Trevor Hance

Trevor Hance at Velo de Novia Waterfall, Valle de Bravo, Mexico

Trevor Hance, the Coordinator for Enrichment and the Environment at a public school in Austin, Texas, was a winner of Natural Habitat Adventures' first-ever Monarch Butterfly Scholarship Grant–an opportunity awarded to exemplary environmental educators to travel to Mexico and observe millions of monarch butterflies during their winter hibernation as part of the Kingdom of the Monarchs adventure. Here, Trevor shares of his continued curiosity in nature and why it's important for young people to form a relationship with the environment.

Mountain forests hug you and hold you tight. They are simultaneously wild and tranquil; seemingly infinite, yet intimate. Millions of monarch butterflies embrace that "hug" each winter as they cluster tightly amongst the stunning <em>oyamel</em> ("sacred fir") forests high in the mountains of Central Mexico after completing a remarkable five-generation, 3,000-kilometer migration from Canada.

As a recipient of Natural Habitat Adventures' first ever Monarch Butterfly Scholarship Grant, I witnessed the monarchs in those forests early each morning on an expedition in January. There, cool mornings would give way to warmer skies and warm wings, and the monarchs would simultaneously take flight, flitting and floating downhill like an orange and black river rushing through bouquets of wildflowers.

My teaching philosophy centers on creating transformative experiences that recognize interdependence in nature and holding ourselves accountable for our role in it. Connecting people with the world we all share increases self-awareness and an understanding of our responsibilities as part of the interconnected systems in the Universe. Over the past decade, I have designed and developed numerous living laboratories that provide a backdrop to cultivate wonder and create legacy. In these wild spaces, students are given time and freedom to explore, craft their own questions, and independently discover answers. They become conservationists through these long-lens experiences and develop a land-ethic that frequently carries them into positions of leadership.

Monarchs migrate through Texas twice each school year and are part of our interdisciplinary learning journey that recognizes relationships between economics and ecology, and how those subjects relate to critical contemporary challenges due to rapid changes to our planet. My journey to the Kingdom of the Monarchs extended my personal boundaries and allowed me to pursue a point of collective curiosity I share with my students. The expedition experience included mountains and monarchs, as well as direct exposure to forestry-conservation work by WWF, visits with local community leaders, and an afternoon in a school in Angangueo, the town in the valley below the El Rosario Sanctuary. My images and experiences from the expedition help students see we all have a voice in this multinational conservation story. They have their own special place among the people around the world who are actively working towards a better, more informed tomorrow.

"A forest-hug" on Day 1 in El Rosario Sanctuary near Angangueo, Mexico