Third graders as explorers

Lisa Abramovitz has been using her National Geographic certification to turn students into explorers.

By Melissa Riker

The Sun

Indian Mills School teacher Lisa Abramovitz is turning third graders into explorers, thanks to her National Geographic certification.

The certification focuses on skill-building, networking and leading — helping educators generate interdisciplinary activities centered around real world problems, connecting a community of like-minded educators and granting these educators access to National Geographic programs they can use in the classroom.

To become certified, Abramovitz was required to complete a workshop designed by National Geographic, develop two activities using their framework and ultimately choosing one of those activities to submit as her capstone project.

Abramovitz is currently incorporating her fifth activity into the classroom, after gaining her certification last year.

The activities she has introduced aim to give students adventurous, responsible and empowered attitudes; observation, communication, collaboration and problem-solving skills; and knowledge of the human journey, the changing planet and wildlife.

The activity used as her capstone project educated students on the global water crisis affecting people nationwide.

These students took part in their own water trek to the Indian Mills lake behind the school as a way to show them that some people have to walk miles every day for water.

Specifically, the students learned about those suffering in Uganda, and they were able to create water filters to send to villages there.

The second activity the students participate in is through a program called Wild Earth. With Abramovitz’s certification, she is able to connect with naturalists at African safaris through Skype.

This provides the students with an opportunity to ask questions directly to the guide, while learning about various topics such as ecosystems and different creatures within them. They also assemble a list of vocabulary words from their sessions.

The third activity the students were involved in was the Explorer’s Festival, where explorers from around the world gather in Washington, D.C.

Abramovitz’s students were paired with the explorer Tashi Dhenup from Bhutan, who studies wildlife by using infrared sensors to sense the heat of creatures to monitor and research ways to conserve wildlife.

The students researched Dhenup, and sent him a video about their knowledge that was played at the festival. In return, Dhenup thanked the students.

The fourth activity Abramovitz introduced was “giant maps.” All third graders at the school participate in this activity, with 30-foot by 30-foot maps spread out for students to learn different areas of the world. They are going continent by continent, with three continents left to explore.

The fifth activity taking place allows Abramovitz’s students to follow along with a 45-day sea expedition. The Weddell Sea Expedition 2019 is tracking an original expedition led by Ernest Shackleton that started in 1914 and ultimately ended in a shipwreck.

The students are learning about the underwater technology used during this expedition, as well as marine biology, archeology, glaciers and sea creatures.

“It was by far the best professional development opportunity I’ve ever done as a teacher,” Abramovitz said. “It’s brought so much back to my classroom, so many opportunities for students to participate in really unique programs.”