From going inside the human body to flying around outer space, Ms. Frizzle has taken her class on all sorts of mystical adventures in the show “The Magic School Bus.” Similar to Ms. Frizzle’s ambitious endeavors, science teacher Lindsey Smaka has created traveling and research opportunities for students at Edina High School. Since organizing her first expedition to South Africa in 2017, Smaka has embarked on trips to Fiji and Ecuador with her students.
Currently, Smaka is preparing for her fourth international trip to Borneo and her first national trip to Yosemite. She continues to organize these expeditions in order to give students an opportunity to better understand their surroundings.“I think that it’s great to expose students to these new places and be able to see things from a global lens and take what they learn abroad and think about the conservation issues here at a local level,” Smaka said. “Students come back and tend to have a greater appreciation for nature.”
While spending time in the Amazon Rainforest and the Galápagos Islands, the students who participated in the trip to Ecuador were given the opportunity to expand their knowledge of the environment first-hand. “I really just wanted to learn more about the animals there and how to protect the Amazon. Over there, we learned a lot about specific animal sciences,” senior Lara Flanagan, who attended the trip to Ecuador, said.
In addition to enhancing their research skills, students’ also better their ability to work with others on these expeditions. “Seeing people who are very different from themselves and being able to relate to them and realize that humans are very similar all over the world is a great skill,” Smaka said.
Junior Katie Wetmore has similar cultural expectations for her 2020 trip to Borneo. “There are a lot of unknowns going some place we’ve never been before, which is something we’re all worried about, but Smaka’s always had a good time going through the operation we’re going to go through,” Wetmore said. “All of us are really excited to take part in [Borneo], and I’m looking forward to all of the experiences we’re going to have.”
While the trip is exciting for many students, it can also be costly. “The cost is definitely a downside because it’s pretty expensive. But, it’s also an incredibly unique experience, and the fact that we get to travel halfway around the world and make an impact while in high school with research is pretty incredible,” Wetmore said. Along with the other Borneo participants, Wetmore is currently fundraising to offset the costs of their trip.
Nonetheless, the skills and values students gain along the way often make their experiences worth the cost. “[Ecuador] was life changing. I made so many new friends and I learned so much,” Flanagan said.