Exploring the river, camping, canoeing – sounds like fun, right?
It’s a high school course.
“The students will be collecting water samples and invertebrates, comparing water quality and organisms that live in it,” said Pete O’Brien, a chemistry teacher at St. George’s School. “They will be testing for phosphates in the Little Spokane River, the Spokane River and Hangman Creek.”
River Explorations is one of seven two-week courses offered for spring term at the private school north of Spokane.
The new program was the brainchild of an English teacher and students in grades 9 to 12 to fill the time between finals and the end of the school year. They wanted to use that time doing “something more energy-infused,” said Ryan McWilliams, the teacher who helped develop the courses.
In addition to exploring rivers, students were able to choose from courses about migrant workers in Washington; the Russian Revolution; nuclear weapons and nuclear power; making movies; bicycling; and leadership and U.S. policy.
Student Carley Wells took the course about migrant workers because she “wanted to learn more about the Mexican culture.”
One “teacher” in that course was Felix Beltran, the owner of Mr. Don’s family-style restaurant. He told the class about how he and his parents emigrated from Mexico, the legal and illegal ways that immigrants come to America, citizenship and Spokane’s Latino population of about 6,000.
“I learned about the difficulty of obtaining residency in the U.S.,” Wells said.
The students also planned to travel to Othello to spend the night at a labor camp and shadow migrant workers for a day.
Ellie Stagaman, 17, was torn about which course to take but ended up in “How I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb.”
“I love the history behind it, and learning more about World War II,” she said. Nuclear weapons are “something that’s still impacting us today.”
Josh Hayes is one of the teachers involved in that course. Students conduct experiments on radioactive half-lives, examine the pros and cons of nuclear power, and travel to see the decommissioned Hanford nuclear plant.
Plus, Hayes said, what teenager “doesn’t want to play with rockets?”
Instructors will gauge the success of this year’s program and decide whether to repeat it in future years.