Update on CST Inspired Minds Learning Project Winner, Exploring by the Seat of Your Pants

Joe Grabowski Guelph science and math teacher, CST Learning Project winner, National Geographic Emerging Explorer

By: Joe Grabowski


It’s been a wild year of science and exploration in the classroom! It began with the incredible news that Exploring by the Seat of Your Pants had won the grand prize in the CST Inspired Minds Learning Project, $100,000 to grow the project! For those unfamiliar, Exploring by the Seat of Your Pants is a nonprofit I started to bring science, exploration, adventure and conservation into classrooms around the world through virtual speakers and field trips. Since launching in 2015 we’ve hosted over 400 Google Hangouts and reached tens of thousands of students. Best part of all, it is and always will be 100% free for classrooms.

With these funds, I’ve been able to realize a goal of bringing the most remote places on the planet into classrooms. We’ve purchased a handful of BGAN units, satellite units the size of a textbook.You plug them into a computer, point it at a satellite, and make it possible to video broadcast from pretty much anywhere on the planet!

The pilot expedition was with a National Geographic team that dived the blue holes in the Bahamas. They did a series of hangouts reaching hundreds of classrooms with cave divers, paleontologists, ecologists and even students from the Bahamas joining in. Most recently we broadcasted with a Canadian team from Clipperton Atoll, the most isolated coral island on the planet.  Currently a unit is in Belize with a team of archeologists for weekly broadcasts from the Mayan ruins.

As a nonprofit, another goal was to contribute to innovative research, expedition and conservation projects around the world. We’ve been able to donate $15,000 towards this pursuit. Whether its solar panels for an expedition or a donation to an organization creating an amphibian ark to protect Honduras’ endangered frogs, it’s teaching students what it means to be global citizens.

It’s been an incredibly rewarding year to interact with tens of thousands of students and to help inspire the next generation of scientists and explorers. In January, a childhood dream of mine came true when an email from National Geographic hit my inbox. I had been selected as a National Geographic Emerging Explorer in recognition of my work. In fact, I was recently in Washington, DC for their Explorer’s Festival, meeting some of my exploration idols and lining up more exciting content for Exploring by the Seat of Your Pants in September.

Next year we’ll be trying new hangouts with 360 cameras and on-call hangouts so students can jump on and see things like sharks being tagged live in the field or lions being radio collared. At the end of the day, this project is all about using technology to open new doors and expose students to important issues, exciting places, positive role models and new career paths. I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity that the Canadian Scholarship Trust Foundation has provided to take Exploring by the Seat of Your Pants to a new level.  

Joe Grabowski is a science and math teacher in Guelph, Ontario. He is a three-time winner of the CST Inspired Minds Learning Project. In 2016, Grabowski received a Grosvenor Teacher Fellowship from National Geographic and in 2017, was recognized as an “Emerging Explorer”.