Point Reyes Experience Completed Virtually

While the Coronavirus pandemic halted the traditional Acalanes Gifted and Talented Education (AGATE) experience during the spring, junior participants did complete a modified version of the program by attending virtual tours of the Point Reyes area and then crafting and presenting projects online.

“I had only heard positive things so I was hoping to have fun making new friends and doing a hands-on project,” said junior Vishal Lashkari.

Junior Sophie Webster went in wanting to “learn more about the environment” as well as herself.

For a period, the fate of the 2020 Spring AGATE was uncertain. Lashkari said, “We did not know if AGATE would continue virtually for a while after we heard the trip was canceled, so I was frustrated at the prospect of missing out.”

The modified program consisted of weekly journal writes and Flipgrid meetings. Flipgrid is a platform where people are able to share videos to a public forum owned by the advisors. The projects were later presented during a virtual reception over Zoom.

Most students originally enrolled in the program continued with the modified experience, while those who withdrew were offered a partial refund of the participation fee.

“There’s obviously no substitute for the trip but I feel like the [teacher advisors Paul and Stephanie Verbanszky] found a way for us to still learn,” said junior Jackie Artiaga.

“I was surprised at how much of the learning did translate online, but we don’t have the same ability as previous groups to ask the experts questions in person. I can learn about the Garden of Eden Apothecary, but I can’t ask Eden Clearbrook about her experience or any specific questions,” said Lashkari.

Though there was a lack of tangible research, the advisors provided many resources that gave an overview of the area and ideas for projects. Webster added that while different from what she expected, she did “learn a lot.”

Some had to change their project ideas to fit the modified format. Laskari, however, did not have to alter his project as he built a 3D topographical map of the Dipsea Trail in Point Reyes.

“I was really sad that the trip was canceled, as I was looking forward to it- however given the situation, I’m happy that we get to have the program in any form,” said Webster, who created a herbology business that sells salves.

“I wanted to gain a different way to learn. Something different from being in a classroom,” said Artiaga of the AGATE experience.