[Photo courtesy of Joshua Cameron]

Herman Melville once said, “It is not down in any map; true places never are.”

Students at Grand County High School studying Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick” recently visited the Living Planet Aquarium, a host to a plethora of living creatures not seen on any map.

The trip was organized as an optional enrichment activity for Mr. Joshua Cameron’s 11th grade English classes, and about 45 students boarded a bus at 7 a.m. bound for Draper, returning home at about 8 p.m. that same day. Cameron secured funding, and Ron Dolphin, the athletic director at Grand County High School, helped to chaperone the trip.

Cameron began to offer the study of “Moby Dick” and the aquarium field trip together during the 2017-18 school year. Thirty-five students went, and he said he now hopes that this trip will become a junior class tradition.

The combination of connecting the class’s study of “Moby Dick,” Melville’s 19th Century famed novel about the white Sperm whale, to the power of the marine environment has enhanced the learning experience for students, Cameron said.

“So many of our students have never been to the ocean,” Cameron said. “They haven’t experienced the magnitude it offers and the awe a person can get from it ― that the universe contains more in it than we know. You can’t fully appreciate this novel without that experience.”

The students were able to connect the readings from the novel with real-world applications of ocean life. Many students said they felt the imagery was powerful.

Grand County High School senior Edgar Parra helped to chaperone the trip and said that he agrees.

“It [the field trip] made us realize why a book about a whale is so important,” he said. “This trip showed me and others that the world belongs more to nature, and nature is bigger than all men.”

Parra said the trip also was a bonding experience for students.

“The trip also made us come out of our comfort zone and spend time with classmates that we wouldn’t normally talk to back home,” he said. “In other words, this trip made us come closer to one another.”

Cameron said some trip highlights included “students touching stingrays, sea stars and other petting pool creatures.”

“That was ideal hands-on learning,” Cameron said. “In addition, there was a rope-suspension bridge about 30 feet off the deck, and seeing students learning to trust themselves and walk across it was also very rewarding.”

Finally, there was the shark tank. It was a must-see, Cameron said.

“Students were mesmerized by seeing sharks swim over them in the shark tunnel and around them,” he said. “So many of my students had never experienced anything like that before.”

Joel Najera, who also went on the trip, reflected on his experience by saying, “I really found the aquarium trip educational. I think it is really good for students to go and see all these amazing sea creatures. It gives students a chance to see outside of where they live and from it, open their minds.”

This community feature was submitted to the Moab Sun News by Joshua Cameron, Alanna Simmons-Cameron and Ron Dolphin.

High school field trip to aquarium connects with class “Moby Dick” study

“It gives students a chance to see outside of where they live and from it, open their minds.”