The student news site of West High School

West Side Story

  • The music auxiliary car wash will be held on Sept. 30

  • The homecoming football game is on Sept. 22

  • Fall drama auditions will be held from 4-6:30 p.m. on Sept. 18-20

  • Homecoming will take place at 7 p.m. on Sept. 23

The trip of a lifetime

Students and teachers spent two weeks of their summer touring the Galapagos Islands, Amazon Rainforest, and Andes Mountains, learning about the value of nature while enjoying wildlife and time in the sun.

Maggie Towler '19 and Maddy Luegering '19 stand together on top of the Andes Mountains. Photo from Maggie Towler.

Riding through canoes in the Amazon rainforest, hiking through the Andes Mountains and deep sea snorkeling with stingrays are not typical summer activities in Iowa. But for a group of West High students and teachers, these experiences were not out of the ordinary.

Every other year, West High biology teacher Brad Wymer has given students the chance to travel to the Galapagos Islands to study the biology, geology and ecology of the birthplace of Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species.

“The goal is to give students field experience in biology, and there is no better place to do it,” Wymer said. “The kids get to see what protecting the rainforest really means, and experience such a unique ecosystem.”

This year marked the 10th year of the trip. The group departed early in June, traveling to Quito, Ecuador to board a cruise ship for five days, to see the islands and simply relax.

“Sleeping under the stars on the deck of the cruise ship with the rest of the people on the trip [was my favorite part],” said TJ Hillberry ’18.

I saw three baby hammerhead sharks. It’s really rare to see them, let alone babies ,and even our guide freaked out about it.”

— Maggie Towler '19

And the boat rides continued, as the group, after leaving the cruise ship, departed on a canoe ride through the Amazon River to Sacha Lodge, where they stayed for three days. The rest of the trip consisted of hiking in the Andes Mountains and sightseeing in various places of Ecuador.

The trip offered many once in a lifetime experiences for the students. Maggie Towler ’19 said that she would never forget her wildlife encounters.

“I saw three baby hammerhead sharks,” Towler said. “It’s really rare to see them, let alone babies, and even our guide freaked out about it.”

Maddy Luegering ‘19 is another who said that the best part of her trip were the experiences with the animals.

“I was able to actually see some of the things we learned about in biology, like the Galapagos finches and tortoises,” Luegering said. “We went into a tree canopy to see some of the birds, and we saw [tortoises] in a habitat reserve and a breeding center.”

The wildlife experiences from the trip allowed students and teachers to return home with a new appreciation for preservation of natural spaces.

West High science teacher Maureen Head said that the exposure to protected wildlife areas was what really got this message across to the students.

“Learning that there are areas being protected from development and oil companies, and that they need to continue being protected, [was very important],” Head said. “Guides talk about these social and political issues, and how [the students] can continue to educate and create awareness at home.”

Mae Grahs ’18 is one student traveler who said that this message from the guides impacted her life forever.

It was better than I could have imagined because I got to go snorkeling, try new foods, see various wildlife ranging from sea turtles to howling monkeys and made wonderful memories with a group of amazing people.”

— TJ Hillberry '18

“We need to appreciate our world more and learn to respect others and nature,” Grahs said, referencing nature preservations.

Yangtian Shangguan ’19 said that the islands taught him to value nature.

“The Galapagos Islands and the Amazon are beautiful, and taught me to appreciate nature,” Shangguan said.

The beauty of the islands is just one aspect of the experience that made the trip better than expected for many of the travelers, including Hillberry.

“It was better than I could have imagined because I got to go snorkeling, try new foods, see various wildlife ranging from sea turtles to howling monkeys and made wonderful memories with a group of amazing people,” Hillberry said. “I highly recommend the trip to anyone who is even a little bit interested.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






Leave a Comment

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a gravatar.




Navigate Right
Navigate Left
  • The trip of a lifetime

    Feature

    Scientia potentia est

  • The trip of a lifetime

    Feature

    Club connection: UNICEF

  • The trip of a lifetime

    Feature

    Teachers out of temporaries

  • The trip of a lifetime

    Feature

    International literacy day

  • The trip of a lifetime

    Feature

    Helping Haiti

  • The trip of a lifetime

    Feature

    West’s twitter savages share advice

  • The trip of a lifetime

    Feature

    Donnie Binegar: the embodiment of West

  • The trip of a lifetime

    Feature

    Hired

  • The trip of a lifetime

    Feature

    Effectiveness of sexual assault education for high school students questioned

  • The trip of a lifetime

    Feature

    The Changing Climate

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






The student news site of West High School
The trip of a lifetime