Oct. 17, 2005 As an added bonus of receiving the 2004 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching, a St. Thomas teacher got an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at Walt Disney World's wild animals this past weekend.
Phyllis Rey-Bryan, a science teacher at Kirwan Elementary School, visited Walt Disney World with fellow awardees for a four-day tour as part of the Disney Youth Education Series (Y.E.S.).
Rey-Bryan said Monday she took the Backstage Safari, where she saw "elephants, ostriches, gazelles, crocodiles, alligators, and the okapi, the animal that's a zebra in back, but the front is a giraffe."
The focus of the program is to inspire students participation in the protection and preservation of wildlife. Rey-Bryan, who is entering her twenty-second year teaching at Kirwan, said she would like to bring her class to the Disney park for the first-hand experience of observing the animals and identifying their behavior.
Rey-Berry said she takes her students on marine trips on St. Thomas where they study ocean life and observe the food chain. "We go to the shoreline and observe the animals and identify how they survive," she said.
Erik Church, of EF Educational Tours, said in a release that the mission of the business is based in the belief that learning is greatly enhanced by seeing real-world experiences as part of the classroom.
"The Disney Y.E.S. field studies program shares our mission by allowing visitors to connect to intangible concepts by using real life examples," Church said. "We are thrilled to …. recognize the best math and science teachers in the country and help foster their own experiential learning opportunity."
Rey-Berry said she wants to share the experience with her 20 students. She said she is "thinking seriously" about checking out a grant.
"I would love to bring my class to Disney World. EF tours would organize everything, but we would have to finance the field trip. I would have to apply for a $20,000 grant," she said. "The parents would have to do a lot of the financing. It would be $1,500 for each student; teachers and chaperones go free."
EF Educational Tours is a pioneer in experiential learning, leading students abroad to encounter new cultures. For information about the company, visit eftours.com.
The Presidential Award is the nation's highest honor for math and science teachers. It is administered by the National Science Foundation. The NSF is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering.
Rey-Berry said she is anxious to inspire others to apply for the Presidential Award.
"If a parent thinks that her child's teacher is doing a good job, the parent can recommend that teacher to fill out and complete an application. This must be done by May."
Teachers must be nominated prior to completing an application. Anyoneprincipals, teachers, students, parents, members of the community, or the general publicmay nominate a teacher. Self-nominations are not accepted.
Rey-Berry said further information can be obtained from Gerald Walters, Curriculum Center science coordinator, at 775-2250. Information is also available at paemst.org .
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