Just two photographs were all biology teacher Kristy Butler needed to see to know the positive impact the trip to Iceland had on her students.
In the photograph taken shortly after their arrival to the isolated country, the classmates were standing uncomfortably next to each other, stiff with awkwardness. On the other hand, in the second photo, which was taken just before the group’s departure back to Michigan, all of the students were grinning and had their arms around each other, just like old friends.
“I think that they really got the chance to have such a different experience and a shared experience,” Butler said.
Thankfully, FHC is seeking another trip like Iceland in the future for several students. In June 2022, which is rescheduled from previously being in 2020, Butler and fellow biology teacher Patricia Richardson will be taking students to Ecuador and three of the Galapagos Islands. The trip, which will take place over eleven days, is modified from the previous Galapagos trip, which was taken in 2015.
An informational Zoom meeting will be held on April 28, 2021; the RSVP link is here: https://bit.ly/3tkUmuO
Despite the fact that the adventures in South America are arranged by the school, there is no required school work or assignments posed on this trip. However, that is not to say this journey lacks educational value.
“[Going to the Galapagos] is a chance to see a different ecosystem,” Richardson said. “In biology, we talk a lot about the Galapagos species, and why they are different, so it’s a chance to see three of the islands and how different those ecosystems really are, [as well as] see and experience those organisms.”
In addition to the once-in-a-lifetime natural experiences the Galapagos offers, there are also new sights in Ecuador beyond varieties of reptilian species. Not many students have had the opportunity to travel to countries outside of those neighboring the United States, so seeing the way of life in Ecuador is extremely valuable and is a rare opportunity.
“There’s a huge learning piece with being globally aware,” Richardson said. “[Since the students] spend some time in Ecuador, [they] get a chance to see how people in Ecuador live in the city [and] in the mountains.”
While learning from classrooms and textbooks is necessary for students, Butler and Richardson believe that not everything can be taught from a desk.
“One of the most important things is that it really gives kids a global perspective,” Butler said. “[We take the trip] to expand [their] experiences. [They] can see movies and pictures, but when [they] go experience something far away from home, that’s something that’s different and not familiar, and that’s a really good thing [in order to] grow.”
As well as teaching students about far-away places, there are also lessons in independence that can be learned from the expedition. Since the parents are not invited, students must be able to manage themselves for the entirety of the trip. Additionally, students from FHC are sometimes grouped with students from other states.
“[There are] huge social benefits,” Richardson said. “When we travel, we don’t take parents with us because we want the high school students to have that chance to [have] individuality and have the responsibility of keeping track of [themselves].”
The travels will bring a taste of new air to the students that choose to go, and freshman Nora Blok is striving to expand her already wide pallet.
Nora, who had lived in South Korea for several years before moving back to Michigan, enjoys traveling and plans to go to the Galapagos with FHC next summer.
“I feel like I have a unique perspective when I travel, and I feel like I am adding to that by meeting new people and places,” Nora said. “I think this will impact me because I’ve never been anywhere like the Galapagos.”
Nora doesn’t plan on stopping after she returns from the Galapagos. On top of the places she has discovered by travel and residency, Nora has a bucket list.
“I’ve also never been to South America, and I have a goal of going to all seven continents,” Nora said. “This would be my fifth one, so that is really exciting to me.”
Overall, the trip will be a rewarding experience for both students and teachers. While the students get out of their normal social groups, the teachers can feel fulfilled in being able to provide this for the students.
“What I liked most is really watching the kids become friends,” Butler said. “A lot of the kids really didn’t know each other before we left, and they really got to bond.”