Northern Wyoming Daily News - Serving the Big Horn Basin for over 100 years

By Karla Pomeroy

Journey to the center of the earth

13 students and 4 adults visit Galapagos Islands


June 30, 2018

WORLAND — Two years of planning ended in a once-in-a-lifetime experience for 13 Worland High School (WHS) students, two parents and two teachers.

Earlier this month, a group of science enthusiasts took a jaunt to the Galapagos Islands to see first hand many of the things they have been taught in science classes at WHS.

Biology teacher Karen Grzybowski said, “I wanted to do something that would be a science-related field trip that would take the group out and beyond, way beyond anything we could do here in Worland. I found the Education First Tours and they actually had a trip to the Galapagos, which fit so well with lots of our curriculum — the biology and the earth science — this would be the trip.”

She opened up the trip to anyone interested in science and she noted the 13 students who went on the trip all had taken biology and heard about Charles Darwin’s finches and the tortoises in the Galapagos Islands.

“We’ve covered so much of the ecology, evolution, genetics,” she said.

Along with the 13 students, there were two mothers and two teachers — Grzybowski and Tim Barrus.

The group spent two years raising funds including concessions at the middle school and high school, clothing sales, raffle and a craft fair booth. They also raised funds by working at the Washakie Museum for the Quick Draw.


According to the Galapagos Islands website, “The natural history of the Galapagos Islands has fascinated visitors since their most famous guest landed there in 1845. Darwin’s observations during his voyage on the HMS Beagle laid the foundation for a theory that greatly impacted western thought — the theory of evolution.

“Upon rediscovery of the islands, your mind will also reel with delight — leaving you slack-jawed with awe, your camera flashing.

“Amid the volcanic geography of these islands 600 miles in the Pacific Ocean, plant life takes root in basalt rock, centurion turtles roam and penguins swim in equatorial waters.

“In the 450 years of human history, the islands have been used as prison colonies, naval ports and research stations.”


The group left the United States on June 10 and returned on June 17. The first stop on the adventure was Quito City in Ecuador and the Equator Monument with latitude 0.

“It’s really neat,” Grzybowski said of the equator. Guides showed the group that if they were standing right on the equator line and poured water, the water goes straight down. If you go to the south the water goes clockwise and if you go to the north the water goes counterclockwise.

The trip also included a speed boat ride to Isabela with time on the beach; a visit to the Sierra Negra Volcano and Tintoreras Islet; Santa Cruz to visit the Charles Darwin Station; Rancho Manzanillo to visit Toruga Bay; San Cristobal; and Otavaio Indian Market back in Quito.


Seven students, one parent and Grzybowski and Barrus gathered last week to reminisce about the trip and share the experience with the Northern Wyoming Daily News. They were asked why they wanted to attend, since the trip was open to anyone with an interest in science, and their favorite part of the trip. With many it was the first plane trip and first time out of the country.

Luke Lamb: “It sounded like a fun experience to go out of the county and see something like the Galapagos Islands, which is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

His favorite part was the different hikes on the different islands and seeing how each island was different.

Kyra Klinghagen: “I love to travel but this was my first time out of the country. She loves going places she most people say they have never been and or likely will never go.

Her favorite part was at Isabela, going snorkeling and playing with the sea lions, seeing sharks and turtles.

“It’s a whole different world underwater.”

Karina Rice (mother): This was an opportunity to explore new country.” Ecuador was a place she has never been and it was an opportunity to go on a unique experience she could do together with her daughter Alejandro.

She loved learning about the culture, noting it was intriguing and fascinating the way they live off the land.

She said she also was the interpreter when needed. “I even learned some of the Spanish words we use are different in Ecuador.”

Alejandro Rice: She said the only country she has been to outside the United States is Mexico and she wanted to see how similar Ecuador was to Mexico. When she saw photos of the Galapagos Islands she saw the beauty.

Her favorite part was Isabela because of the beach and the snorkeling and “interacting with the locals” and the yellow biting fish.

Payton McEndree: “I really just like biology and I know this is pretty much where evolution started I figured it would be really fun to go.”

“I liked anything to do with the oceans.”

Adrianna Carver: “I thought it would be a good idea to get some overseas travel experience before college. I had never been on an airplane before; I had never been out of the country, so I thought it would be a really cool, fun experience.”

Her favorite part was “everything.” But she added, she liked the ocean and riding on the boats. She also liked seeing the different plants and animals because they are so different than Wyoming.

“If you go to Yellowstone and mess with a bear it will kill you, but if you get too close to a sea lion it starts playing with you and it’s fun.”

Rachael Carver: “Because in biology we spent so much time on the Galapagos, learning about evolution and how these different islands change separately and act differently.” She added she thought it would be a cool experience and she likes the beach.

Her favorite part was learning more about the Galapagos Islands and “having the experience of going somewhere that you’re only going to be able to go to once in your life.”

Izabella McTague: “I want to collect experiences like snow globes, just fill my life as much as I can and this just seemed like a great opportunity.”

Her favorite part of the trip was swimming in “the cracks” where earthquake split the land. The water was about 40-feet deep.

Grzybowski said they were taken to a non-tourist spot.

Tim Barrus: “It was an experience in teaching; learning by doing. My favorite part was watching the smiles on everyone of the kids’ faces when they are experiencing it. It’s their love and joy that makes it worth it for me.”

Karen Grzybowski: “I wanted to do this to tie it into the curriculum. It’s a place I wanted to go since I was a little girl. Then we started teaching biology and we’re talking about Darwin’s finches … and we start looking at the adaptation of the tortoises; just how unique each island is and how each island’s species are different than all the other islands. It’s a great opportunity to go and compare that.”

She said she enjoyed talking to the guides and tie in what she has been teaching about ecology and evolution and what is going on now with the islands.

They also mentioned eating the delicacy of “guinea pigs,” which one student proclaimed as looking like a rat” and others said it “tasted fantastic.”

Grzybowski said she and Barrus will plan another trip but likely take one year off before spending two years fundraising and planning for another trip.


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