Since 2000, each year the grade ten TOPS students participate in a scientific expedition to Algonquin Park. This spring, the trip will run for its seventeenth time without missing a year for bad weather. Of course, this isn’t to say students and staff have not experienced bad weather; students have braved wind, rain and even snow, all in the name of science.
The Algonquin Park Expedition was established to give TOPS students an opportunity to experience and investigate environmental science firsthand. Mr. van Bemmel is one of the main powerhouses behind this trip, and sets out to run his own annual outdoor education program at Ontario’s picturesque Algonquin Provincial Park.
In addition to learning a great deal through performing over 2500 scientific experiments, students will get a taste of camping and hiking; a chance which may be wonderfully unique for some students. Prior to the four day trip, students undergo many training exercises, where they learn to operate probes used to collect numerous types of data, record and manage the data gathered and use digital cameras to take documented images of the sampling site. They test themselves on all of this preparation via a full day hike at Hilton Falls a couple of weeks before the actual trip takes place.
Before the trip, students are split into field investigation teams and, together they hike and collect data on practice simulations, the pre-trip and the actual trip. There is more to Algonquin than science, however; the trip gives a basic knowledge of camping, the Canadian outdoors, teamwork, and leadership.
After the trip, students are divided into smaller groups and, using the data collected, prepare reports on specific areas of the data gathered. This report is complemented with an oral and visual professional presentation to the rest of the grade and guests; this is the culminating activity for the Algonquin Park trip, and is the perfect end to an amazing experience.
Leadership Opportunities – Algonquin
Along with the Grade 10s and many staff willing to give up their weekend plans, a contingent of senior students is selected to help support not only the junior students but also the staff. Their tasks are many, and varied; they range from processing reams of paperwork to being an onsite construction worker.
Students are selected for these positions through an application process that begins in the fall. Although some will be chosen based on outdoor experience, this is not a requirement for all positions. It is, however, an imperative that applicants enjoy hiking to a degree, as there are mandatory pre-hikes.
The senior students are entrusted to keep up the group’s spirits in rain, hail, fog, or ice. They are a useful bunch to have around. In the end, the success of the expedition is a partnership between the Grade 10 expedition data collection groups, staffs, and the senior administration staff.