Alaska Middle School Expedition

Alaska is truly America’s final frontier—a place where untouched wilderness stretches for unimaginable distances and nature’s beauty is displayed on an epic scale. Discover these wild landscapes while hiking, rafting, and fly-fishing with knowledgeable trip leaders and a National Geographic expert. Learn about the effects of climate change on this subarctic ecosystem as you explore the six million acres that encompass Denali National Park. Spot fascinating wildlife—from brown bears to herds of caribou—and take in spectacular views of Denali, North America’s highest peak.

DATES & TUITION
July 15 - July 24, 2019
$5,590
Airfare is not included. We have arranged round-trip group flights from Seattle to Anchorage.

Trip Highlights

  • Hike in Denali National Park and practice wildlife photography while snapping shots of moose, wolves, and caribou.
  • Raft along the rushing, glacially-fed Nenana River, and go fly-fishing for Arctic grayling in a serene creek bed overlooking Mt. Denali.
  • Meet with members of Alaska’s Native tribes at the Alaska Native Heritage Center, and hear centuries-old stories, and learn to play traditional games.
  • Roast marshmallows and swap stories around the campfire after long days under Alaska’s midnight sun.

ITINERARY | 10 DAYS

ANCHORAGE
Days 1-2

Our Alaskan adventure begins in the far northern city of Anchorage, where we’ll get to know each other during a welcome and safety orientation. Set out on a warm-up hike to the summit of Flattop Mountain, or explore the coastal landscapes of Turnagain Arm. Back in town, visit the acclaimed Alaska Native Heritage Center. Learn to throw a hunting spear, try your hand at native Alaskan games, and hear timeless legends and stories while meeting with native peoples in traditional dwellings. Examine the strong ties between native Alaskan culture and the surrounding geography, and discuss the challenges facing contemporary Alaskans as they strive to preserve their linguistic and cultural identities.

DENALI NATIONAL PARK AND PRESERVE
Days 3-10

Travel north along the scenic George Parks Highway into the wilds of Denali National Park, and settle into our base camp near the park’s eastern edge. This immense nature reserve covers six million acres of untouched wilderness and is home to its namesake Denali—America’s tallest mountain peak. Set out on hikes with knowledgeable naturalists who will share stories and information about the creatures and plants that call this unique ecosystem home. Trek to the summit of Mt. Healy as you track resident wildlife, and if you’re lucky, catch a glimpse of Denali, visible from the peak on clear days. Travel to the famous Eielson Visitor Center, located at the base of the park’s towering peaks, and capture images of this epic mountain landscape. Along the way, photograph herds of caribou grazing on delicate lichen, moose wading in still lakes, or Dall sheep perched precariously on the surrounding cliffs, and scout for wildlife from brown bears to golden eagles.

Spend an afternoon at a working sled dog kennel to learn about the pups’ historic role in the National Park Service, and the history of dogsledding, Alaska’s most popular sport. Try your hand at fly-fishing alongside experienced guides, and raft along the rushing Nenana River as you try to spot bears feasting on wild blueberries in the distance and wolf packs trotting across the surrounding valleys.

After eventful days in the park, relax around a campfire with friends, and swap stories and experiences from our adventures. With insight from your National Geographic expert, discuss the ways in which Denali has evolved throughout its over 100 years as a national park, and learn how climate change is directly affecting the delicate ecosystems of this subarctic environment. Return to Anchorage for the final night of our expedition, and celebrate your adventure with your new friends before flying home.

ABOUT OUR MIDDLE SCHOOL EXPEDITIONS
Our middle school expeditions are for students ages 13 or older in grades 7-8, and offer students the opportunity to discover exciting destinations in a fun, engaging, and safe environment. With guidance from trip leaders and a National Geographic expert, students explore a number of themes that enhance their experience and encourage them to deepen the interests they already have, while discovering new ones along their journey. Students travel alongside a team of highly-qualified trip leaders—college graduates with extensive experience in the field, who love working with students. A National Geographic expert joins for a portion of the trip (four to eight days) to share their insights, and inspire students with their passion for the work they do and the places they will discover. The expedition group size ranges between 14 and 18 participants, and the student-to-trip-leader ratio is usually between six and eight to one and never more than nine to one.
NOTE
This expedition includes several active excursions, like white-water rafting and hiking. To get the most out of the program, students should be physically fit and enthusiastic about outdoor exploration.
ACCOMMODATIONS
In Anchorage we stay in a dorm on the University of Alaska Anchorage campus, and in Denali we stay in cabins at a family-run hostel.

Greg Marshall, Biologist and Filmmaker

Meet Our Expert

Discover the wildlife of Alaska with biologist and filmmaker Greg Marshall. Greg invented he Crittercam—a device that can be attached to an animal to study its behavior. Greg's Crittercam has enabled him to document life in the oceans and on land from the perspective of more than 80 species, including blue whales, black turtles, emperor penguins, and most recently, giant oceanic manta rays. Greg will join the Alaska middle school expedition and the July 6 departure of the Belize middle school expedition

Program Themes

Explore each of these three topics over the course of the program:

PHOTOGRAPHY
Grab your camera or strap on a GoPro and document your adventures in Alaska’s wilderness. Learn the basics of adventure photography, and capture your friends hiking across Denali’s wild tundra, or rafting the glacial waters of the Nenana River.
WILDLIFE CONSERVATION
Observe bears, moose, and wolves in their natural habitats, and discuss the impact of climate change on Alaskan wildlife. Find out how Denali’s fragile ecosystems are evolving in response to the planet’s shifting environmental conditions, and how the state of Alaska is working to adapt to the impacts of climate change.
ALASKAN CULTURAL HERITAGE
Meet with members of Alaska’s native groups, and learn how their cultures and traditions are tied to the surrounding Alaskan landscapes. Discuss the challenges native peoples face in preserving their cultural identities in modern times.