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The Student News Site of Altoona Area High School

Mountain Echo

The Student News Site of Altoona Area High School

Mountain Echo

Galápagos Islands Trip 2025

The 190th Anniversary of Darwin’s arrival
Beauty.+The+Gal%C3%A1pagos+Islands+present+a+variety+of+wildlife+unique+to+the+volcanic+archipelago+in+Ecuador.+I+really+just+think+this+is+a+once-in-a-lifetime+opportunity.+I+feel+if+you+dont+take+the+opportunity+now%2C+for+a+lot+of+people%2C+it+wont+arise+another+time%2C+Brouse+said.+%28Created+with+Canva%29
Melissa Krainer
Beauty. The Galápagos Islands present a variety of wildlife unique to the volcanic archipelago in Ecuador. “I really just think this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I feel if you don’t take the opportunity now, for a lot of people, it won’t arise another time,” Brouse said. (Created with Canva)

In September of 1835, the naturalist Charles Darwin, aboard the HMS Beagle, arrived at the Galápagos Islands. He studied finches (that now bear his name), giant tortoises, mockingbirds and fossils. Now, students will be able to see these things for themselves in June of 2025 for the 190th anniversary of Darwin’s arrival in the Galápagos.

“There’s quite a few biology teachers that have worked together for almost 20 years. We wanted to take a group of students to the Galápagos, and we were finally able to make it happen,” science and biology teacher Heather Partsch said. “We had an interest-meeting approximately two months ago. Students signed up during the meeting. The response was phenomenal; all spots were filled within an hour.”

Partsch is spearheading the Galápagos trip with members from the biology and science department: Stephanie McAleer, Julie Gardner, Jessica Hogan, Shawna Myers, along with other teachers volunteering as chaperones: Mary Heiple, Brock Seese, John Blough and Mary Shultz.

“We opened the trip up to all students who have taken biology, other than graduating seniors. Anyone in ninth through 11th grade can go. The cost is around $4800. We’re going to be offering fundraising opportunities every month,” McAleer said. “We’re going to go explore the Galápagos for nine days. We’ll go to the Darwin Education Center and learn about how he came up with his theory of evolution. We’ll get to take a look at the different organisms that live on the island. There’s a lot of different unique organisms. We’ll explore the water and explore the land.”

It’s an amazing once-in-a-lifetime opportunity where you’ll see biology in real life, not just in the pages of a textbook.

— Heather Partsch

McAleer is thrilled to be one of the teachers involved in this opportunity. She is looking forward to viewing the giant tortoises, seals and Galápagos penguins on this trip. Partsch is just as excited as her colleague to see the Galápagos tortoises and Darwin’s finches, to swim with sea lions and to view blue-footed boobys.

“Really, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity,” McAleer said. “I mean, how often do you get to go to Ecuador and the Galápagos and get to go with a group of friends and fun biologists who are familiar with the subject? We may not be as familiar with the area, but we understand what the tour guides are talking about and we can help the students understand it more.”

This trip ties directly into the spring biology curriculum when Darwin’s ideas on evolution are discussed. The organisms he saw on the islands sparked his ideas of adaptations and natural selection. Darwin’s journey has fascinated and intrigued others into looking into these islands, including sophomore Margaret Brouse.

“I read one of those ‘Who Was’ books where it mentioned [the Galápagos Islands], and I just thought it sounded really cool, so I kind of looked further into it,” Brouse said. “It’s been something I’ve wanted to do since third or fourth grade.”

Brouse had Partsch as her biology teacher during freshman year, where she learned the possibility that the trip might be offered in the future. Now it’s a reality.

“We’re gonna be doing a lot of outdoor activities such as hiking, and I believe we’re gonna be hopping to different hotels and locations throughout the islands,” Brouse said. “I’m mainly hoping to see the different wildlife, the different birds. I know there’s finches, and the blue-footed boobys seem really interesting too.”

Ever since she was eight years old, Brouse has dreamed of visiting the islands and seeing the wildlife that flourishes there. She describes her feelings in anticipation of this trip in one word: excited.

“I just never thought that I’d actually get to go,” Brouse said. “It’s been a dream of mine for a very long time.”

Nearly two centuries ago, Charles Darwin observed the Galápagos Islands wildlife and devised his evolutionary theories. A trip to these islands will take visitors on an adventure outside of the classroom—and back in time.

“It’s an amazing once-in-a-lifetime opportunity where you’ll see biology in real life, not just in the pages of a textbook,” Partsch said.

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About the Contributor
Melissa Krainer, Reporter
Ciao! My name is Melissa Krainer, and this is my second year reporting for the Mountain Echo. I’m very excited to be a part of the staff this year as a sophomore! I’ve always been passionate about writing, and I can’t wait to help report on school and community events this year. In my free time, you might find me crocheting, reading, playing the violin or working on math puzzles. I speak both English and German fluently. This is one of my favorite quotes: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” - Mahatma Gandhi

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