A few months back I was invited by the Lucas County Metropolitan Housing Authority to lead a workshop about my National Geographic Honor as well as give the dinner keynote address to the young ladies about overcoming obstacles and positioning themselves to become leaders for the future and travelers of the world. What was special about this invitation was that I actually grew up in this public housing authority as a youth in Toledo, Ohio. A part of my keynote address focused on the barriers that exist among low income youth: teen pregnancy, single parent households, impoverished communities, a cycle of poverty, low performing schools which in turn impacts high school drop out rates. This results in fewer and fewer students pursuing higher education. Being the first in my family to graduate and go on to college, I knew some of these girls' stories and was honored share my own experience and how these collected events prepared me to be a teacher, world traveler, and a National Geographic fellow. Really the common denominator was the choices and decisions I made through my life. I was always consistent and determined to reach my goals. I shared one of my favorite quotes with the young ladies-simple direct and to the point. My own mentor ingrained this in my mind years ago, “the choices you make are long lasting and life changing.” So I always tried to make decisions that would move me forward, not keep me behind.
While I really enjoyed giving the keynote address, I will admit the workshop I led about my travels really sparked the girl’s interest in traveling. About fifty girls were in attendance for the leadership academy. I worked with three different groups of teen girls age 14-17, two of the sessions were packed, some girls even sat on the ground but they didn’t mind. I started my presentation using Google tour builder, a website shared with me by Tema, one of the 2015 GTF fellows like myself. She’s quite proficient in technology and resources to use to teach about geography. I am glad to have her as a resource.
I took them on a tour “around the world” of all the places I’ve been: China, Germany, France, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Nevis, Bahamas, Hawaii to name a few. The tour ended with my expedition to England, Ireland, Scotland, countries that I’d never thought about exploring until this opportunity arose. I shared with them to always stay open-minded and be willing to learn. This trip alone exceeded my expectations and introduced me to places and sites I would have never known about. And the beautiful aspect is that it all connects to my teaching.
I then focused on the selection process, the experience of working with Linblad and National Geographic experts, sites visited, and life aboard the ship. I was surprised, many of the girls had in fact heard of National Geographic. They were actually arguing over the magazines, ”aww mannn…I wanted that one,” I’d over hear one say. These moments made my heart smile. For it was in during those times of scanning the images of National Geographic when I was a teen that my love affair with exploring the world began.
The ladies were awe struck by my pictures and travels especially since they knew that I was one of them. I shared with Ms. Willis, founder of the academy, and several of the other organizers that I would like to sponsor a photography contest for the girls. I was very impressed with not only the leadership of this academy, but how much thought was put into making sure these young women are exposed. To my surprise and delight, the Linnie B. Willis leadership academy purchased each girl an IPAD. Wow. I couldn’t help by think of ways to put this tool/technology to use as I want them explore their own communities in a way in which encourages creativity and to a degree, critical thinking. What better way to analyze your own surroundings than through the art of photography.
Actually one of my favorite moments was later in the evening when one of the girls saw me taking photo. She told me she really liked my pictures from earlier. She asked me if she could be the photographer for the night using my camera and she was surprised when I said yes. I even offered her a few pointers. She walked away smiling.
We will see how this project develops, but in the meantime it was an honor to share this experience and be a part of these girl's journey.
Location: Kirkwall, Scotland Orkney Islands
Sites Visited: Skara Brae 3180 BC , The Ring of Brodgar 2500 BC,
& The Stone of Steness, 2500BC
Today was actually one of my better days physically. I didn’t feel exhausted from lack of sleep and surprisingly had a lot of energy. This morning we visited Kirwall, Scotland in the Ornkey Islands. As I woke to look out my porthole, I realized the boat had come to a halt and we were dockside. Instinctively, I knew everyone on board was going to be excited about this realization. Even I, though I really don’t mind the zodiac rides to shore.
In the background I could hear the familiar sound of a bagpipe. I smiled knowing this was our first day in Scotland. I was immediately reminded of my travels of China and New Orleans, waking up to the sights and sounds of the region. These moments are priceless. From inside my cabin, I noticed there was older white male, around 60, fully clothed in traditional Scottish garb playing his bagpipe. After peering about the shoreline, I could sense he was there for our group- as the other locals on the dock seemed to be hard at work, not really paying attention to affairs of the explorer or the musician. I thought, what a beautiful treat. What a way to enter a country, I thought to self. Nice touch Linblad, nice touch.
Like all the other mornings, I rushed to breakfast-same omelet eggs, sausage, and potatoes. I went back to the cabin, grabbed my things and rushed to checkout. This time it was my badge. I always seem to leave something in my room. Always! If it were not for the doctor, I would not be ready for anything. She always reminds me, “Dawnetta, you need your life jacket? Dawnetta did you bring your badge? Dawnetta, aren’t you glad you have your water pants?” Those small reminders of care really make a difference on an experience such as this one. She told me that having been on several expeditions, she has become quite familiar with the routines, and in times past, she too needed reminders. I am glad to have the support.
After exiting the ship, we boarded the bus and traveled to Skara Brae. This is a Neolithic site that dates back to 3000 BC. Though the site is older than the pyramids, to my surprise it was not as I had imagined from the pictures online. Like the other places, I did some research on the location. I was eager to visit, however in my mind I thought the site would be so much more spread out and that we would actually be able to go in and explore the archaeological settlement. I’ll admit, this did put a damper on my experience, and even though I understand why the area is sanctioned off, I guess there is nothing like “being in it” or standing in the same place those human beings stood over 5000 years ago. It didn’t stop me from envisioning what life would have been like had I lived during that era, you couldn’t help but try to imagine life in these harsh conditions. If anything, it added to my curiosity of the people-who were they? What were they like? What were their traditions and customs? Questions, questions, and more questions. There were so many little crevices and hideaways, I swear this place would be the ultimate playhouse for a child. The houses were rather small in size, I wonder how many people resided in this space. The houses appear to have been built into the ground, but were they? I wish I would have asked. Perhaps it just appears this way because the sand and dirt have covered it over, I mean it has only survived 5000 years. Random thought-these people had no privacy what so ever. Bathing-I mean where did it take place-the ocean? What were their thoughts on cleanliness? Where did they obtain fresh water? So it makes me wonder about the context in how they viewed the body/water?
In addition the beds, or what I thought may be the sleeping quarters were to quite tiny, which then caused me to speculate about the size, height, and weight of the early humans. What foods were part of their diet, what did they consume on a daily basis, what was the life expectancy? All those thoughts raced through my mind. And when I imagined if I could survive then, I quickly reminded myself that I probably could worst case scenario-but would not want to.
I took several images, I mean I was standing right over the mounds, literally. I tried to capture them from different angles so the students could see the depth and shape of these houses. At one point I even veered away from the tour guide to capture these images. Granted, I should have stayed with he and the others, but in all truth, I am going to have to go back and conduct my own additional research on this area anyway. It’s not like I am an expert, and even after speaking with those that are, as a teacher it simply becomes habit to fill in missing gaps. And when you are rushed for time as in today’s tour, there are many gaps to fill. So google awaits.
After lunch we took the bus to the The Ring of Brodgar, this too was just as fascinating. Stones in one large circle, different from Callanish, but clearly built by the same group of people, as the designs were quite similar. A perfect circle, yes this must have been ceremonial in nature. While strolling around the site, I was quickly reminded about my location; I am in in the northern part of the UK, the Ornkey Islands in Scotland. Here the weather is quite cold even in May. Everywhere in the UK it feels cold in this region around this time of year. I could feel the brisk wind against my face, and though I was wearing a wind breaker, it didn’t seem to help. I was freezing once again, but still managed to walk through the worn path that led to the center. Upon arrival in the center, I decided to take video of this site. Of course I took photos, but the area was just too large to capture in a single frame. I thought that for teaching purposes and gathering information, video footage of this location would be the best use of my time here. We didn’t have much time to stop at the Stones of Stenness. It is also called the Temple of the Moon. Five minutes to be exact as we needed to report back to the ship. I quickly raced off the bus, snapped a few shots, and jumped back on the bus. I’ll find out the story later.
On the ship, Jim Richardson (National Geographic Photographer) and I spent some time recapping the day and discussing the interconnectedness of these sites. He said that if I looked at them each individually, it would just be a place I visited- a historic site so to speak. Nothing real significant to a degree, just an element of the past. He challenged me to look at them collectively, holistically to paint a picture of this time period, this area, the people. This was a thriving Neolithic socieity 5000 years ago. He explained, they had customs, traditions, homes, ceremonies. We then traced the visited sites: Skara Brae, The Stones of Stenness, The Ring of Brodgar and of course the Stones of Callenish from the previous day. Talk about a wow moment. I get it, Jim, I get it.
We talked about how this was a community, a group of early farmers. Skara Brae was their home, but religion and/or ceremonies too were an everyday part of their existence. Perhaps the Ring of Brodgar was a place where the elders gathered for sacrifices or even where people from far away made pilgrimages. Maybe they passed by the stones of Stenness as part of their visit to there sacred sites. I don’t know and the story isn’t written down. Most of Ireland’s ancient history is oral, but there is much speculation based on the evidence that I had right before me, evidence that was centuries old, that I had to somehow make sense of on this small island.
How do I teach this mystery? I recorded video, I took pictures, I know I can call Vinnie, email him when I need things to be clarified. The question is how much information do I share with students prior to teaching this concept? I really don’t want to give them any, well background of course of the life of an early farmer, but that is all. I think there is a beauty when you have to figure things out on your own.
You know there is no right or wrong answer in learning, well there is, but when you want students to critically analyze information before them, it takes few wrongs to realize how to get to the right or at least close. And you can’t get to the right until you have realized the wrongs. Well that is unless you study the wrongs of others so that you can get it right, and don’t repeat the same mistakes. Anyway, it’s a part of the journey and I know I will figure it all out in due time, it never fails.
Location: Village of Stornoway, Scotland /Lewis Isle
Site Visited: Inverewe Gardens (1870) & Stones of Callinish (2500BC)
So today at the Intervene Gardens, a botanical garden in the Scottish highlands, I thought of a few more lesson ideas for my classroom. Ok, so what in the world does a reading teacher do with pictures from a garden? One idea came to me today; I could teach about adjectives. Trust me, I am not the only teacher that despises words like pretty and nice. There are many others. So my thought was to give them a picture of one of the many flowers I took pictures of in the gardens and have students brainstorm words/adjectives to describe it. Tree Cabbage and Moss: aggressive Lily: dainty
I also came with the idea to teach sequence of events. I found this flowering tree in various stages of development, so I took pictures of each one at a point. Yes, my creative juices are once again flowing. I feel like I haven’t been able to do what I usually do in the classroom, in part because I am not teaching social studies this year, and two because there is an emphasis on this upcoming PARCC test.
Anyhow, I am loving how this experience is changing the way I see the world in which I live and helping to give me a reason to think creatively an outside of the box like I did when I first started teaching.
This morning we went to go see the Stones of Callinish. Ok, I have never been so cold taking pictures. My fingers were freezing. So on the weather, it is so incredibly cold here. And it is May. Yes MAY, I mean just a few weeks from June. Where in the world is it cold in May near summer? Answer: The British & Irish Isles.
They say it warms up in June during their summer months. I am like, to what 60 degrees? That must be hot to them. And how do they spend their time at the beach? I mean freezing temperatures, I wouldn’t even venture to go into the water.
As for the stones and structure, unlike anything I’ve ever seen. They are not as tall as Stonehenge, but they are still quite grand in size. The formation is quite facinating, two parellel rows with a ciricle in the middle. This must be for ritualistic purposes. The stones are quite old, and I do mean old-but then again it is a piece of rock and rocks were formed millions of years ago. One of the tour guides, an old Scottish gentleman pulled me aside and told me there was an age old legend about the stones that has been passed down through oral history. He said they were put up by Africans, well as he put it, “course hair dark skinned people…” as those who live here have come to know. Things that make you go hmmm..
Well I don’t know the truth, but it is well worth investigation, but then again, how much can you investigate oral history. As for the stones, I am still in awe. I can't help but to think and wonder, how did they get these stones up here? It just seems so impossible. But then again, it is the same way that the natives arrived on the island of Hawaii. It just all seems so unreal. Events like those are just simply mind boggling to say the least. They made it, it wasn't impossible, or else we would not studying them today.
This whole world holds so many wonders.
Day 9: Locaiton: Iona Island & Staffa Island
Sites Visited: Iona Nunnery & Iona Abby (Iona), Fingals Cave (Staffa)
Time Period: Abby 563ad, Nunnery 1200ad
This trip is becoming more amazing by the day. I went upstairs to have breakfast. The usual being bacon, omelets, sausage, toast, and roasted potatoes. Each day they mix something different in the omelets, I thought this morning it was shredded carrots. Well it wasn’t, it was salmon, and to make matters worse, I put a considerable amount on my plate. Needless to say, I pushed the salmon to the side. I can't stomach eating fish in my eggs for breakfast, to add, I've never been fond of salmon. While eating, Ms. Judy stopped by and said she’d join me. She’s a kind soft spoken woman from New York. She’s really a psychiatrist-Dr. Judy I call her often, though she much prefer I call her Judy, without the Ms. part. We talked a bit and she shared tales of her other expeditions with National Geographic and of her experiences of living in New York. She’s lived in the same building since 1965, yes I was surprised. I like sitting with Ms. Judy, she’s an interesting lady with a fascinating history. One day I want to retire and travel like her around the world. Well really, I hope I can do it before retirement.
Taylor came over the loud speaker to announce that departures would begin soon, so I wrapped up the meeting, and rushed downstairs to get ready. Well not really rushed, but arrived in my cabin in enough time to get ready for the day’s expedition. I must have stayed in the room too long because when I arrived in the mud room I realized I was the only one present. Well that was until Taylor made the final boarding call which allowed a few more guests to join me on the Zodiac to shore . Whew!!! The ride over was the smoothest it had been since this journey began. In fact, the bottom of the Zodiac was dry, which was a stark surprise considering every journey prior it had been laden with seawater.
Naturalist and geologist Jim Kelly drove us to the shore. Once we started the dismemberment process he pointed out that the rocks by the shoreline were millions of years old. I can’t recall how old, but I think he may have said 65 billion or million. So naturally I had to take some pictures to show students. I walked up the path and around the Iona nunnery. It was beautiful, to say the least. Were were in the area known as Agryll. Flowers grew around the ruins, everything seemed so perfect, so picturesque. The warmth from the sun made the whole experience so much more worthwhile. You could feel God's presence- I was overcome with a sense of peace. From a historical perspective, it was interesting to see how these women lived. As you can see, my first stop was the Iona nunnery constructed circa 1200ad. I am sure their diet consisted of fish and potatoes. As for sea birds, there were some, but not many. I sat along the wall in the nunnery and confessed my sins on the same seats these women had done for years. I noticed a lot of other travelers doing the same. I wondered, what exactly these nuns would they confess, it is not as if they lived out in the world. The monastery was right down the road. I wondered if they worshipped together, I never asked.
Nonetheless I couldn’t help but imagine life hundreds of years ago on the island. I wonder if any of the woman imagined leaving and if the men too shared the same thoughts. The Iona Abby, is literraly just a path's walk away. The Abby was established by St. Columba in 563ad. I guess it makes sense that they brought women to the island, but why did they wait so long? And what would be the purpose if they lived a life of celibacy. It’s one of those topics that's just not discussed women/men in the faith, especially those who have given their life to God. I am sure there are countless stories out there of people who became nuns or priests who felt perhaps pressured into this role and/or are somehow convinced they made they wrong decision during their childhood, which can be understood. I would have probably, but then again, I would also have been the renegade girl running in the middle of the night seeking freedom. You only live life once, and being in a nunnery during the middle ages (during your teen/young adult years) is not a life that I consider exciting in the least bit. Imagine being 11, of course you are not interested in boys/girls-so naturally an abby or nunnery sounds like a plan-you are away from your parents. But then 16 hits and everything changes. I mean everything. Yeah, your frame of reference changes. You are quick to change your mind, but would it be too late? And if you traveled far from home, do you have the funds or resources to return? I mean they are in the middle of nowhere. Random thoughts…
The afternoon was just as amazing as the morning. At first they mentioned that we would not be able to visit Fingal’s Cave on the Isle of Staffa. I will be honest, I was pained to hear that news. I'd done my research and this place looked amazing. Yes, Paolo and I were heartbroken. But somehow the weather turned and we were able to make our trip there later that evening. Now Fingal's cave is a true geologic wonder. It’s a sea cave, “formed entirely from hexagonally jointed basalt columns within a Paleoscene lava flow.” Yep, I borrowed this from Wikepedia. The way it was explained in simple terms (outside of them being basalt columns), was that the shape resembled that of a honeycomb-and it is all formed naturally, no human intervention. It's amazing to see first hand. Definitely a trip highlight.
The weather was actually perfect, the swells were low, the temperature was just right. I didn’t even need a wind breaker-it was that warm outside. Now, trust me, this does not happen often in the isles it seems. First Paola and I decided to walk into the cliff. This was one of the few times where I wanted to be one of the first onto shore. I usually waited for the others to board the zodiacs, but this one time I was ready to start the adventure first. I knew time was limited as it was growing dark.
I walked into the cave. I will admit, I am somewhat fearful of heights. I always complete the task at hand, but I am always afraid to go at first sight. Made me think of all those times I completed the high ropes course for my students. This time was no different. There was just one rail hugging the right side of the cliff’s entrance. You had to walk a great distance before you even entered the cave entrance. I decided to video tape my entire experience so my students could see what I was up against, a cliff on one side and my fear on the other.
Not a great combination, but I did it. I made it all the way to the entrance, cliffs, thin rail and all. Once I entered, I could not help but to stare in amazement. Actually this occurred when I arrived at the shore, but entering the cave in no way took away from the awe of the experience, in fact, it just added to the beauty and wonder.
We took pictures and Jim (photographer) and Vinny ( the archeologist) explained the logistics of the site. Another rock billions of years old, all the cool facts. So I took a few pictures and decided to see what it was like on land. Now honestly, I think being on top of the cave was even more amazing. It was by far one of the highlights of this trip, well so far. Words can’t even describe what it was like being up there, it was just so majestic. Incredible. Wow.
I think I took video footage, but it in no way can capture the true magnificence of being there and overlooking the horizon. That is truly a moment I will never forget. The videographer wanted to capture a few shots at the top, the sun was just right, the weather was perfect. So we decided to tape a few scenes for my video expedition report. Trust me, I know I won’t be disappointed. He could capture me scratching my back and I’d still love the scene.
Definitely a once in a lifetime experience.
I climbed back down and boarded the zodiac with some other guests. Vinne gave his naturalist/geology overview and then took us into the cave. We were short on time. Really, I had spent most of my time video taping the scene for National Geographic that I lost some of the time to explore the cave with the Zodiac. Some would think that would be disappointing, but it really wasn’t. I tell you I felt like I was standing on top of the world up there.
Location: Donegal, Ireland
Sites Visited: Donegal Castle & Neolithic Burial Tombs
Today was a fabulous day. We arrived within the Irish province of Donnegal, but specifically went to Killybegs. I woke up as usual, just in time for breakfast. I am so not a morning person on this expedition. I decided to eat alone this morning on the grounds to not have to talk. I have learned the beauty of silence is good for the spirit. Not to mention, we've been talking so much, alone time is a good thing. I thought that was enough, but everyone kept wondering and asking why I was eating alone. So needless to say, a passenger joined me. In the end, I enjoyed our conversation.
I originally decided to tour the Donegal castle and to go to the wool shop after lunch. When we arrived in town the told us we had an hour to visit the shops tour the area. So I went on my hunt for a sweater. I walked up and down the streets several times, and finally came upon this one shop at the recommendation of a local, only to find no one was there. Bummer. So I went back down towards the busses and came up on this shop called Irish House. Several of the items were a bit pricy, but it seems like the wool sweaters are all running for around 100 Euro, so I said why not. They didn’t have the style I was wanting , and I said to self, I knew I should have purchased the sweater back in the town of Dingle. Oh well. After much analysis I decided on this tweed cape. It was either that or the coral cape, which looked magnificent against my skin tone. I thought the hunter green could have also been a contender but that was the first one I put down. But the tweed is a lot more elegant, a signature piece that I will be able to style for years to come.
The shop offered two things, an Irish coffee (which tastes nothing like our coffee flavored with Irish crème), and a tour of their workshop to see the process to make their sweaters/capes. I went upstairs to the shop to take a peek. So facinating.
After speaking with several guests, I realized quickly that I was late for the tour of the castle. I forgot that we all had different times to report. Thankfully it was just across the street. Yes, this castle sits in the middle of the small village. Amazing to have a piece of history right in front of you.
It was quite picturesque, smaller than what I imagined, but still rather grand. While I wanted to know the history, I figured I’d just Google it since I was late for the official tour. I was quite facintated with the images of how the castle had changed over time, but also with how this structure came to be situated in the middle of the town? I mean at one point, I am sure this sat on an isolated plot of land. So my question is what caused the industrialization of the area-when did it occur and why? Was it after the famine? Who lived here, what did they control? What as special about this region…why build a castle here? At that point I realized the castle was called the Donegal castle and it was owned by the O’Donnels. The names are very similar. Making connections!! This is what I want my students to do. The castle was constructed around 1550 and a century later another addition was made when another family moved in.
The second part of the day was a lot more interesting. I decided to forgo the trip to the woolen mill and instead go visit and ancient burial ground. The archeogolgy in this part of teh world is just amazing. I figured I could learn about the process to make wool from Paola sinc she went on that expedition. Now when I say ancient, I do mean ancient, this burial site predated the pyramids of Egypt. The first site was estimated at about 3000bc and the second site around 4000 bc. Just amazing all around. Not to mention Vinnie, Peter and Jim know their stuff. When they talk, you want to listen and soak up everything.
As far as the burial site, it really looked like a scene out of the Flintstones, stone walls and a capstone on top, only on several of the burial sites the capstone had tumbled to the earth. So of course I had many questions: How in the WORLD do you date this site? Did you unearth/excavate this particular site, why or why not? Did you find any artifacts? The inscription on the stone, how do you know that it was from this time period vs. someone about 200 years ago having some “fun” and drilling a round circle to make it appear as if it is historic? What clues led you to believe it was burial cite? What have archaeologists found at this site? Are there other sites like this one that reveal clues to the past? Are the findings confirmed? I had a lot of questions trust me and Vinny and Richardson thought they were great.
So here is what I know? These particular sites have not been unearthed, however there are other sites in this region with similar (very similar) bearings, which is why they can conclude that they are burial sites. The others sites did not reveal bodies, however, they did reveal artifacts such as spears/pottery/ tools located in the sites to allow for carbon dating. They can not date the stone, as the stone itself is from thousands of years old-you can’t use stone to date a time persay, well not in this case.
I took several pictures of the two sites visited, which surprisingly just sit in the back of a farmer’s field. Vinny and Richardson delegated the task of sharing the information to a local archaeologist, one who had been studying the stones for years. The fact that the tombs sit in an enclosed area indicate that of a “ritual/ceremony”. Also, there appears to be multiple compartments, and on a “gate” . The compartments, archeologists presume to be “families” of clans. In other words, it is not just one grave, but many. Again, all of this was very fascinating.
Then I learned about the “bogs”. So yeah, everyone else knew about bogs except me. Never knew this was a fossil fuel. When the guy told me it takes thousands of years for bog to form (decomposed organic matter/trees/plants) I proudly said, “so this means it is a non renewable resource.” Ok so while others may scoff at my learning, I must admit, in the area of science, even I become excited when I catch onto things. I then made the connection to the video I found on you tube the other day about bog bodies. It was all making sense. I never really watched the movie, but I did walk away understanding that there is a scientific explanation about this “bog” stuff. What was more intriguing is how ‘bog’ material can preserve items. Vinny shared that archeologists and local famers have unearthed items like butter and milk, which is still in usable condition. Now that was mind boggling. He said that bog can act as a form of refrigeration but also a preservative. He said that Ireland was one of the regions that produces large scale bog fields which can be cut and dried into pelts to use for burning and heating homes. It takes thousands of years to produce bog -one of the many things I am learning on this expedition that I never knew.
Location: Aran Islands, Ireland
Sites Visited: Cliffs of Moher & Don Agneous
This morning we took the Zodiacs out to the Aran Islands. From a distance they are beautiful, all of Ireland, at least the coastline takes your breath away. Yes it is green here, just about every turn. Yes, I got wet the entire way there and I do mean wet. I didn’t seem to care much about it, but I did care about the cold weather. As always this place is just chilly…in May.
I can’t recall the name of the first island we visited, I just know it was part of the Aran Isles, and once again cold-this seems to be the theme of this post. My hands were freezing, particularly from the saltwater from the ocean. I wish I would not have lost my gloves, they were inexpensive, the dollar gloves but in a climate like this you definitely need them. I can’t believe how cold it is here, it is May and I am wearing a hat, gloves, a scarf, and winter coat. They said the warmest temperatures here are around June, July, and August. I just don’t know how? Even our spring months are much warmer than these temperatures here in Ireland.
We visited Don Agneous. Ok, so the hike up there wasn’t that horrible except for the wind we battled on our way up there. We marched over a rugged path part of the way up, then gravel, and then once we reached the site, it seemed to be a narrow, but rocky path of the original limestone rock that blanketed the region. The land seemed so barren, you wonder how people could survive in this terrain. It was impossible to grow plants; so again, the mystery behind survival in this region is up for grabs. I am amazed that people lived there, I mean there is nothing here..but rocks, rocks, and more rocks. I did learn about how they mixed seaweed with sand and tiny bits of dirt to create their own version of soil. But again, it just seems like too much work for a small place.
Archaeologists don’t really know the exact purpose of the stone structure, but they do know it dates back to the bronze age. Ok, so here the two existing theories as explained by Vinny our archeologist:
a) It was a religious worship center/fort. Ceremonial rituals were common during this area. The following facts support this theory:
a) The location of the “ceremonial” gathering is at the top of the hill. Most religions have this understanding of “capstone” of a place means you are higher up to the God/s.
b) There is a large platform in front of the fort. This could be used for animal sacrifice. Animals sacrifices’ were common for religious rites. The cliff was an easy disposal route for the animal.
c) Wide spread of Christianity during this era.
The following would support the later that it was built as a stone fortress base for a small community. Vinny said it did not act as a fort “persay” but possibly a fortress for a small community who wanted to protect themselves from outside invaders.
This is supported by the following:
a) The vertical columns outside the fort which is believe to be used to act as a defense to keep out invaders
b) There were 12 houses/buildings on the island. Though the structures are no longer there, they were at one point. Archeologists have discovered their remains.
c) The multi layered wall systems could be used to act as fortitude of defense. Again attackers would need to traverse over each defense layer.
Vinny said the attack had to be quick as staying out there a while would allow the defenders to call for reinforcements. Thus they would be attacked from the front and the rear. Altogether it was a great site to visit.
This site provided a great learning opportunity for my classroom. The images of the islands combined with the mystery of what this site was used for will allow my students to think like archaolgoists. Looking forward to teaching this lesson...I can't imagine what they will construct in their minds about what they believe to be the truth of what really happened.
Location: Isles of Scilly, England
Site Locations: Tresco Abby Gardens
King Charles Castle 1537 AD
Cromwell Castle 1651 AD
I am a published author on a National Geographic/Linblad expedition travel site, feeling pretty proud. See below:
Eric came to us later in the day and asked us to compose the day’s blog. Well really he asked us earlier in the week if we’d like to write one. We said yes, no problem. It would be a great opportunity for both of us. Paola really wanted to do it on the Staffa islands, and as for me, I didn’t have a preference. I figured I had taken notes on the day’s activities and took lots of pictures. I knew we could pull it off. Secretly I was a little worried, I needed to study up on the history of the place since Paola and I agreed she’d take the morning, and I the afternoon portion of the blog. It worked out well.
Well truth is it wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be, writing it, well that wasn’t until we hit bad weather. Eric informed us we had until the next day to complete it and I figured we had more than enough time. After listening to the nightly recap we headed to dinner. Somehow the mood on the boat shifted as the swells on the boat began to steadily rise. We were only 30 minutes into our meal, but fore some reason I started to feel dizzy, then queasy, and finally nauseous. In fact, up until yesterday you could have asked me if I experienced sea sickness, and I would have proudly told you no. Well I was wrong. The waiter brought out my steak and Caesar salad. I didn’t feel up to a potato or steak for that matter. I took four bites of both and called it quits. Trust me, I was not the only one leaving dinner. There were many. When I say it was bad, it was bad. Rope was tied throughout the cabin to help guests navigate around the ship. You had no choice but to hold onto it, or you were liable to fall, and several did. So here was my lesson to bring back to students: open water = rough seas. Be ready for the unexpected. I also learned the best part of the boat to be in is in the center. One of the physic professors (guest on board) showed me a demonstration of how it works with our dinner spoon. It made perfect sense. The center of the boat is the safest, and so is the bottom of the ship-less movement. The higher up the more rotation, which means more sea sickness. Another lesson I will take back and share. Secretly we are learning so much from the guests as well. They come from all walks of life and are eager to share their knowlege too.
So back to writing, I started on the blog that evening, but could not finish it because I was so extremely seasick. I had composed several paragraphs but in the end decided to wait until the next morning. The boat rocking was horrible. We were going everywhere, up and down. Too much to bear.
My Morning Adventure:
Abby Tresco Gadens
During the day I went on a tour with Mr. Mike in gardens, they are quite fascinating. The garden was mixed with plants from New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa. Apparently the fauna is this region can withstand temperatures like this in the isles. He did mention that on the main island, which is just 30 miles away, that these very same plants cannot be grown. Of course I came up with ideas of how to present this information to my students. I will say I am learning much about plant vegetation and what it takes to cultivate their growth and development. The garden held so many different plant species. Of course I don’t recall them all, but there were a few that I was taken to, one being the tree cabbage. This is a beautiful flower that grows down the side of tree. How it does this, well that question needs further study.
In addition, Mike shared that princess Diana used to bring the boys there when they were little, and in fact, his daughters used to play with the boys when they were all young. He spoke about how they simply enjoyed the relaxed feel of the island, this one the one place where they could be and not feel the pressure that being a part of the royal family brings. He stated that the Duke of Cornwall is the same as Prince Charles and that the “duke” owns the islands. In fact, Charles & Camilla still comes to visit the island every once in a while.
He said that Charles has given the family “ownership” over the property and island. I don't recall the family name, but they have been serving as trustees of the islands for many decades, since the time of Queen Mother-well during her younger years. The family has used the property to really highlight the garden and the types of plants that can be grown and cultivated within the region/temperate climate.
Mike also shared that the islands spearheaded compulsory educational systems. The governor would charge families a pence a week for the child to be able to attend school. However, if families choose not to send their children, they were fined, two pence to be exact. Brilliant strategy I thought. As a result, families had no choice but to send their child to school. Apparently the system was quite effective, as many great thinkers/scholars came out of this region Mike explained.
So I decided to go on the afternoon hike to King Charles and the Cromwell castle. Though I wrote extensively about it, without question, it was a hike to remember. What is not mentioned in my write up is that it was a long hike…I don’t know the exact mileage but there seed to be at least three phases of the walk. A walk through the hills of the village. A second hike through the grassy fields and flowers (the Irish call Whin) it is a bright yellow flower, and a third walk through fields of this spongy moss. We literally encountered three different terrains on our walk there. It was the road that never ended.
The first castle was just comprised of ruins, but it was a very neat structure to visit. The second however was in tact. It was dark and cold inside, but overall a very cool experience to enter a castle from the medieval time period. I can’t wait to show these pictures to my students who will be amazed that I had a chance to visit one. The hike back was very scary, we actually took a different route, one along the coastline. The path was very narrow and at times close to the cliff, a little one, but still grand enough to cause injury if you fell from it, if not death. We made it back safely to the beach where Mike came to pick us up. I didn’t realize I left my rain pants at the Abby until we arrived at the zodiac landing. Berit worked to get them back for me, I am so glad she did because I don’t know what I have done the past two days without them-it’s that cold.
Day 4 : Fowey/Eden Project
Today we went to Fowey (pronounced Foy). I was saying it wrong the entire time. Foy was beautiful, it sits in the southern part of England. The morning we spent at the Eden project, which is an absolutely amazing garden. I swear it looks much like a scene out of a movie from 2054. If only we had a place like this in Cincinnati, I am sure all students would become gardeners.
We walked through two biomes. Now these are not just any biome, these were huge biomes that covered plants from various countries from around the world. Of couse they all came from the same temperatures regions. Biome #1 contained plant species, and animals, well birds at least, from tropical regions. Biome #2 was the Mediterranean Biome. That word “Mediterranean” is quite popular here in England, I am supposing because of the proximity to the region. Of course this made me think about the Biome project we’ve done with Touching Spirit Bear. I can’t recall if we had them create a fictitious animal with their own biome or if we had them research the biome of Cole in the novel. I guess I will have to look back at my notes. I never considered having students learn about the other biomes of the novels we have studied. I am thinking of ways to tie it in instructionally. I did take several pictures, I know they will be amazed when they see the size of this biome/indoor greenhouse.
Later in the afternoon we toured the Lost Gardens of Heligan. I started on the walk with Jim Richardson, he taught me a few things about my camera. We also learned that the gardens were built during WWI and because of the wide spread ruin around Europe, they had been forgotten about through the years. And Berit, I love her cause she is always looking for a way to explain something in nature. She showed me some of the birds in the garden, describing their habitat and adaptations. The garden admittedly was very beautiful and the sculptures were amazing. When I started to think of lessons, it made me think about how much I need to incorporate more art projects into my units. This year I didn’t do much of it because of the testing emphasis. In a way I feel as if students are missing out on an opportunity to be creative. There is always next year.
I took several photographs of images and sculptures in the garden. This one image of the mud lady (I don’t recall the exact name) I hope to have students write their own short story if they came across this statue in the middle of the forest. The day wasn’t too eventful; I think I learned more at the Eden Project, but either way, it was a wonderful experience.
My favorite part of the night however was our nightly recap when the explorers, historians, and geologists explain aspects of that region. So I learned the following: England has water bears. Oh I can’t wait to tell students about this thought I need to find the video they used on animal planet. Doug the naturalist taught this lesson interspersing hilarious video and cartoon images to keep us engaged.
Sites Visited: HMS Victory & HMS Warrior
Our first full day was pretty exciting and tiring. I have not been able to switch on the new time zone, so I haven’t been getting much sleep on the ship. I am a bit tired, but I am pushing through. Today we went to Portsmouth. So somewhere in my history classes as a teen, I am sure I learned about this city in England. Though I knew absolutely nothing, I came out learning more than I anticipated. We started the morning touring the HMS Victory. The tour guide was taking us through the ship, and to be honest, I was listening, but trying to take pictures and listen is not something I do well. I am incredibly thankful that Jim Richardson pulled me aside. He walked me through the history of the British navel power and their impact on the world and how others viewed this nation. The Battle of Trefalgar was a turning point, and it was fought on the very ship we were standing on. This naval battle sealed British dominance over the seas. France and Spain, who desperately tried to take out the British, did not succeed, and as a result this led to more international conquests by the British parliament. Though Captain Nelson died on deck (and there is a spot on the boat to prove it), the British came out victorious.
Later that afternoon I returned to the Naval base area to explore more ships. This time I decided to explore the HMS Warrior. Now this ship was awesome,. It’s not to say the other ship wasn’t, but this experience helped me to see first hand what a steam power engine looked like during the 1800’s. All I can say is wow. This ship never entered battled, however it did help mark the start of the industrial revolution in England. Not only was this fascinating but to see how they lived aboard the ship was mind boggling. Upwards to 700 sailors and seamen would be aboard at any given time. The docent explained that the men alternated sleeping and working shifts. And oh, did I mention, they ALL slept in hammocks. Now this was the most surprising. I was expecting to see bunks, as all the images of slave ships show bunks-but this was not the case.