CAA 'Expotition' Exceeds Expectations

November 01, 2012 | Virlys Moller

When the idea of an "expotition"* was tossed around between Larry Hiday, Columbia Adventist Academy (CAA) science instructor, and local backpacking guru Randy Givens, there was simply the intention of introducing students to backpacking and "God's second book," nature.

But brainstorming often takes people where they have no intention of going and produces novel ideas. So six neophyte backpackers and four experienced instructors combined forces July 10 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 this 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 Mount St. Helens, and then it moved to 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, trees, birds and snakes.

Observations made during the first week led to research projects and data collection during the second week. Again, novelty was abundant as research subjects 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 current culture demands they be "plugged into," they readily adapted to using equipment that instructors Jamey and Allen Cooper purchased or "raided" from Loma Linda University. The equipment 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 couscous with pine nuts and Thai noodles with peanut sauce can provide 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. Konrad McClure, CAA freshman, summed up his experience as he fixed couscous 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 Expotition to the North Pole" as "a long line of everybody" to "discover something."