Alf Museum Paleontologist Named to National Geographic Fellowship
Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology Outreach Coordinator Gabriel-Philip Santos was named a 2021 Grosvenor Teacher Fellow by National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions on Feb. 9 for his work as an informal science educator, including using cosplay and pop-up museums to engage diverse communities.
Santos is one of 50 pre-K-12 educators from across the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico selected for the fellowship’s 14th cohort, an announcement delayed a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Fellowship sends exemplary educators on a voyage to one of the many remote and extraordinary environments the Lindblad fleet explores around the world. Given the ongoing pandemic travel restrictions, field-based experiences are currently on hold.
Once conditions allow, Santos and his peers will experience natural wonders alongside a team of marine biologists, geologists, historians, scientists, undersea specialists and National Geographic photographers. They will return home to incorporate discoveries into re-imagined curriculum, as well as to serve as program ambassadors for two years.
“The Grosvenor Teacher Fellowship will allow me to grow as an educator and help me to expand my efforts to connect the sciences to people of all backgrounds and to show students that there’s a place for everyone in the sciences,” said Santos, who also serves as the Alf’s collections manager.
At the Alf, Santos focuses outreach efforts on expanding understanding of equity and access to the sciences, including a Discovery Days program that invites guests to meet paleontologists. He is a co-founder of Cosplay for Science, a group of scientists and educators that brings science to the community at such events as Los Angeles Comic Con, where he built a program inspired by the science of Star Wars. He creates pop-up museums at community events, recognizing that not everyone can travel to a museum.
“A lot of what I do is really based in storytelling,” said Santos, who holds a Master of Science in geology. “With storytelling, we inspire people to use critical thinking to question the world around them. Science, politics, pop culture – it all connects.”
Since the pandemic closed the Alf to public visits in March 2020, Santos and the museum’s outreach team have hosted tours for more than 6,000 students and launched a talk show entitled Fossil Friday Chats in collaboration with the Western Science Center.