Columbia Adventist Academy "Expotition" Exceeds Expectations

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When the idea of an "expotition"* was tossed around between Columbia Adventist Academy (CAA) science instructor, Larry Hiday, and local backpacking guru, Randy Givens, there was simply the intention of introducing students to backpacking and “God’s second book”. But brainstorming often takes people where they have no intention of going and produces novel ideas. So on July 10, six neophyte backpackers and four experienced instructors combined forces to experience a novel approach to education; combining formal instruction in geology, research methods, and biology with informal instruction in backpacking skills and etiquette. Novelties for the learning experience included location, technology, and diet (to say nothing of the “school bathroom facilities”).

The first week of the two-week class was spent on Mt. St. Helens and then moved to the Olympic National Park for the second week. The classroom change from day to day often provided the chance for students to honestly say that they “had to walk miles to get to school and it was uphill both ways!” With journals in hand, students hiked the trails, identifying wildflowers and trees, birds and snakes. Observations made during the first week lead to research projects and data collection during the second week. Again, novelty was abundant as research varied from spider populations to tree ratios and moss niches. Probably more novel than anything else was the fact that electronic technology was reserved for scientific equipment during the two weeks. While students adjusted to their lack of media that the current culture demands they be “plugged into,” they readily adapted to using the plethora of electronics for their research that instructors Jamey and Allen Cooper had purchased, or “raided” from Loma Linda University, included two ipads, a clinometer, calipers, laser pointers, and a non-contact infrared thermometer gun with laser targeting for distance temperature readings. As for the diet, students learned that cous cous with pine nuts and Thai noodles with peanut sauce can provide for an elegant evening of dining even if you’re far from your favorite restaurant.

Students enjoyed the views and wildlife of the mountains, the solitude of the campsites, “skiing” the remaining snow patches, and experiencing something they’d never done before. As Konrad McClure, CAA freshman, said as he fixed cous cous for his family after returning to civilization, “l’m independent and self-contained now!”

*defined by Christopher Robin in Winnie the Pooh “Chapter Eight in which Christopher Robin leads an Expedition to the North Pole” as “a long line of everybody” to “discover something.”