A program that helps teenage girls learn about nature, science, art and outdoor recreation is ready to restart this summer after COVID-19 prompted a change of plans in 2020.
The University of Alaska at Fairbanks-affiliated Inspiring Girls Expeditions group pairs girls from diverse backgrounds with early-career professionals for a 12-day, tuition-free wilderness expedition modeled after authentic science expeditions.
“Teams of nine girls and three or four instructors go into the field to observe the landscape through science and art. They design experiments and collect data. They use a backcountry mode of travel and learn to walk on glaciers and learn mountaineering,” said Sarah Clement, Alaska program coordinator, in a phone interview this week.
Clement said the group hosted virtual expeditions last year after their in-person plans were scrapped due to COVID-19. But, the group plans to resume trips this summer. Three expeditions are planned for Alaska. Girls on Ice, will take place at Gulkana Glacier in the Eastern Alaska Range, Girls on Water is set for South Central Alaska in the Kachemak Bay, and Girls in the Forest will take place in the Upper Chena River.
Finding diverse groups of girls and instructors is a high priority for each expedition, and the process is managed through an online application. According to Clement, the program generally gets more applicants than they have available slots for each trip.
“We intentionally build teams that are diverse in many ways, including interests and life goals. Some team members are passionate about science, some about art, some outdoor recreation,” Clement said, noting that the group isn’t seeking the best students or greatest athletes and that most participants don’t have prior outdoor experience.
“It’s really just a group of curious people who want to learn, said Livana Hill, a participant in the 2017 Girls on Icy Fjords expedition, who now works for the organization while studying architecture at the University of California at Berkley.
“At the time, I didn’t feel passionate about anything but learning. You meet people from all over, and they all are just as curious,” Hill said.
“Our goal is for our participants to learn as much from each other as much as the instructors. We want passionate people,” Clement said.
“Before I went, the only thing I would do outdoors was run outside on a track,” said Hill, who grew up in California.
“It’s been one of the most meaningful things I’ve done. Just being out there with no mirrors, and experiencing staying warm and comfortable and learning. I realized that’s all I needed,” Hill said.
The group was founded in 1999 by Erin Pettit, a glaciologist who was a graduate student. She brought the program to Fairbanks shortly after joining the faculty there.
• Contact Dana Zigmund at email@example.com or 907-308-4891.
How to Apply
Who: Any girl who will be age 16 or 17 on June 1.
When: The window to start an application closes on Jan. 22, with Jan. 29 as the last day to apply. Expedition teams are named in March.