Teaching Through Travel: A Chance for Teachers to Follow Darwin on Galapagos

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Teaching through travel is one of the most interesting ways teachers can spend time in the summer. And since Charles Darwin first set foot on the Galapagos Islands in 1835, the archipelago has been synonymous with science.

Located 531 miles off the coast of Ecuador it is one of the world’s foremost destinations for wildlife viewing, offering teachers onsite experiences that can be brought back to the classroom.

Darwin spent five weeks on the Galapagos. While he carefully observed the geology and biology he was particularly struck by the differences between the wildlife species of the different islands.

Darwin first published his observations in the 1845 book, The Voyage of The Beagle. That was the name of the vessel he was on for five years. But in 1859 Darwin would consolidate his theories on natural selection into his famous book, On The Origin of Species. While controversial, the book drastically altered the scientific view on the biological origins of life.

Teachers have the opportunity to follow in Darwin’s footsteps with their own Galapagos experience.

Allan Varni has taken teacher groups to Galapagos five times. This summer he is coordinating another trip. “The Galapagos Islands Experience” begins June 5. The course, designed for teachers, will be under the guidance of Tom Lutz of Galapagos Education. Lutz has been teaching groups about the Galapagos for 20 years.

The course

The class of 16 departs the mainland from Guayaquil, Ecuador, the launch point for all trips out to the islands. From there, all arrangements, including flights to and from the islands, hotel stays, ground and water transportation, etc. are taken care of.

We make sure that our guests see all of the native species both on land and under the water

Allan Varni, coordinator

Assignments will include some pre-trip study work. Furthermore, Varni said there will also be information sharing, usually nightly. This allows participants to discuss what they learned from the daily experiences. Teachers can share how it impacted them personally as well as how it might enhance teaching and learning.

“Every time I have done this everyone has changed their perspective on the Galapagos,” Varni says. “This includes environmental education, sustainability, the concept of stewardship and the importance of sharing that with the next generation.”

Varni says his local team is native-born Galapiganians. He says they have family roots and history dating back to the early 1930s when the only regular visitors were whalers and fishermen.

“We make sure that our guests see all of the native species both on land and under the water,” Varni says.

“There are regular spots where we snorkel with the sharks, sea lion pups and Galapagos penguins,” he says. “We snorkel (most days) and also offer an opportunity for scuba diving as well for those who are certified. Our local contacts there arrange for all of the equipment, including the dive boat.’ 

Earn credits

While Galapagos Education Tours are not accredited, K-12 and Community College teachers can earn graduate level units/credits towards professional growth for travel on a Galapagos Education tour.

By registering through the Dominican University of California (DU), Continuing Education Program, in EDUO 9851, The Galapagos Experience, you will be eligible to earn 3 Professional Growth, graduate level semester credits/units by completing all of the trip requirements and documenting your experience.

Participants can register through the Dominican University of California (DU), Continuing Education Program — EDUO 9851, The Galapagos Experience. In doing so, teachers will be eligible to earn 3 Professional Growth, graduate level semester credits/units by completing all of the trip requirements and documenting your experience.

Click here to enroll.