For their spring field studies trip in 2022, Sequoyah School’s tenth grade class is going to Alaska from April 27th to May 3rd. Originally, they were heading to Costa Rica in May, but due to COVID-19 complications, the grade had to relocate their trip to Alaska. According to RJ Sakai, the Director of Social Innovation, “[the staff] had to make a decision early on, so that [they] could have adequate time to plan, knowing that COVID probably would change for better or worse in the interim, [and] had to make the tough decision to not go to Costa Rica, [as] the homestay…was not going to be COVID safe.” Sakai says that the school has been “lucky to have great partners organizing the trip”, as Sequoyah’s Field Studies program has been collaborating with the Sitka Sound Science Center and Outer Coast to create an engaging trip for the sophomores.
In Sakai’s words, Outer Coast is “an alternative college program that [the 10th graders] will be visiting.” According to their website, Outer Coast is a “new postsecondary institution” that is stationed in Sitka, Alaska, and that “offer[s] a transformative, immersive, self-governed education for students from across Alaska and around the world.” In their words, Outer Coast’s mission is “to create a setting for inclusive and integrative learning for all, rooted in the histories and cultures of the lands we inhabit.” Outer Coast’s website also mentions “creat[ing] a space where Indigenous histories and ways of knowing are centered,” despite the campus previously being a boarding school that “contributed to genocide and erasure of Native cultures across Alaska in the late 19th and 20th centuries.” This is similar to the Sequoyah culture of respecting the histories of the indigenous peoples that its campuses are stationed on. The sophomores will be doing activities arranged by members of Outer Coast to learn about Alaska’s culture.
The other organization, the Sitka Sound Science Center, has a personal connection to the biology teacher, Kate Schafer. When working with the Sound Science Center to engineer a successful trip for the sophomore class, Schafer and her collaborators wanted “a place that would connect us to fisheries…and issues around sustainable energy, and also just provide some interesting sort of cultural connections. [So] Sitka seem[ed] like a really great place for that.”
Schafer has a personal connection to Sitka, which helped in the early stages of planning of the trip due to her prior connections and knowledge of the area. When asked about her personal connection to Sitka, she said, “It’s a place that I love dearly, and so [I’m] really, really excited to get back to Alaska in general and specifically to Sitka. […] It just brings me a lot of joy to think about the entire sophomore class, getting to experience [everything].” She also said that “Sitka is a just intensely beautiful place. The mountains are gorgeous and it’s such a different set of habitats from Southern California.”
Schafer isn’t the only person looking forward to the trip. Sakai is specifically excited for the “intertidal, biological inventory, where when the tides go out, we’re gonna go out and suck things up from the sand and dig around and see what kind of life is in the rocks and tidal ecosystem together.” Sam Biancheri ’24, a sophomore going on the trip, is most excited for “all the weather, [as they] don’t really get to be around weather like that ever because [they] live [in California].” Biancheri also added their hopes of seeing a polar bear.
The tenth grade group will be staying on the Sitka Fine Arts Camp campus in dorms and traveling in groups for different activities, such as touring the Science Center, hiking, snorkeling, paddle boarding, and exploring the Sitka National Historical Park. They will be accompanied and chaperoned by RJ Sakai, Brian Eagen, Marisol Perez, Kate Schafer, and Ilan Vaisman. The sophomore class will be departing on Wednesday, April 27th from LAX and going on a plane to Alaska with a layover in Seattle, and arriving back in LA on Tuesday, May 3rd.