This article has taken various forms on previous websites in the past. For several years, it occupied the home page, but last year it was transferred to a section titled “History.” Some of the information below may not be accurate to this year’s trip, such as the number of travellers, but the general background information is still important.
Alaska Great Lakes Project Beginnings
Dale Rosene of Marshall [MI] Middle School and Gary Holsten of Palmer [AK] Junior Middle School conceived the Alaska Great Lakes Project in 1989. The project was a response to the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound in Alaska. With support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, students from Marshall Middle School traveled to the small Aleute village of Tatitlek to do comparative beach studies. Their expectations were to find some evidence of the oil’s impact on the populations of low tide animals and plants. By the third year of the project, they were joined by students from several school districts in Alaska and another from Massachusetts. After this third year, the project was discontinued from its original format. Related investigations took place on Great Lakes beaches each year. Students conducted water testing and interviewed residents of and visitors to Michigan resort communities located on Lake Michigan and Huron. They found that while many of the people they talked to were concerned about the conditions of the lakes, few were willing to do anything to help them. Most interesting was the general fear of eating fish caught in the lakes. Students developed a realization of the fragility of these resources.
Alaska Great Lakes Project Today
During 1993, Dale Rosene traveled to Alaska seeking a way to continue the trip in a different format: adding to the learning opportunities while still keeping an environmental focus. The result of these efforts was the foundation of the trip planned today. The trip has become both a comprehensive science experiment and an opportunity for personal growth and discovery. Students encounter wide ranging science topics from glacial formations to the growth patterns of rainforests, while pushing themselves to climb mountains they thought were too high and facing other personal challenges that might positively impact their confidence for the rest of their lives. The adult leaders are usually teachers, some of them former students of Rosene, who use their skills to enhance the trip for the participants. While the total group is large, each van becomes a smarter part of the community. The project has added many positive attributes since its beginning as just a research venture.
- Arrival in Anchorage where vans are rented and gear is packed. Travel to Seward and set up camp.
- Spend the day on a boat on Ressurection Bay, with planned activities ranging from water testing to learning about bird life and whale watching.
- Explore Exit Glacier and climb to the ice field where it forms.
- Travel to Homer with stops at the Russian Orthodox Church, Kenai Wildlife Refuge, and an all day whale watch.
- After a boat trip across the Kachemak Bay, the students spend the day tide pooling and hiking in the temperate rain forest.
- Heading north, the students spend a day in the Palmer area climbing into a rugged mountain pass.
- Participate in an eight hour tour into Denali National Park to observe wildlife and geological formations including “the mountain,” Denali. Drive north to Fairbanks for a tour of the UAF Museum and a lecture about auroras.
- Return to Anchorage for a visit to the Anchorage Museum and observing the salmon run in the river.
- Final day activities and packing to prepare for the plane ride home.
What is Expected of the Participants
The travel group number is 79 members. Of these, thirteen are adults whose primary responsibility is driving twelve rental vans. Nearly a third of these adults have been former students of Rosene and are now teachers. These adults also act as resources for the junior leaders. Fifteen junior leaders, one for each van and one van with five, are usually older students that have made the trip before or others who have special skills to offer. These young people direct the activities of the participants and provide leadership to the first time travelers, while they develop their own abilities to work with others. Finally, the forty-nine eighth graders are all assigned to jobs, which they all do under the direction of the junior leaders. These range from journalism -preparing articles to send back home to the local newspaper- to water testing and photography. In addition, students do all the cooking, set up and take down of camp sites, and write daily in a journal on their own. Some students do their own laundry for the first time on the trip. Funding for the project comes from four sources. Parents pay a portion; fund raising efforts pay a portion; grants are written for some of the needed equipment and supplies; and finally, contributions from individuals, organizations, and companies assist the project. Every participant’s family is required to participate in all the fundraisers. No student is ever turned down because his/her family is unable to pay for the trip … the trip is open to all … not just the “rich”. Some participants on past trips were the first in their family to fly or leave the state. Special efforts are made to help with the funding of these students. There are several who have asked for financial assistance again this year.Your contributions to the project are tax deductible and will help the students to have this unique opportunity…the only project of its kind in the United States.To learn more about the project, to schedule a presentation, or to make a contribution, contact Dale Rosene at:
Marshall Public Schools
100 East Green Street
Marshall, MI 49068
Make checks payable to the Alaska Great Lakes Project.