By John Anderson
Snider is not unfamiliar with the Lilly Endowment Program; five teachers from Snider have won the grant so far and Ms. Jennifer Walker is the newest member of the club. With her money she pursued her passions and went to the Galapagos Islands. It was an experience she loves to talk about.
The Lilly Endowment’s Teacher Creativity Fellowship program grants Indiana teachers $12,000 to pursue their passions. In FWCS schools, four teachers were given the grant this year, including Walker.
FWCS teachers have often received the Lilly Grant. Walker found out about it from an elementary school teacher who had received the award, and also from conversations with fellow Snider teachers. Knowing of their journeys, she decided to submit a proposal about her passions, geology and marine biology.
Walker’s proposal, “Finding My Way along the Ring of Fire” requested the opportunity for her to study the volcanoes, geology and marine life in the Galapagos Islands. Her proposal was accepted, and her journey was set into motion. Walker started by pursuing research at the University of Arizona. From there she headed to The Galapagos with her research fellows.
When she got to the Islands, Walker presented her report to her peers and people living on the island.
“The islanders knew a lot of it, but I taught them some new information and gave them more up to date info,” Walker said.
The islanders, and the island itself, were much different from those in her usual environment.
The animals inhabiting the island are inherently not afraid of the humans. At times, Walker would wake up from a nap on the beach to find a sea lion cuddled next to her. The birds were fearless, like Walker’s favorite the Blue-Footed Booby. She was able to get next to the bird and take pictures.
But the affection of sea lions was just a bonus for her trip. She was there to conduct research, which included studying volcanoes, and the tectonic plates in The Galapagos and northern Arizona. She was also able to snorkel and study marine wildlife, such as the blenny fish.
She found information on the Galapagos Barnacle. She spent time studying sea lions and a cough they exhibit similar to a canine cough. The research was impactful, but is still not finished.
Walker’s research at the island is unfinished, and she said, “I found all that I did very interesting and wanted more time to investigate things further.”
Walker said she uses her knowledge and the thousands of pictures she took from The Galapagos in the classroom too. She teaches earth space science, so when it’s time to teach about volcanoes she has pictures and videos ready to show.
“By going to Galapagos and northern Arizona, it made me understand volcanoes better. When I hit the volcano part of teaching, it’s easier to explain,” Walker said
Of all the places she has visited, Walker is most fond of The Galapagos, and she said she would return if she had the chance, not just to get more cuddle time with the sea lions, or see her favorite bird, but to continue her ongoing research.