Land of Fire and Ice

Blue Heron students consider visit to Iceland

Trip would take place in 2023, would not be school-sponsored

Posted 3/10/22

Students of Blue Heron Middle School’s current seventh-grade class could go on a trip of a lifetime to the breathtaking landscapes and geological marvels of Iceland.

Seventh-grade science …

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Land of Fire and Ice

Blue Heron students consider visit to Iceland

Trip would take place in 2023, would not be school-sponsored

Posted

Students of Blue Heron Middle School’s current seventh-grade class could go on a trip of a lifetime to the breathtaking landscapes and geological marvels of Iceland.

Seventh-grade science teacher Jeff Waibel discussed plans for a nine-day excursion to the Arctic island during the Port Townsend School Board’s Feb. 17 meeting.

The trip wouldn’t happen until 2023 and dates and times are malleable, but Waibel listed detailed plans for what the students would do in Iceland, and the captivating places they’d visit.

Waibel used to work in Iceland before teaching at Blue Heron and had planned a school trip to the island before, which was canceled after COVID broke out in 2020.

The trip would primarily take place from June 20 to June 28 in and around Reykjavik — the capital of Iceland — and the students would start off with an eight-hour direct flight from  Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to Reykjavik.

Around 20 kids are expected to participate along with one chaperone for every six students.

“The trip would actually be next summer in 2023, the year between their eighth grade and high school years,” Waibel said during the meeting. “That’s the thought, I think, is to do it probably every two years and get a couple different grade levels involved.”

After landing in Iceland, the students would begin a trip full of sightseeing and learning about the environment.

Some potential attractions and activities the kids are scheduled to take part in are viewing the aurora borealis (also known as the Northern Lights); touring a viking museum; visiting a mineral spring; sightseeing around Reykjavik; visiting Iceland’s famous Golden Circle destinations; traveling to some of the island’s numerous waterfalls and volcanoes; and even horseback riding around the mountains.

Beyond all the entertaining activities to do, students will have the opportunity to learn more about the geological science and climate of Iceland outside the classroom and in the real environment.

“We’ve been talking about climate change a lot in school, and there’s a couple different aspects of the trip that would address that,” Waibel said.

Beyond just learning about climate change, the trip will allow students to observe cultural and geological elements within the unique island. By visiting Reykjavik and a remote fishing village called Arnarstapi, the kids will be able to compare the maritime environment of Iceland to Port Townsend and grasp a deeper understanding firsthand.

As exciting as the school trip looks and sounds, the biggest caveat is the approximately $4,600 price tag per student.

Waibel discussed plans for fundraising, including raffling off adult chaperone tickets, applying for grants, and pre-selling trip photo books.

Some board members were concerned about how a student from a working-class or middle-class family could afford the trip’s asking price.

“That’s my biggest concern with that commitment. The plan to get kids who can’t afford to go needs some definition,” said Board Member Jeff Taylor. “I wouldn’t want it to be only those kids whose families can write a check for that [$4,600] amount.”

Additionally, Taylor and other board members were concerned over the early enrollment plan for the trip, saying parents and students need more time than
March 2 to decide whether or not to sign up early. The fact that the trip isn’t school-sponsored, either, will make fundraising more difficult as well.

“I don’t want anyone to be excluded because of financial burdens,” Waibel said. “I think that we would go as a group and raise money as a group for everybody who wants to go.”

“I think it’s possible, we just need some more thinking about timing,” said Superintendent Linda Rosenbury.

If Waibel and other organizers can get over the fundraising and planning hump, then Blue Heron students could be treated to a once-in-a-lifetime trip.

“I still think it’s worthwhile to at least dip our toes in and see what happens, but I am cautiously optimistic,” Waibel said after the board meeting.

Comments

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  • MargeS

    What a great idea. Young people need to travel from their communities to find how the rest of the world works. Gina McMather, former teacher at PTHS, took students on many trips to other countries, my grandson went to the Czech Republic, Germany, France, and Spain. What an experience. He worked as a deck hand on a fishing boat in the summer to raise funds, of course we also helped and donated funds for others. If this goes through, I will be glad to make a donation. Good Luck to you all.

    Tuesday, March 15 Report this

  • forsho

    Surprising to see "viewing the aurora borealis" as the lead selling point--since the auroras are not visible at summer solstice! The sky at Reykjavik if not overcast, will be a bright twilight on those dates. The rest of Iceland is mostly even closer to the Pole.

    And, Iceland is not an "Arctic" island--it is entirely south of the Arctic Circle.

    Saturday, March 19 Report this