Students learn about ecosystems, service in Galapagos Islands
Jessie Levesque thought the best way to teach the values of internationalism, environmentalism and service was to have her students put them into practice outside the classroom. The Galapagos Islands seemed like the ideal venue to do so.
Levesque, an English and communications teacher at Park City Day School, and six students from the school recently returned from a trip to the archipelago off the coast of Ecuador. They traveled with students from two other schools as part of the Round Square program, an international network of schools that emphasize internationalism, democracy, environmentalism, adventure, leadership and service through experiential learning. The students learned about the delicate ecosystem of the Galapagos Islands and the importance of preserving nature.
The seventh- and eighth-grade students studied the ecosystem of the islands by hiking and kayaking. They learned about preservation while collecting plastic trash tangled in the mangroves on one of the islands. The garbage floated to the island from the mainland, Levesque said.
Kyra Atkinson, an eighth-grader, said she was impressed by the unique plants and animals that exist only on the Galapagos Islands. She said the trip made her realize the importance of taking care of the natural places people love, including the mountains of Park City.
Levesque helped organize the trip because she wanted her students to experience a different part of the world. She planned it with leaders from two other Round Square schools located in Miami and Toronto. She said they settled on the Galapagos Islands because of its biodiversity and the fact that most people never get the chance to travel there.
Levesque wants her students to experience and appreciate cultures that are different from their own. The school has hosted students from Colombia the past two years, and the school plans to continue to participate in exchange programs when possible. Being a part of the Round Square program makes those experiences available to students. Park City Day School is a candidate school for the program.
“We really want our students to be citizens of the world. We want them to be globally educated,” Levesque said. “Until you go to another place and you experience their cultures firsthand, it’s easy to not care about what is happening in the world and it’s easy to not understand it.”
The students left with an increased appreciation for places like the Galapagos Islands. Levesque said the students did not want to stop picking up trash from the mangroves because they wanted to give back.
Levesque said the students also learned confidence from the trip, because the majority of the students who participated were traveling on their own for the first time.
Courtney Lemons, an eighth-grader, said she was terrified to get on a plane and visit a different country without her family. But, once she arrived to the islands, she forgot about her anxieties.
“It completely transformed my entire perspective on traveling,” she said. “I kept on looking back on my trip and thinking, ‘I used to be afraid of this and now I’m not anymore.’”
Levesque saw a difference in the students when they were outside the classroom. They were more curious, and those who are reserved in class were not afraid to ask questions or make comments, she said.
She hopes the school is able to continue to host trips around the world.
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Debate continues about schooling in a pandemic, as Park City students petition to stay in school, 78% of secondary teachers opt for remote, and case numbers remain low ahead of a feared post-Thanksgiving spike.