Jennie Warmouth, center, shows her second grade class where Antarctica is during class at Spruce Elementary School  in Lynnwood, Wash. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Lynnwood second-grade teacher ready for Arctic adventure

Jennie Warmouth leaves today for an 11-day fellowship to study polar bears and climate change.

Seeing polar bears in the wild.

Joining a team of 13 biologists, naturalists, underwater specialists and National Geographic photographers as they explore the High Arctic.

Learning more about the human-animal relationship, and how it connects to climate change.

These are just some of the adventures awaiting Jennie Warmouth. The second-grade teacher at Lynnwood’s Spruce Elementary School leaves Sunday on a flight to Oslo, Norway.

It’s the first stop in an 11-day trip that will take her to her destination, Svalbard, Norway. The cluster of islands east of northern Greenland is known for its rugged glaciers. The largest of the islands is home to what is called the world’s most northerly town, Longyearbyen.

A ship she is aboard will make several stops along the coast in an area home to polar bears, reindeer and walruses.

Warmouth was selected for the Grosvenor Teacher Fellow Program. She’s one of 45 teachers from the United States and Canada chosen for the fellowship this year. It’s co-sponsored by National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions.

Each teacher picked the place they wanted to research. So in addition to the trip to the Arctic, teachers will be traveling to Alaska, Central America, Antarctica and the Galápagos Islands.

Warmouth, 40, will make twice-daily trips in an inflatable boat from an offshore ship to coastal areas to hike, take photographs and document plant and animal life, mindful of the questions her students had posed to her before she left.

She plans to take field notes by hand and then document her trip in photos and stories that will be posted online. She’s also encouraging community members to send questions.

“I’m a person who loves adventure,” Warmouth said. “My true intent in doing this is to help my kids grow up to be globally minded and so they, too, can have adventures.”

She plans to produce a 360-degree video to allow her students to take a virtual reality tour of the area.

Polar bear hats

The teachers selected for the fellowship were announced in April, but Warmouth kept the trip “classroom confidential” — a secret from her students — for about a month. When she broke the news, she gave each of her 22 students a polar bear hat.

Of course, she turned it into a teaching moment.

“I just wanted to find out if they even know where it is,” she said of her trip’s destination, expecting some confusion between the Arctic (near Greenland) and Antarctica (a continent also known as the South Pole).

The goal isn’t just to teach students where the Arctic is on a map, but how human activities are affecting the environment with issues such as ice melt and global warming, “and what we can do to make it better,” she said.

After she returns, students will post their observations and recommendations on the website of Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo, where she is a research adviser.

Warmouth’s fellowship will have benefits that go beyond her own classroom.

The Edmonds School District’s foundation will provide Spruce Elementary School with books on the Arctic, classroom science materials and pay for a field trip next school year to an Edmonds beach.

And for the next two years, Warmouth said she will work on curriculum for National Geographic that can be used by teachers in the United States and Canada.

Warmouth’s life has been filled with academic achievement, including a Ph.D. in educational psychology from the University of Washington in 2017.

Globe

She participated in a Fulbright Teacher Exchange in 2008, trading places with a Scottish counterpart. She later wrote a children’s book about the experience called “Teacher Trade!”

Adventure seems to have been imbued in her from an early age. It can be glimpsed in a photo of her as a 2-year-old, standing on a sidewalk near the Seattle waterfront.

Her red coat is decorated with a white ship’s anchor. A woolen cap protects her from what may be a cool early spring day. One hand grasps a nearby wire fence. The rest of her body eagerly leans toward the camera as she smiles in delight.

The photo is posted on the website she created for her upcoming trip. “Ready for Adventure!” Warmouth wrote as its three-word caption.

Warmouth’s excitement for exploring the world rubs off on her students, said Emily Moore, the school’s principal.

The chance to participate in their teacher’s adventures “is something they will never forget,” Moore said.

Sharon Salyer: 425-330-3486 or salyer@heraldnet.com.

More online

Follow along with Spruce Elementary School teacher Jennie Warmouth as she learns about polar bears and climate change in Arctic Svalbard thanks to a teacher fellowship with National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions. Her website is at www.globalwarmouth.com.

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