Voyageurs students explore the country
BEMIDJI — Students from a local high school were spread out across the country this spring as they embarked on four separate trips.
Students at Voyageurs Expeditionary High School, a charter school, had their choice of four potential destinations: Boston, Chicago, Montana or New York.
For many, it marked their first time on an airplane.
Or a subway.
Or, in one case, a horse.
Ten students and three chaperones traveled to Boston.
There, they explored the historical significance of the city. They walked the Freedom Trail, which leads visitors through 16 historically significant sites, including the site of the Boston Massacre, Paul Revere’s house, and the USS Constitution, the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world.
"It was, literally, a brick trail that went all the way around," said Brenden Harder, a freshman.
The 2.5-mile path is composed of red brick and outlined by grey. Medallions mark its beginning and end.
Students also went on a "duck tour" in a World War II-style amphibious landing vehicle. The tour featured highlights such as the Old State House and Bunker Hill. The vehicle also dives into the Charles River, offering views of the city from the waterway.
The vehicles each are named for Boston attractions and historical events. The students’ boat, Molly Molasses, was named for the Jan. 15, 1919, Great Molasses Flood. That day, a large iron tank with millions of gallons of molasses burst and the molasses flowed through North End streets at about 35 mph. Twenty-one people were killed and more than 150 were injured.
Students also visited the Museum of Science, the New England Pirate Museum and the Salem Witch Museum.
"Wiccan culture is actually welcomed now," said senior Leneaya Polman, pondering what she found interesting about the museums.
Sage Rojas, a sophomore, said he last year went to Washington, D.C., but enjoyed the Boston trip more.
"Just seeing the ocean was cool," he said.
Eight students and two adults went to Chicago, where they spent nearly a week exploring the city.
They went up the Willis (Sears) Tower and braver participants went out onto its Skydeck, a glass walkout 1,350 feet up in the air.
"I liked the Willis Tower a lot," said sophomore Rosie Sayers. "Just looking out over all those buildings."
They also went up the John Hancock Observatory, where they stepped out into the open air, 1,000 feet up.
They went on a tour of the city atop a double-decker bus, where they learned some of the city’s history, including that debris left from the 1871 great fire was used as landfill in constructing Lakefront Park, now known as Grant Park. They also learned Queen Elizabeth visited Chicago in 1959.
"It was very nice to explore the city," said Daniel Sayers, a sophomore.
They also had a firsthand view of traffic congestion, when it took them two hours to go 16 miles. They were surprised to find one man selling cotton candy on the street, offering the treat to those stuck in traffic.
Students, too, visited the Shedd Aquarium, the largest indoor aquarium in the world, went on a high-thrills ski-boat ride, and saw a Blue Man Group show.
"The Blue Man Group was just crazy," said Braden Osmundson, a senior.
"It was awesome," Rosie Sayers agreed,
Eight students and two adults went traveling through Montana.
Here, the group visited Billings, where they viewed pictograph caves featuring American Indian paintings, and spent several days going through Bannack State Park.
They also visited Yellowstone National Park and saw Old Faithful.
A big part of the trip focused on the differences between Minnesota and Montana. Students learned, before going, the differences in geography and biology. They observed that research firsthand on their trip.
They saw a mud volcano, "a lot of buffalo," and two black bears (well, one car saw two bears, the other just saw one). When they went up to about 8,500 feet, it started snowing.
At one point, they took a two-hour horse ride. For sophomore Sam Pierce, it was his first time atop a horse, but he said he enjoyed the experience.
They even tried buffalo burgers.
"It was really cool," said Sarah Thooft, a sophomore. "It had a different flavor."
"A different texture," added junior L.J. Bohlman
Mostly, though, the students said they loved seeing the mountains.
"We were so high up, we could see everything," said Ilsa Thooft, a senior.
While in New York, the visiting nine students and two adults did most everything that a typical tourist would do: visit Ellis Island, take the ferry to see the Statue of Liberty and observe the attractions in Times Square.
"I always wanted to see Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty," said senior Austin Schoenborn. "When I was young, we studied it a lot in class."
Going up the Empire State Building, at night, was a trip highlight for freshman Ryanne Cook.
"To be up there, seeing the lights of the city and everything, it was pretty amazing," she said.
Visiting the 9/11 Memorial at Ground Zero was a somber experience, as students saw firsthand the two waterfall/reflecting pools and the bronze wall that lists the 2,983 names of those who died in the Sept. 11, 2001, and Feb. 26, 1993, terrorist attacks.
"That was really sad," said freshman Andreá Krick. "It was a very solemn place."
They also visited Federal Hall and Coney Island.
"It was a big city," Schoenborn said, on why he chose to partake in this particular trip. "I’ve never been there before and I thought it would be really cool to see all of that."