Hawaii school trip creates aspiring marine biologists

Valleyview students return bubbling with enthusiasm; trip to be offered every year

Sylvie Paillard / Kamloops Daily News
February 20, 2013 01:00 AM

Grade 11 biology students Emma McLeod, left, Morgan Motokado, Amitt Minhas and Mason Harding look over photos and information from their school trip to Hawaii.

Valleyview Secondary's Grade 11 biology class is back from a Hawaiian field trip with surpassed expectations and a few new ambitions.

The whirlwind, five-day trip wrapped up Saturday. It was enough to create a few aspiring marine biologists, said Valleyview teacher Gary Bergquist, himself a marine biologist.

"It's so hands-on," he said. "To see it, to actually almost be able to touch these animals, they learn to appreciate it a lot more and to understand a lot more as well."

The jam-packed itinerary included a marine aquarium visit, a snorkelling tour, a submarine ride, a hike through a bamboo forest and trip to Manoa Falls. It was an experience that still had students buzzing on Tuesday.

"I can't believe all the things we saw," said Mason Harding. "It was amazing."

"It was crazy all the kinds of coloured fish we saw," said Amitt Minhas, referring to a snorkelling tour.

"And we got a handout before," added Emma McLeod, "so we were able to compare what we saw and we knew what they were called. In person, it makes it so much better."

Morgan Motokado's favourite outing was a submarine ride that brought the students down 110 feet off the coast of Oahu.

The activities gave students firsthand experience, not only of the Grade 11 biology curriculum but science classes spanning back to the beginning of the teens' academic years, said Bergquist.

They inspected invasive species of plants and marine life, saw for themselves the effects of shifting tectonic plates and learned about the impact of a devastating natural disaster.

"With the tsunami in Japan, they were able to speak about the effects it's starting to have on Hawaii," he said.

There was plenty of schoolwork involved with university lectures, lab work and classes at a zoo.

Many of the students may just take advantage of their new university connections and the facility's constant search for volunteers, said Bergquist. And their familiarity with the setting may inspire them to continue their studies there.

The students were aware of the amount of time it took to organize the trip and praised Bergquist for his efforts.

"It was hours and hours of work," said Morgan.

"And he planned it out perfectly for what we were doing on each day," said Emma.

The field trip will now be offered every year. The Grade 10 science class will prepare in advance via video conference of university lectures and through contact with a sister school in Honolulu.

The $1,200 needed to take the field trip was a bone of contention for Kamloops-Thompson school board trustee Kathleen Karpuk when the idea was first floated last November. She was concerned it could marginalize underprivileged students.

Bergquist said 50 families responded to the school's call for interest, which they had to cap at 36, so it didn't appear to leave any families out.

The school also has a support fund in place for low-income students wanting to participate in such activities but there were no requests of that nature, said Bergquist.

And the cost appeared to carry an educational benefit of its own by spurring students to take summer jobs.

"I think a lot of people (funded the trip) that way," said Emma. "It was good, too, because it gets more motivation knowing your money is going somewhere that's going to be fun."

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