Fires Rage; Yosemite Trip Continues

Nick Johnson, Staff Writer

The deadly Rim Fires that swept across Yosemite National Park in August will not deter the science department from making its annual field trip to the Yosemite Institute. An informational meeting for the trip was held on September 23. The week-long trip will take place February 2-7.

This year, science teachers Roxanna Jackman and Jane Kelson, math teacher Petro Petreas, history teacher Dino Petrocco, english teacher Jamie Donohoe, and associate principal Scott Biezad will be accompanying 45 students to Yosemite.

The trip costs $790. The second payment of $395 is due December 1, 2013.

 In order to attend the trip, students must have completed two years of science and be approved by the team of teachers. On the trip, students snowshoe, cross country ski, and hike. They must come prepared for activities in all kinds of weather, including blizzards and rainstorms.

The field trip, organized by Kelson, links school subjects such as geology and biology with life skills such as cooperation and respect. “We do some journaling and we do some stewardship projects to help the park. We do some creek monitoring where we collect data that the National Parks use. There’s a lot of learning in the moment about the area that we’re in,” Kelson said.

The  Yosemite Institute Field Course is a hands-on way to learn about biology and geology for students and staff. “Every year, I am reminded how much learning can take place and be solidified when you are learning in the environment,” said Kelson, who has been organizing the field trip  since 1998.

The course helps both staff and students learn. “I learn something new every year because the Yosemite Institute Instructors are extremely knowledgeable. I’ve learned about the ecology of the park, and how the park is working hard to preserve Yosemite and keep it in it’s natural state despite so many visitors,”  Kelson said.

Jackman has attended the trip for 14 years and likes many aspects of it. “I enjoy how much we learn while we’re outside having fun. I enjoy the bond that teachers and students make. It is really powerful,” she said.

Senior Jordan Emerson, a student who attended last year and will likely go again, believes the trip gives attendees a chance to get to know their fellow students better.  “You see different sides of people there that you don’t see in school,” he said. “Some people go multiple years. I’ll probably go again this year because the experience is awesome.”

According to Junior Reina Strohmeyer, a great aspect of the experience is the chance to make new friends and be social. She will not be attending the field trip this year, but had an enjoyable time last year, making new friends and meeting new people.

The Rim fires, which consumed 402 square miles of the National Park in late August, will not disrupt the trip’s plans, according to Kelson.  “The Rim fires will be completely out by the time we go in February. It did burn through part of our field area. It was closed while the fire burned.”

The fire may even be instrumental in teaching the students,  Kelson said. “It’s going to provide a unique opportunity to study the effects of fire on an ecosystem.”

Jackman said that the trip is a great way to get educated while still having fun. “Every year, you get a lot of physical exercise and you will continue to learn new things about biology, geology and the National Park system. The instructors there are passionate about nature.”

This field trip has had a lasting effect on several of the students that attended, according to Kelson. “I’ve had several students that have chosen careers in environmental science or geology or environmental science because of their experience on the trip,” she said.

Emerson has high hopes for the trip. “ You get to escape school to visit nature and just experience Yosemite,” he said.