Over the summer, science instructor Nicole Collier traveled to Alaska for two weeks from 27 June to 5 July to develop a new experiential science trip for Marlborough Middle School students in order to foster a greater understanding of the environmental sciences at the School. The logistics of the trip are still in the early stages, but Collier said that she thinks the trip will be offered in 2018 and years afterwards.
Collier, who used to work for the National Park Service, said she wants to design a new trip that will provide students with a unique opportunity to engage with and ask questions about an environment vastly different from their own.
“I bet if you asked girls here to name five plants native to the greater Los Angeles area they would not be able to do so,” Collier said. “The concept is to have students [traveling] in Alaska, learning from the environment around them.”
Collier said she hopes to take students all over the state to locations, including Denali National Park, Kenai Fjords National Park, Seward, and Valdez in Alaska. She said the trip’s variety will give students the opportunity to see various features specific to Alaska, like brown bears in their natural habitat and glaciers.
While the trip is scientific by nature, Collier said she wants it to be about observations and experience rather than research.
“There are so many different dynamic things to consider and to never stop asking questions about. One of the fun parts of not doing research is that you can be there, learning about the place and learning about the space and asking questions,” Collier said.
To answer these questions, Collier said she hopes to provide students with a variety of outdoor activities, such as hiking on glaciers and sea-kayaking around icebergs. Because of the trip’s remoteness, students might have to travel in float-planes or camp overnight.
“The goal is not to make Marlborough girls as uncomfortable as possible. This trip will be challenging by nature… [but for] whoever wants to step up to the plate, it’s an amazing opportunity,” Collier said.
Until recently, Marlborough only offered retreats and language immersion trips, but teachers from outside the world languages department are now working to offer different experiences abroad. Last year, a Belize marine biology trip was planned by science instructor Jay Buckley, but it had to be delayed until 2017 due to concerns over the Zika virus.
Collier said that she has seen a lot of interest among Marlborough students for these new innovative trips. She said that many of her ninth grade students have participated in National Geographic student trips, and she hopes the Belize and Alaska trips will bring similar opportunities closer to home by being school-sponsored.
“I think that Marlborough girls in particular seek out unique opportunities to extend their learning and get to do these things in new places” Collier said.