Beyond the classroom

| 30 Sep 2011 | 09:39

High school students travel to Alaska to expand on biology, photography classes, Story and photos by Leslie Sullivan SPARTA — Spring break was no break for some Sparta high school students. The group of 26, including teachers, packed up their parkas and ski pants and ventured to Alaska. The students were from the photography department lead by teacher Christy Graham, and the biology department lead by Ken Scognamiglio. Landing in Anchorage, and then making their way to Seward, the group stopped to take in the vista of some of Alaska’s amazing glaciers. The experience became hands-on ... as well as bottoms-on, as the group found natural slides in the snow on the side of a glacier during a five-hour hike. They took breaks from hiking, body sliding their way down to the bottom of the glacier. They visited the wild life conservation center, the zoo, and the Sea Life Conservation Center, where the group was exposed to Alaska’s local critters including moose, Kodiak bears, grizzly bears, musk ox, sea lions, and puffin birds. Photography students had the opportunity to work with professionals from National Geographic The group was lucky to see killer whales during their whale watching excursion. Becky Sim, a junior, feels she gained far more from the trip then just an education about Alaska. Sim and other students believe they became closer with one other on the trip. Although most of the students have been classmates for years the trip, created new friendships. “Our trip to Alaska is by far one of my favorite memories.I witnessed the most beautiful landscapes and amazing cultures of Alaska and after leaving I knew that wasn’t the last time I would be visiting that state, especially after doing a crazy seven-mile hike that we body sledded down a snow-covered slope when we reached the top of the glacier,” said Sim. Throughout the week, students and their chaperons soaked up the local color of Alaska by meeting residents of the community and learning about the Alaskan culture. Students learned that contrary to popular belief, penguins are not native to Alaska, and polar bears can only be found in Northern Alaska. “Going to Alaska was one of the best experiences of my life. The best part was probably getting to meet so many people! Everyone was so kind there and it seemed that anyone who we talked to had a story,” said Melissa Frignoca. “They were so open to telling us all about the town Seward and about customs of Alaska. It really gave us a look into the life of someone in Alaska and made us feel less like tourists.”