Next April, the Nantucket High School Spanish Club and students enrolled in any Advanced Placement science class will have the opportunity to travel to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands.
The trip to South America will replace the trip to Spain, where the Spanish Club has traveled nine times. The change occurred for a number of reasons, first being that Spanish Club advisor Jill Surprenaut, who has run the Spain trip all nine years, had opted to take a year off from organizing the trip. Secondly, the membership increase in the Spanish Club has made it more difficult for everyone to enjoy some of the most authentic hands-on activities of the trip. Although only 24 kids traveled to Spain this year, and about 40 students initially signed up.
“We couldn’t possibly have run the program with that many kids,” said Surprenaut. “Forty students would turn it into a bus tour and it's a very hands-on trip.”
Among the hands-on activities that students were able to participate in this year in Spain were “an eight-day cultural treasure hunt, a rare invite to see a local Casteller group actually allowed us to attend a rehearsal of their multi-generational human tower building (in which two students, juniors Brandon Menjivar and Ramon Partida, were invited to participate), and we were able to watch an archery practice in the grassy moat area of Montjuic Castle on our last day,” said Surprenaut. Because the school’s connection with Spain is so unique, Surprenaut said it is possible that they may return there at some point in the future. But, she added, “we are exploring new possibilities and looking towards the new world instead of the old.”
NHS Spanish teacher and the Coordinator of the Ecuador and Galapagos Islands trip, Kate Hickson, articulated that “it was never the intention of the club to only travel to Spain. It has been Barcelona for years. Senora Surprenaut took sabbatical and I spent a year abroad there so we both know the area well. Since Senora Surprenaut needed a break from Spain, I was in the process of researching different countries to visit. For me it came down to Peru and Colombia. When Mrs. MacDonald told me she was taking the AP Biology kids to Ecuador, I continued talking to her and we eventually decided to combine trips.”
The second reason for combining trips is a legalities one. School rules require one administrator per every six students on a trip, and since “Latin Club is planning a trip to Italy and Chinese Club is planning a trip to China, if we each had our own trip, it would require over four school administrators to leave school in the same week and that was too many,” said Hickson. When MacDonald began organizing the trip, she planned on taking only AP Biology students. However, when she talked to the AP Chemistry students about the trip, “they were interested and the travel company said 20-30 students was ideal, and that’s why I decided to open up the trip to all students in AP Science.”
Currently 22 students have already paid their deposits and are signed up for the trip.
“We had an information session on May 2, and we had quite a turnout,” said Hickson. “We’re going to have to cap it at 34 kids [plus six chaperones and a tour guide]. First come first serve.” MacDonald noted that of the 35 parents that came to the meeting, “most were wondering if we could take them on the trip.”
For MacDonald, a trip to the Galapagos Islands has been a dream in the works for a while.
“I’ve always wanted to go to the Galapagos,” she said. “We cover the topic of evolution in Honors and AP Biology classes, and I thought we should plan a trip. It would cement together everything we’ve learned about to be able to see it all first hand.”
Although the planning of the trip is still in the works, some of the hands on activities the students will participate in on the islands include, “visiting the Tortoise Breeding Center and Darwin Research Center, taking an excursion to a Pink Flamingo habitat, Snorkeling where you will see penguins, sea lions, flamingos and iguanas, and taking a Volcano Walk.”
The students will be staying in small eco-tourism hotels while on the Galapagos Islands. Before heading to the Islands, the students will spend the first two days of the weeklong trip in the Ecuadorian Capital of Quito where they will be learning about the different culture and visiting famous historical sites like Government Square and Independence Plaza.
The interdisciplinary aspect of this trip is a large part of what made it so appealing to the coordinators.
“It shouldn’t be just museums and cathedrals,” said Hickson. “It’s cross disciplinary. We will have a bilingual tour operator. Spanish Club can do it in Espanol.”
The students will be traveling with a tour company called EF Educational Tours. MacDonald explained that she chose EF Tours because “we get to travel to three different islands, Isabela, Santa Cruz, and San Cristobal all in seven days.”
The tour price listed for the trip includes airfare as well as breakfast and dinner daily. Although students interested in going on the trip must pay the deposit out of pocket, the students plan to fundraise over the summer to cut down on the costs.
The school community has been very responsive to the Galapagos Island trip. It has generated excitement amongst students and Hickson said “we have received no pushback from administration about the new trip. They are very supportive.”
For MacDonald, the trip is a long-wished dream come true, which she summarized, saying, “I would hope we can do this every other year. The Galapagos Islands are history in the making in effect. If there’s interest, I would like to do this again.”