth said. “I had to get a grant to take my students to visit a PAWS (Progressive Animal Welfare Society) shelter a mile and a half away from school. So, I look for opportunities to elevate my instructional impact and transcend those barriers.”

    This trip pretty much does all that. And a lot more: “I want to be their eyes and ears out there.”

    Warmouth’s preparations for such an adventure began years ago when she earned a Ph.D. in educational psychology, with a specialty in human-animal interactions related to learning empathy. In 2008-09, she was a Fulbright exchange teacher, trading places with her counterpart in Scotland for an entire year, and producing a children’s book based on the experience.

    To qualify for the Grosvenor Teacher Fellowship, Warmouth had to complete the National Geographic Certification Program, a free, online professional-development program for pre-K-12 educators. That was followed by a rigorous process of applying for the fellowship itself.

    From left, Jennie Warmouth with fellow teacher Mindy Steele, from Los Angeles, who will be her shipmate on the National Geographic Explorer.

    Warmouth recently joined the 44 other fellows to participate in a multi-day workshop at National Geographic headquarters in Washington, D.C., learning expedition skills, including photography, video editing, and even public speaking.

    Additionally, she serves on the PAWS board of directors, which informed her decision to choose the Arctic for her expedition, focusing her students on the plight of polar bears.

    “Onboard, when they spot one, even if it’s 3 a.m., they’ll alert us and we will wait in silence to observe a bear. We have to be unobtrusive,” she said.

    They’ll also watch for arctic foxes, walrus and seals.

    As satellite-based internet connections allow, Warmouth will share her experiences with students — interviews with on-board scientists, field notes and other observations, all to fulfill the fellowships main objectives: To illuminate the interconnectedness of people and the natural world as well as to create globally minded students empowered to take action.

    Working with a friend, she’s also creating a website so her students — and the public — can follow her daily adventures. Warmouth has plans for an interactive map where students can follow her progress on the journey and pose research questions that she will answer in the field.

    In addition to her teaching duties, she’ll give talks for guests on the ship.

    Currently, Warmouth and her supporters are using the educational crowdfunding site DonorsChoose.Org to raise money for books related to the Arctic to be used by students, and for a 360-degree video camera so she can offer students a virtual-reality experience of what she’s seeing.

    Upon her return, Warmouth will use the trip to work on a conservation and stewardship project with her students, the findings of which will appear on the Woodland Park Zoo website. In addition, she and other fellowship participants agree to a two-year commitment, serving as ambassadors of the program and mentors.

    “I’m just so excited,” said Warmouth. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me and for my students. This is for them.”

    Warmouth added she wants to thank the Foundation for Edmonds School District for a grant that allowed her class to visit a PAWS animal shelter as well as grants to support her Arctic trip, including a website, classroom books and other supplies.

    — By Connie McDougall

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