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Alberta teachers chosen for life-changing expeditions

National Geographic fellowship program spreads global awareness through teacher engagement

Samantha Ur and Tyler Dixon
Alberta teachers Samantha Ur and Tyler Dixon have been selected for a prestigious National Geographic fellowship program.  

Two Alberta teachers have caught the attention of National Geographic. 

Morinville’s Samantha Ur and Calgary’s Tyler Dixon will participate in a prestigious two-year teacher fellowship that will take them on a life-changing international expedition to gain field experience that they will then bring back to their colleagues and students.

“This is an amazing opportunity, and I’m incredibly honoured and lucky,” Ur said.

“It’s a unique hands-on experience for professional development,” agreed Dixon.

The Grosvenor Teacher Fellowship (GTF) is a collaboration between the National Geographic Society and Lindblad Expeditions. The program selects exemplary teachers from throughout North America to participate in three-week expeditions to one of many global destinations, then transfer their onboard experiences into transformative lessons and engagement for students and colleagues. Of the 35 teachers selected this year, only four are from Canada.

Dixon is a phys. ed. and outdoor education teacher at West Ridge school in Calgary, while Ur teaches Grade 5/6 science and outdoor education at Four Winds School in Morinville. Both are also members of the ATA’s Global, Environmental and Outdoor Education Council (GEOEC).

Dixon is headed to Antarctica while Ur chose Costa Rica. Both teachers will head to their designated locations aboard National Geographic vessels in the late fall and early winter of 2024. They’ll be joined onboard by society naturalists, oceanographers and other expeditionists. 

“I chose Costa Rica and Panama because of how biologically diverse and how completely different they are from here in Alberta,” Ur said. “I really wanted to go so I could get those experiences. I could get stories about how the plant and animals have learned to survive in such a crowded environment.”

Dixon says he’s excited to learn about the wildlife that exists in our world’s southernmost regions. 

“I have a real, real strong passion for outdoor education and land-based learning,” he said. “Stepping out of your comfort zone, which is what I’m definitely going to be doing, and experiencing it firsthand is very valuable.”

Empowering young people

Throughout the two-year fellowship, National Geographic asks that the fellows submit a number of professional development deliverables, such as goal setting, outreach and classroom activity plans, surveys and outreach presentations. The fellows help to equip the next generation with geographic knowledge and global awareness, states the program’s website.

“Grosvenor Teacher fellows are an integral part of the National Geographic community, working to further young people’s understanding of the planet and empower them to generate solutions and take action for a healthier and more sustainable future,” the website states.

Ur and Dixon have just returned from Washington, where they met with National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions to discuss their fellowships. They also met with alumni from past fellowships who shared their advice on what to expect.

“It’s going to be absolutely inspiring beyond belief,” said Ur. “Being able to connect with those other teachers and hearing about their experiences when I was in Washington was absolutely life changing.”

Dixon said the application process was quite comprehensive, incorporating references, a video component and an essay. 

“I’m honoured to be chosen,” said Dixon. “I can’t wait to bring it back and start sharing what I’ve learned not only with my students, but also with the education community that I’m a part of here in this province.” 

Ur shares that sentiment.

“We have the power to change the future of our students,” Ur said. “I am so very excited to bring this back, not only to my students, but to teachers provincewide. ❚