APS teacher returns from summer of learning on National Geographic expedition

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – An Albuquerque teacher from Garfield STEM School just got back from an expedition across Norway – and this wasn’t a summer vacation.

In fact, it was a competitive National Geographic fellowship expedition, and he was one of fifty selected for the 15th Cohort of Lindblad Expeditions and National Geographic Society Grosvenor Teacher fellows.

“I got the call, and it was an unknown number so I snuck out, went outside, and then my coworkers must have thought, ‘what is this crazy guy doing outside jumping up and down,’ so I was like, ‘OK, get it together,’” said Chris Speck.

The middle school Biology and Language Arts teacher said it was a long-awaited call. The National Geographic expedition traveled through Norway’s Fjord Coast and Svalbard.

“We saw walruses and polar bears and beautiful beautiful puffins and birds, birds, birds everywhere!” he said.

On the trip, he was able to document ecosystems and saw arctic animals in their natural habitats.

“It’s not just about what I saw and the people I met; how can I bring that back to Albuquerque? How do I bring the Arctic to the desert,” he said.

The teacher wants to use his experience as a springboard to get his class to think about their community and the wildlife in New Mexico.

“For this, we are looking in and looking out. Looking in at our own experiences and how do we live in our communities, what are the wild spaces around us? Looking outwards, what are the bigger environmental issues here in New Mexico, what are the wildlife around here, how do we work with them to make sure all the populations are sustainable and ensure a safe future for ourselves and with them,’ said Speck.

He said that is the first part, then comes getting his students inspired to go outside and explore themselves.

“The experiences that we bring back to our students help enrich them because they see us in the community, they see us in wild spaces. Getting them out to wild spaces becomes the second part of this,” he said.