Becoming A Modern Explorer

By Kat Golden, USGBC-Missouri Gateway Chapter Member

My eyes flickered under the blinding incandescent glow of airport lights. Yawning isn’t how one expects to begin an expedition, yet as I sank into my seat I felt a weight pull down on my eyelids. It was 4:30 am on Monday, November 26th; my last thoughts before falling asleep were a mix of fear and disbelief, I was actually becoming an explorer. I watched the wing of the plane rise over my city. This familiar place began to shrink as we moved further from home. Everyone I know and loved slept comfortably in that place below, which looked more like a model than anything real. I’d only seen the like rainforest and the Galápagos Islands in magazines and on TV; they were as real to me as Hogwarts or Hyrule Kingdom. As we rose above the clouds I thought of hugging my dog, saying my goodbyes, and of the adventures that awaited.

These are the thoughts of a local sustainability educator, Kat Golden, who works at the Missouri Botanical Garden’s EarthWays Center, as she began her journey in becoming an educator explorer.

Chosen as a 2018 Grosvenor Teacher Fellow, a program made possible by a powerful partnership between National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions, Kat was one of 40 educators who set off for some of this planet’s most ecologically fragile places. Her travels took her flying through the canopy of a cloud rainforest, snorkeling with penguins and sea lions, and hiking to the top of a volcano in the Galápagos Islands. These experiences led to new understandings of stewardship, ecosystems, and culture.

In an ever-changing world, the importance of understanding the deeply connected human and ecological systems that sustain our planet has never been more important. The explorer mindset, a mix of curiosity, resiliency, determination, and desire to connect with places near and far helps people build a relationship with the planet in a unique way.

Modern explorers are no longer just people we see in magazines or read about in books- the explorers of today are everyday people- including teachers and their students. Since 2011, a group of local organizations – Webster University, Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis Zoo, U.S. Green Building Council – Missouri Gateway Chapter, Madison County Government, Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School, in partnership with St. Louis County Department of Public Health, have joined together to collaboratively plan and host the annual three-day Sustainability Institute for Educators happening June 18-20, 2019.

The 2019 Sustainability Institute for Educators will focus on the intersection of exploration, place, and sustainability. Using technology as a vehicle, educators will investigate local and global connections-all from their own classroom, learning space, or schoolyard. In its ninth year, the Institute will challenge participants to help learners build awareness, recognize responsibility, and take action as global citizens working to build a sustainable world. The Institute will feature a mix of special guest speakers, tools and resources, field studies, citizen science and other hands-on experiences and more!