Galapagos Islands


By Dr. Beth Lipton

One of the best ways to maintain an exceptional faculty is to invest in their development as professionals. In 1990, former Keith parents Peter and Penelope West, helped start a Keith Country Day School Faculty Development Grant. The idea for the grant was to create an opportunity for faculty to bridge personal interests and their area of expertise for professional growth and hopefully, new enthusiasm in the classroom.

Recently, Dr. Beth Lipton, a science and math teacher at Keith, had the opportunity to use the Faculty Grant to help fund her “Bucket Trip.” This is what she had to say about the experience.

Last fall, Bill Buhl, a science teacher from Guilford High School, came to my classroom to ask me to join him for his sixth and final trip with local high school students to the Galapagos Islands. He promised that it would be a
breath-taking, unforgettable trip of a lifetime and one that I would forever treasure. His promise proved to be true!

I was the fortunate recipient of a Faculty Grant Award that was used to help fund this trip during June, 2011. While the remoteness of the Galapagos Islands not only helps protect their delicate ecosystem and distinctive character, it also contributes to the difficulty and expense of traveling there. I wholeheartedly thank the committee for the opportunity to get extremely close to the animals and to observe them in their natural habitat and to visit ten of the major islands, each distinctive in their habitat and climate.

This trip definitely contributed to my professional development as a teacher of the life sciences. My travel to the Galapagos Islands has provided an opportunity for me to effectively communicate and integrate the historical
importance of Darwin’s contribution to the theory of evolution in both the Biology and AP Biology curriculum. I spent a day walking on James Island, retracing the footsteps of Charles Darwin! Darwin was on The Beagle for five years but was in the Galapagos for only five weeks. Of that time, he spent only 19 days on land and 11 of those days were on James Island.

This island visit was one of my favorite places, not only due to its rugged, eroded coastline, dark black lava flow, and being home to Galapagos fur seals, but also for providing vivid memories and tangible feelings of how Darwin himself must have felt upon seeing this incredible habitat and landscape. This place inspired what has become integral to the theory of evolution, a concept so fundamental to the study of life, and one that I so passionately relate to my students every year!

In addition to the numerous memories, I also kept a journal of my daily trips to the various islands and captured vivid photographs of the experience. These items will be woven into lesson plans and handouts for both Biology and AP Biology courses and integrated into the series of Powerpoint presentations currently used in these two courses.

Thank you again to the Faculty Oversight and Award Committee for their generous gift that helped make my dream trip become a reality. I am truly grateful for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

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