What did you do this summer? Katie Dell, a Grade 6 science teacher at Windsor Mill Middle School, did something incredible: She went to Australia and New Zealand!
A student in the Global Field Program at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, Dell traveled across the Pacific Ocean as part of Project Dragonfly. In the Q&A below, she explains what that is, how she’s learned from it, and why the experiences she’s gained through it are important not only to her but to her students, as well.
What is Project Dragonfly?
Dell: “Project Dragonfly was originally designed as a way to give children a voice in investigation and the scientific community through Dragonfly Magazine and Dragonfly TV. As a graduate program at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, Project Dragonfly aims to promote inquiry-based education through teachers and scientific professionals.”
How long have you been pursuing your master’s in the Global Field Program?
Dell: “I began the Global Field Program in April of 2014, and I will finish my studies this December.”
Where have you traveled through the program?
Dell: “The program encourages inquiry and action through travel to and partnerships with conservation organizations. My first summer, I traveled to Baja California, Mexico, to study desert ecology and marine ecotourism. Last summer, I visited the Cheetah Conservation Fund in Namibia to study cheetah physiology and integrated conservation. I have just returned from a month in Australia and New Zealand.”
What did you do in Australia?
Dell: “The Australia course focuses on marine ecology and Great Barrier Reef conservation. In partnership with Reef HQ in Townsville, we studied the reef ecosystem and trained to be citizen science monitors through the Eye on the Reef program. We went out to the reef two times, once to familiarize ourselves with the area, fish, and corals, and once to perform a rapid monitoring assessment. The data we gathered was loaded into the Eye on the Reef database for use in research studies, monitoring programs, and changes in legislation.
“We also worked with Reef Ecologic to remove macroalgae in Nelly Bay on Magnetic Island. Macroalgae can form when extra nutrients enter the water and can prevent coral from succeeding in the environment.”
What have you learned through your summers abroad?
Dell: “I have learned that good conservation – the kind we will need moving forward – starts when people ask questions and look for answers. The partnerships Project Dragonfly relies on exist because someone was willing to ask a question, investigate an answer, develop a plan of action, and continue improving their work time and time again. Conservation is an integrated effort that we are all a part of.”
How do your experiences abroad influence your teaching?
Dell: “Project Dragonfly has allowed me to bring the world to my classroom in ways I could have never imagined. My students are aware of conservation and cultures in three different countries because I myself am aware of them.
“More importantly, this program has taught me the value of inquiry. The students who sit in front of me every day are the people who will be asking the questions and investigating the problems of the future, and because of that, I take every opportunity to encourage their curiosity and hone their research and problem-solving skills.”
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Dell: “I would like to thank my administration and teaching staff for their care and support over the last few years as I pursued my degree. I would like to thank Miami University and its amazing instructors and partners for opening my eyes to the world beyond Baltimore, Maryland. Finally, I would like to thank Baltimore County for its financial support, which helped to make these experiences possible.”