Yosemite Trip Teaches Self Awareness

Kelly Pien, Editor-in-Chief

40 students and 6 teachers took to the outdoors from January 31 to February 5. The annual science department sponsored trip to the Yosemite National Park afforded a variety of activities such as hiking, team building games, and lessons on ecology. The field study included aspects of environmental science, biology, astronomy, and geology.

Biology teacher Rene Gillibert, who chaperoned the event, said, “The purpose of the Yosemite trip is to have students go out and experience nature, experience geology, and get to know themselves a little better in a natural enviroment.”

Geology teacher Jane Kelson coordinated the excursion through an organization called NatureBridge, which provides housing, meals, transportation, and instruction for the students during their stay in the National Park.

Before the trip, students were split into 3 groups based on a survey of their hiking experience and level of fitness.

Over the 1st 3 days the students hiked and explored the valley walls, glacial marines, river, archaeology, and natural history of Yosemite valley. They slept in Curry Village cabins, then left for Wawona on the far east side of the national park. There, they explored a grove of sequoias known as the Merced Grove, the local watershed, a waterfall, and a meadow.

Another goal of the trip was personal development. Students kept a journal to reflect on their experiences and were asked to write poems about nature. Participants were required to unplug from their cell phones.

Senior Thais Terrien felt that the absence of technology contributed to a stress free experience.

Kelson estimated the trip has taken place every year for the past 18 years.

Gillibert enjoyed being outside, introducing students to Yosemite, and teaching them about nature. “It’s a lot of fun to see the students outside of the classroom. And Yosemite’s a great place,” he said.

The snow-covered park, the result of strong El Niño storms in January, made for a refreshing experience.

“I’ve already been to Yosemite a couple times, so I know one of the trails we’re going to do I’ve already done, but I’ve never done it with snow,” Terrien said. “It’s going to be more difficult to hike with more clothes, like extra jackets and stuff. That’s like extra weight on your shoulders.”

Students enjoyed the trip. “At the end of the trip, students have to fill out a questionnaire, and it’s always highly rated. Some students say it’s the best week of school they’ve ever had,” said Gillibert

Kelson called the week-long adventure her “favorite week of the school year, every year.”

“The Yosemite Institute instructors are very knowledgeable and amazing and I learn something every year. I love being a student alongside the students, being one of them,” Kelson said. “I love being outside all week and it’s also a really great experience to be with the students in that environment where we get to know them better, and they get to know us better. And it’s like you come back with 40 new best friends, basically.”

Each student paid $880 for the trip.