EHS Field Based Science Canceled due to District Policy and Liability Concerns

Hans Janovy Meyer, staff writer

For many students, summer means going to the beach and maybe going to a bonfire or two, but probably not hiking through the woods, canoeing, and camping in northern Minnesota’s wilderness on a science-based educational expedition. However, for those who love hiking, canoeing, camping, and science, summer Field Based Science (FBS) has been providing wonderful opportunities for Edina High School students for years. Unfortunately, however, this summer’s FBS trip to Lake of the Woods has been canceled due to liability assessments and district policies.

In previous years, students participating in FBS traveled together with a group of science teachers to the Lake Trails Base Camp, located on Oak Island in Lake of the Woods in northern Minnesota. In past years the group would identify a topic to be studied while out on the trail. “FBS provides students with an experiential education which is different from the traditional model that students are used to in the traditional classroom. Experiential education is more centered around being immersed in what students are learning about rather than being taught it through the use of textbooks, lectures, and tests. At FBS, students learned about the natural world as they canoed and portaged through a wilderness setting,” Eric Burfeind, EHS science teacher and past FBS facilitator said.

To the dismay of students hoping to embark on the FBS adventure this coming summer, FBS was canceled. “There’s some district policy around international trips. Because the trip (FBS) does go to Canada for nine days, and so there are some protocols and requirements for any trip that’s international about who goes, the timeline for it, school board approval, those things did not happen and also there’s some concern within the district policy about access to medical care…So because of that and with the timeline, it had to be canceled for this year…it just has to do with district policy and the district protecting itself in anything that they call a school-sponsored trip,” EHS Principal Andrew Beaton said.

Students hoping to embark on their own FBS voyage in the future should not lose hope. “[The program] was not canceled permanently, but the program this year was canceled, and then we’re hoping that FBS will look at their program and we can redesign it so that it fits within district policy and then we can run it again,” Beaton said. Anyone looking to participate in some aspect of FBS this upcoming summer, however, is not out of luck either. “Students have the option to contact the camp directly and attend the camp just as any other high schooler might,” Burfeind said.

The district administration affirms that the cancellation of this summer’s FBS program is purely to comply with district policy. “But I think the one thing to convey is that you know as the principal and a district, we support these travel study opportunities for our students, we have a group that’s going to Fiji….we’re very supportive of this travel-based study and FBS has been great, the teachers have been amazing in putting this opportunity together for students, we just have to follow those protocols of district policies,” Beaton said.