A Westwind Community School
We have been actively involved in the Galapagos Islands since 2002, having written and coordinated the Galapagos Marine Ecology course for the University of Arizona, 2003-2010, and set up and instructed the Galapagos Experience course for teachers for the University of San Diego, 2009-2012. During this time we were actively involved with volunteering in Liceo Naval, the Navy school, for middle and high school students on the Island of San Cristobal, as well as working with two of the public high schools. For over six of these years I have sponsored Galapagos students during the academic year as exchange students in my home, initially with the Rotary Club and subsequently with AYUSA, and they continued on as International students at Glendale Community College.
To increase global awareness and provide a quality educational experience for students in the unique setting of the Galapagos Islands archipelago.
Our students will have the ability to complete a summer session or a semester of high school staffed with highly qualified teachers while enjoying the hospitality of the people of Galapagos. Not only will our students complete a vigorous course of study, but they will have the opportunity to volunteer their services in local schools, the community, and/or the Galapagos National Park. Weekends will afford the students the chance to visit many of the popular tourist sites on several islands accentuating their ecological understanding of this incredible "living laboratory." Living with and among the people of Galapagos will truly make this an unequaled educational and cultural experience.
The safety of our students and staff is of the highest importance for our program. A local Advisory Board will interview and approve all housing, as well as requiring a police background check before students will be placed in these homes. When traveling between islands or on boat trips into the National Park and Marine Preserve, the boats we use are certified by the Navy, paperwork checked, and the Captain, Sailor, and Guide trained by the Navy in water rescue, life saving and basic first aid. Only certified Galapagos National Park guides will be used when entering the National Park. They receive the same safety training as noted above.
Students must be in good physical condition to participate in this program. Most areas in the Galapagos are NOT wheel chair accessible, and in order to participate in local travel and volunteer missions, students must be able to hike up to 10 miles unassisted, transfer from larger boats to smaller boats ("zodiacs"), move from piers and landing zones to boats, wade ashore in "wet landings" and hear instructions from guides, boat captains, crew and staff. Because the ocean plays such a large role in the ecology of Galapagos, students should be swimmers and comfortable in and around the water. Snorkeling is an integral part of the course, and beginning instruction in calm water will give all students a chance to practice their snorkeling skills before moving to open water experiences.
Students will receive three nutritious meals a day as well as having access to bottled water. Every effort will be made to accommodate special diet restrictions, including vegetarian diets, but it should be noted that strict vegan meals are not readily available in Galapagos. Rice is the staple of most meals other than breakfast, and fresh juices are normally provided at all meals. Bottled water is available at all times.
The islands are small communities and all students housing is within easy walking distance of all school activities. Students will have 24/7 access to staff. Daily health and welfare checks for all students is standard procedure at Galapagos International Academy (GIA).
Working with the Liceo Naval, we participated in volunteer projects over the years with the Peace Corps, and later every year with the Galapagos National Park on San Cristobal. Projects included invasive plant removal, reforestation on El Junco volcano, and trail development. Our students, along with the high school students of Liceo Naval, also participated in endemic vs. invasive gecko surveys, and lava lizard census studies. We have also continued to volunteer in the English classes at Liceo Naval each summer. These activities forged strong relationships which remain as the hallmark of our volunteer program. Extensive community ties have further strengthened our ability to expand the volunteer programs.
Invasive removal can be fun, even in the
mist on top of a volcano!