FFA group to head Down UnderPublished 11:21am Thursday, January 17, 2013
LAKE MILLS — It was about two years ago that Lake Mills High School teacher Darcie Gayken went to the school board to ask for approval for an FFA trip to Australia.
She got it, but the board asked what the students would learn along the way. Really, a lot of the learning has come way before the plane takes off.
“Learning how to budget your money, that’s been a big one,” Gayken said, who’s a vocational agriculture teacher at the high school and the FFA adviser.
It’s a trip that’s taken two years of fundraising. The trip costs $4,500 per student, and they’ve raised a good chunk of that change already. They’ve run concession stands, had a corn drive, fruit sales, a Pizza Ranch tip night, a car wash and will also hold a silent auction at the high school Jan. 22.
A total of eight students will travel Down Under, (though that number has gone down some) along with Gayken, teacher Greg Phillips and some parents. They leave June 6 and will be gone for 13 days on what’s called the Journey Down Under from Educational Tours.
The trip includes a tour of Auckland, New Zealand; a visit to the Agrodome in Rotorua, New Zealand; a tour of Sydney (also a harbor cruise, a visit to the Sydney Tower and the Sydney Wildlife World) and an excursion to the Great Barrier Reef.
“I’m looking forward to New Zealand,” said sophomore Katie Fell. “I’m not looking forward to the plane ride though. It’ll be the first time flying for me.”
Freshman Alec Anderson is also a little nervous, because he was too young to remember his first flight. It will be the first time on a plane for about half the students going, Gayken said. They’re looking at about a 14-hour flight from L.A. to Auckland.
“I think that’s one of the scariest part for them,” Gayken said.
Fell said she’s also looking forward to seeing the Great Barrier Reef and thinks they’ll learn a lot there. The students wanted to see one of the seven wonders of the world, Gayken said. She has also talked about her travels with her students, since she has lived in places like Greece, Guatemala and, yes, even Australia.
The FFA students will learn about wildlife, conservation and agriculutre while on their trip, “so it’s more than just taking tours,” Gayken said. The students on the trip can also get honors credit through the school.
“It is a once-in-a-lifetime trip though,” Fell said. “It’s kind of exciting to say that we’ve been to Australia.”
The FFA does summer trips each year that have included fly-fishing and white-water rafting. But this journey to Australia is something that won’t come around every year, or even every other year.
“So summer adventure is nothing new to our chapter, but this is a little farther away from home,” Gayken said. “There isn’t an agriculture department in the state of Iowa that is planning a trip like this.”
A couple of years ago, some of the older kids kept talking about going on a big trip, so Gayken found the Educational Tours guide and let the students pick which tour they wanted. The trip they chose was one that fit well in their time frame and budget, Gayken said.
Both Fell and Anderson were a little hesitant of the trip at first.
“I thought, ‘Why in the heck would I want to go to Australia?’” Fell said.
It took some convincing from her parents, who are also going on the trip, and friends who are going to give Fell the extra nudge. It also seemed more appealing once she attended the first fundraising meeting. Anderson agreed, and he heard about the country from some of his parents’ friends who had been to Australia. He still had his reservations in the beginning.
“At first, I didn’t really want to go,” Anderson said. “I didn’t think Australia would be real interesting.”
But with all the hard work they’ve put in during the fundraising process, the trip now seems like a reward.
“We worked our tails off,” Anderson said. “This will be fun.”
As Fell said again, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“You’ll definitely change,” Gayken said. “International travel opens your eyes to different things.”