Black River students visit Iceland

LUDLOW, Vt. – Black River High School science teacher Heather Miele and eight students recently returned from their unforgettable experience on a WorldStrides program to Reykjavik, Iceland. On this adventure, students explored the power and beauty of nature, had incomparable firsthand learning experiences, and gained a new appreciation for scientific discovery and exploration.

Iceland
Black River students preparing to climb and explore a glacier in Iceland. Photo by Heather Miele.

The students were led by a guide from WorldStrides, an organization dedicated to enriching scientific experiences for students and their teachers. For more than 50 years, WorldStrides has opened students’ minds to the world around them and broadened their perspectives to fit the global citizens they’ll become. They hope to give the students the opportunity to engage with subjects and materials they’ve only read about in class, ultimately building their confidence, creating and deepening new friendships, and encouraging even higher dreams and aspirations.

This experience would not have been possible without the support of the community, from the car wash and bottle drive to the Rotary’s generous help from the Duck Race and the help of Applebee’s in Rutland. Science teacher and chaperone Heather Miele and the students would like to thank everyone for their support throughout the year.

Their journey began with bird watching and identification on the coast and sightseeing in Reykjavik, exploring the Viking museums, learning about tectonic plates, and walking through a lava field.

The next day they began with a tour of Thingvellir National Park, the first national park in Iceland, which includes Iceland’s largest lake, Thingvallavatn. The group ate lunch at the Gullfoss Waterfall, which drops into a canyon 250 feet deep, and then explored the Strokkur Geysir, which erupts every ten minutes or so and can shoot white, steamy water as high as 30 meters in the air. The park is sitting on top of a boiling underground cauldron, featuring unusually colored sulphurous mud pots, hot and cold springs, hissing steam vents, and primitive plants. The group visited the Frioheimar family-run greenhouse and Icelandic Horse Farm, where the students tried some of their tomatoes and learned about the history of the Icelandic horse. Finally, they visited the Kerio Volcanic Crater Lake, a 3,000-year-old lake with a rim of red volcanic rock.

The next morning they began with a walk up to the snout of the Solheimajokull Glacier, then a stroll along the black sand beach of Reynisfjara, which features stacks of basalt columns on the surrounding cliffs and in the sea, and then the group travelled to Skogafoss and Seljalandsfoss waterfalls, the second of which the students could walk behind the wall of water. They finished their day at the Lava Center, an interactive, high-tech exhibit of Iceland’s volcanic activity and history of earthquakes and floods.

Their last full day began at the Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa, which gets its color due to high concentrations of silica and minerals. At the Reykjanes Peninsula, they experienced a geothermal field, peppered with small hot springs, mud pots, boiling pools, and other geothermal activity. They viewed the city from the Pearl Platform vantage point, and visited Iceland’s National Museum, which provides insight into Iceland’s cultural history.

Their final day included visits to the Hverageroi Geothermal Park, which is literally in people’s backyards, and the Hellisheioi Power Plant Visitor Center, located on an active volcanic ridge.

Students can also earn high school and/or college credit for their participation, giving them the advantage in personal experience and on paper. Upon returning from their trip, students are encouraged to complete enriching coursework that will enhance their understanding and prepare them for greater successes in their continued education.

Ryleigh Corrigan, rising senior at Black River, commented on her experience. “We saw three waterfalls during the trip that were all stunning, but I think my favorite part was the glacier walk. We hiked up the glacier with crampons and ice picks and got to hang out and explore a bit. We went to Thingvellir National Park and tested the PH levels in the water there. We also learned a lot about Iceland’s geothermal energy system.” Corrigan continued, “Something that took me a minute to get used to was the fact that the hot water smells like sulfur. I thought I’d have to go the whole week without showering, but then we were told that was normal.”

Heather Graham remarks on her experience, “I truly enjoyed all of the sights and activities. It was an amazing experience and I’m glad I was able to do it with my friends. I learned that Icelandic Horses have five different gaits, in addition to the walk, trot, and gallop, they can also tölt and have a “flying” pace. I also learned a little about the volcanic formation of Iceland, and enjoyed visiting the Lava Centre where we saw a short film about the many eruptions that have taken place in Iceland.” Graham continues, “Overall the trip was an amazing experience and it was interesting to see the cultural differences. If anyone ever has the chance to go to Iceland, I would highly recommend going.”

Matthew Cavoto, rising senior, really enjoyed the trip. “My favorite part of the trip was getting to climb on the glacier, we went to the top and we had so much fun on the hike up there. The tour guide was amazing.” Cavoto continues, “I learned a lot about the Icelandic volcanoes and that all the water there is drinkable. In addition, they don’t allow any other breeds of horses into Iceland and once a horse leaves Iceland it can never come back.”

In Heather Miele’s words, “Where else will students get to experience such a variety of geological events in one trip? This is an ‘experiential opportunity;’ the amount that students will learn through the experience is immeasurable! Whether that be their first time on a plane, out of the country, touching a glacier, or seeing a volcano. The experience of international travel in and of itself is amazing and I am glad that I seized the opportunity to provide such an adventure to our BR students.”

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