Although I have been back from Panama for just two weeks, I am still experiencing the ripple effects of the trip every day. Today, I hiked one of my favorite trails in Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park and read one of the signs with a totally new understanding: our local Sandhills are marine sediments that contain fossil shark teeth and other shells from creatures that lived about 10 million years ago–around the same time as the fossil marine creatures at Gatun, Panama. After a bit of local research, I also now know that I can borrow a set of local fossils from our Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History, and also potentially take students on a field trip to the Sandhills and to a local sand quarry called Granite Rock ( a construction firm that sponsors my school). I kinda knew about all of these resources earlier, but now it all ties together and makes perfect sense. I get the connections now and how they can be used to link science lessons in my classroom to the local environment and the world.
This is the beauty of an international science adventure–you come home and see everything as if it were new again. I am now walking around feeling like an amateur paleontologist, hunting for tiny shells and teeth, looking at the mountains and seeing the ancient seas, and, yes, remembering and comparing it to my experience in Panama. Suddenly, it’s all connected–the geology, the science, the exploration. And I’m very excited that I have a box of Gatun fossils waiting for me at my school, where next week I will unpack and prepare them for my 8th grade students. I will be showing them photos and telling them stories about the GABI RET experience, and using the fossils to introduce them to the Science & Engineering Practices. I cannot imagine a better way for a teacher to start the school year–refreshed, inspired, and ready to learn more!