What is a science class in a traveling high school like? This term, the students of THINK Global School are taking biology. For our first term, we are in Ecuador – the country which has both a part of the Amazon and the well-known Galapagos Islands. Jarrett Voytilla, our science teacher, talks about what science class is like in TGS. “Working in TGS has given me incredible chances,” says Voytilla. “Instead of faking experiments in a lab, we did it for real.”
The science classes we get in TGS include hikes in the Amazon jungle, studying evolution in the Galapagos, and learning about the equator on, well, the equator. In the Galapagos Islands, we would see evidences of evolution just by looking outside. Where else would you see spiny, green cactus with bright brown bark?
But we weren’t just spectators. We noticed things that made us question ourselves about how we were influencing the environment as well. The Galapagos Islands weren’t as purely scientific as we expected. “It was more touristy,” says Voytilla. We saw the reality of the island, which was a small city with hotels and restaurants, different than our imagination of the extreme wild place we had in our heads.
But we weren’t just tourists. We noticed things that make us question ourselves about how we are influencing the environment as well. “It was more touristy,” Voytilla describes the islands. The Galapagos Islands weren’t as scientific as we thought so. We saw the reality of the island, which was a small city with hotels and restaurants; different to the imagination of the extreme wild place we had in our heads.
In the Amazon, we got to really experience the rainforest. Living with scientists and researchers, we had the chance to see how they really worked. Science classes there meant us learning about doing research in the field. While the experiences we have had so far in Ecuador are without doubt once in a lifetime, as a student I believe that we still have not used them all wisely. It seems as though we are still skimming through a part of what we’ve learned rather than truly integrating it and making use of all the resources we have. However, our science teacher believes this will get better. “Once we study the IB program,” Voytilla says, “I have every confidence that we’ll have the most enjoyable classes.” We will have a strong curriculum where we will actually get to use the locations we are in to do interesting and unique research. We will get to follow our own path and use the exceptional resources we have. TGS, as a small and new school, only has one IB course for science right now. The teachers did chose well, though. We will have one with a wide scope – for people interested in everything from social science to biology to physics. The important thing here is that we will be studying it globally – about how we can help the environment as global citizens.
So what are the obstacles to teaching here at TGS? One of the answers our science teacher gives is about keeping the students focused. As we’re traveling and constantly encountering new things, students can forget that we’re in school. “Part of our job here as a faculty or staff here is to create a culture, unique to our institution.” Voytilla says, “Where we suck a marrow out of every minute of life. To live every moment. It’s not just to be fun, but to make it productive – every second, do it or enjoy it.”
Now, as a student, I do see some obstacles to studying science at TGS, but also a lot of advantages. It can be hard at times to stay focused. This makes it tough when trying to memorize names for a test on biology. It is, however, definitely worth it when we get to go out and experience nature in different places. We see things in real life rather than just in textbooks. Hopefully, we will find that balance.