Field research is hard work: Reflections from the environmental science trip

Four high school students reflect on the Advanced Placement (AP) Environmental Science course’s field work in the Mt. Fuji lake region.

Discovering the meanings of anthropocentric, sustainability and interconnectedness in the wild

Twenty two AP Environmental Science students took a three night trip to the Mt. Fuji region in September. The limited knowledge we had after only two weeks of classes with new faces made us nervous, yet excited. We were immediately thrown into the deep end; literally, we were told to get into our water gear and set out for Lake Sai, one of Five Fuji lakes.

Working on our lab reports

Working on our lab reports

Our teachers introduced the topic of our study to us with a demonstration in the field. We learned the difficulties of gathering scientific data through our foggy hikes and 24-hour lake observation. Some were even lucky enough to get the 2-5 AM shifts to collect samples by the shore! Collecting data and analyzing samples prepared us for future labs and gave us a chance to work with professional equipment.


We also had a chance to visit the “Solar Cafe & Farm” run by Jacob Reiner, a Cornell graduate.

Not only were we able to learn about Environmental Science, we were also able to unite as a class. We were unsure about having the trip at such an early time in the year. However, now we look forward to walking into the AP Environmental Science classroom, full of people we actually know, with an appreciation of their strengths and weaknesses, making it an even better learning environment.
(Riko Kanaida and Ai Lena Tomioka, grade 12 students)

Out of our comfort zone

The AP Environmental Science trip was a truly immersive, hands on, and intensive experience in scientific experimentation unlike anything we had tried before.

River investigation, after our hike

River investigation, after our hike

Unlike the stereotypical lab where the amount of hands-on experience is limited to collecting soil samples from outside and examining them under a microscope, this collaborative adventure pushed us to our limits. We were assigned lab investigation groups and together we conducted, consulted, and worked to collect deep water samples of the lake over 24 hours in three hour increments, and hiked up high altitudes to collect river data and other water samples.

We met, and overcome, challenges that we would not have experienced without this trip like canoeing in the pouring rain to collect deep water samples and carrying heavy equipment up very steep hills.


From classmates to teammates!

Spending time with our classmates forged bonds as we became “teammates.” We had to take risks and work together on overcoming the obstacles we faced. We struggled, coped, and solved problems, which allowed us to learn not just about general lab contexts but also the importance of camaraderie.
(Melanie Uno and Mizuki Furukawa, grade 12 students)

Living Science

Cruising along on the highway, a bus filled with a group of students and three teachers made its way to Lake Sai. For the first time an AP Environmental Science class made a trip, for three nights and four days at that! For once we were able to connect what we were learning in class to an actual real life setting. We were able to explore what it meant to grow organic vegetables, learn the struggles the farmers themselves face and how they overcame these challenges. Rather than being told that the deeper it is in the lake, the greater the dissolved oxygen, we swam out in canoes through silky waters that looked like nail polish and discovered the answers on our own. We took turns with partners taking measurements at the lake under the moonlight! Learning didn’t feel like something to memorise, but something to question and analyse. Partly because we all had no idea what to expect, we had the advantage of making many new discoveries. This experience was nothing like the entire grade field trips of the past and definitely an ideal way of learning.

Going out into Lake Sai to collect deep water samples

Going out into Lake Sai to collect deep water samples

As our class worked together as a team to find the answers to questions that we were posed with, we were able to bond and form a chemistry with each other. All the better to be more unified as a class, before the stress of an AP course takes over. We all chose to take this class because we were interested in the environment and curious with what we could learn in such an unusual setting. This was the unforgettable way! (Sophie Kusaba, grade 11 student)