Broadening Horizons

Huntington North’s newly reinstalled AP Environmental Science trip features a trip to South Florida.
Posted on 02/29/2024
AP Environmental Science Teacher Steve Park

Last year, Huntington North experienced the reintroduction of AP Environmental Science, revamped with the inclusion of an exciting trip to Florida which brought to life the important and relevant themes that characterize the class. 
Mr. Park, a biology teacher at Huntington North stepped up to lead this class and came up with the idea for the trip, which included incredible experiences with wildlife while traveling the state of Florida.

Last year, the trip ran with only five students in the class. Now, with the word out and stories about the previous trip, there are 39. The idea developed from a dream of Mr. Park’s.

“Originally when I started teaching, 29 years ago, one of the goals that I had was to get kids on a coral reef. That’s where the dream actually started. I got my scuba certification a long time ago, I’ve always had a love and a passion for the ocean, especially coral reefs, and I’ve always wanted to share that experience and the love for that environment with students. That’s kind of where it originally started.”

The trip last year featured an itinerary complete with beach visits and interactions with animals. Swimming with manatees, visiting a turtle hospital, and snorkeling on a coral reef were just a few of these experiences. Students stayed at the Mote Marine Laboratory in the Florida Keys to participate in coral reef research.

Aside from these experiences, students were also able to enrich their lives with some things that most people wouldn’t consider. “How to travel is one thing Mrs. Park and I really like to share.” Mr. Park said. “There are lots of students that haven’t traveled to the extent that we have, so opening up that as an opportunity in life I think is important.” Going through TSA precheck and flying for the first time were some of the non-curriculum experiences that the students shared. “I think those are some of the best memories we had with the group last year; you know, going out for dinner, all those things that you don’t normally get to do with students here at school.”

With a much larger class this year, however, some details must be altered. For example, flying further south to eliminate the need for excess transportation within the state. This means that some events will have to be changed. “That being said, there might be additional things we get to do, since we’ll already be in South Florida.” 

With trips like these, the issue of funding does come into question, but Mr. Park doesn’t look at that as a setback. Through grants, sponsorships, and fundraising, the group last year was able to have their entire trip paid for. Park intends for this year to be the same. “Having a new group of students means new parents and new parents' jobs and connections. I think that it’s always good for a business to sponsor kids, but I think it means even more to a business to know that they’re investing in kids' experiences that they're going to keep with them for a lifetime,” he said. “We really appreciate the community backing our field trip.”

Everything about this trip circles back to Mr. Park’s love for the environment and how he hopes to share that with students. “I want them to appreciate our planet and how we need to take care of it. Everything that we learn, everything that AP Environmental Science talks about, revolves around: we’re given this gift, what are we going to do with it?” 

The trip brings many of those important themes to life. “The nice thing about going to South Florida is that here in Indiana we don’t have a lot of those ecosystems that our curriculum talks about. To actually touch and taste a mangrove leaf is a lot different than talking about it in class. So our students got to do that, we got to snorkel on the third largest barrier reef in the world, and so a lot of those things that the curriculum talks about and that the college board indicates its important for students to know, we got to experience firsthand, which there’s huge value in that.”

“Experiencing some of these things first hand allows you to gain a new perspective of what the planet actually is, and some strategies on what we as humans can do to help preserve it to the best of our ability.”

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