Educators on Expedition: Touch, See, Hear, Smell, and Build!

The following post was written by 2014 Grosvenor Teacher Fellow Holly Doe during her expedition to the Arctic. The Grosvenor Teacher Fellow Program is a professional development opportunity made possible by a partnership between Lindblad Expeditions and National Geographic Education.

Expedition Location: Arctic Svalbard

As I was browsing through pictures of my recent trip to the Arctic Svalbard, I was brought back to one specific day when I decided to be fully aware of my five senses as I observed the natural environment.

Holly Doe making a Drip Castle along a mountain stream. Photograph by Julia Sheldon.

As scientists and teachers we know these experiences are vitally important to our students’ ability to learn and connect to the content, yet we too often take an experience like an owl pellet dissection and turn it into a paper and pencil activity. It is the experience of dissecting and discovering that has the most profound impact in the end.

I would also encourage teachers to get out of the classroom! We need to emphasize that the five senses we learn about in first grade are not just an elementary topic but a habit that scientists use continually. Whether or not we feel confident in the teaching of science, we need to display this willingness to experience our surroundings, we need to set examples of curiosity and exploration for our students.

On my expedition there were a few younger guests, or as Lindblad Expeditions calls them,”Young Explorers”. These children were a reminder of the tactile nature of exploration. On a hike in Seelisberg Bay, we touched numerous shells, fossils, and even tried to uncover a reindeer antler, which we had to eventually give up on. (I believe there may have been more than just an antler buried in the snow.)

Uncovering an antler of an Arctic Reindeer. Photograph by Holly Doe.

I’m particularly passionate about building in the classroom. Building with any material is a kinesthetic experience that allows children to cement their learning and display what they know. Building utilizes the senses. While learning can be communicated with writing, it is important to provide our students with other methods of assessment. A model can instigate a conversation about the observation made, the habitat, or even the thought process in scientific inquiry. Students can build representations of a living creature in their natural habitat or a scene that depicts a predator/prey relationship.

LEGO Polar Bear in the Pack Ice. Photograph by Julia Sheldon.

Challenge your students to think beyond the concrete and build a model that represents curiosity in the natural environment, or even the changing nature of a fragile environment like the Arctic. When we ask children to build, it needs to be without judgement. Too often students are asked to build according to directions or steps. The types of models and builds that I advocate for in the classroom, encourage creativity and instigate conversation about issues in our environment and solutions.

I invite you to follow my project Brick Trips, as I continue to share ideas for classrooms and promote collaborative brick trips for classrooms to join!

Holly Doe, a Grosvenor Teacher Fellow, in Svalbard, Norway
Holly Doe working with a young guest aboard the National Geographic Explorer. Photograph by Susan Seubert.


This post is one of our selected stories from teachers who have seen incredible environments — to bring the experience back to their students. We thank all of you who have applied for the 2015 program, and we look forward to a new year of adventure ahead. 

2 thoughts on “Educators on Expedition: Touch, See, Hear, Smell, and Build!

  1. There’s a typo in the link address. Should be googlebricktrip, not googlebricktrips.

Leave a Reply