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This summer, the GeoFORCE Alaska students will be traveling on their fourth, capstone academy trip to the Rocky Mountain Region to study structural geology. We will have activities in the field at sites throughout Utah and Wyoming, including Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park.

You may be thinking: what exactly is an academy trip? Here’s a description from our 2014 annual report:

Over the course of their high school career, students participate in four week-long excursions to spectacular geologic sites around the country.

Each trip includes the students, an instructor from the UAF Dept. of Geosciences, an education coach (usually a secondary educator), two mentors from industry sponsors, a coordinator, a trail driver, and graduate or undergraduate student counselors (one for every six students).

Days start early and end late.

There might be a short introductory lecture about what the group will see that day, but most of the teaching takes place in the field.

A field guide, developed and written by GeoFORCE staff, provides the background for the daily exercises; students are expected to read it before each stop. The material covered in the field guides is on par with introductory college courses in geology.

Every evening there is a review and a quiz about the day’s concepts, followed by classroom activities designed to prepare students for what they will do the next day. Each trip, mentors and other professional geologists are given the opportunity to talk with the students about their career paths and work experiences. A final exam is given at the end of the trip; students must score at least 80% on this exam to avoid being placed on probation.

The heart of GeoFORCE is the academy trip; students and staff spend all year looking forward to these adventures. Our students say it best – here is an excerpt from a recently submitted student essay:

“The hike down the Grand Canyon showed just how big the world is. How there is still a lot to see out in the world. I thought I was well traveled because I had been to every village in my borough, but when we were walking down further into the canyon I realized that there was nothing like this in Alaska. That Alaska is just one out of fifty in the United States. That those fifty states of the United States is just one country in the world out of hundreds of nations. That I only covered a small amount of land in the entire world. That is what drives me most days, the fact that there’s still more to see. There’s still more to discover.”

Follow GeoFORCE Alaska on facebook and Instagram to see more student quotes. Add your own thoughts and tag them using #mygeoforce and #gfa15

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