Story and photos by Joyan Tan
On Friday, Oct. 24, 61 sophomores flew into Langkawi, Malaysia for a Foundations of Science (FoS) field trip. Students were divided into six groups, each group participating in four activities over the course of the trip.
Accompanied by FoS faculty, students visited an observatory, went on a mangrove walk, sailed around the island to investigate sea levels, visited night markets to explore Fibonacci in pineapples, investigated the 2004 tsunami that hit Langkawi and went on night hiking trips.
The trip was a repeat event from Sept. 12-14 when the other half of the FOS class travelled to Langkawi. The trips were conceptualized in December 2013 by the FoS faculty.
FoS Course Coordinator Brian McAdoo explained the rationale, “We decided that this trip would be a good thing because so many of us actually don’t work in laboratories. We work in fields. So it’s important for students to see how field science works instead of lab science.”
This objective was not always met for many students, especially for those on the first trip as many had deadlines to meet after the weekend. For Brian Huang ’17, most of the trip was spent working on assignments. “I brought my Japanese homework with me to the waterfall/ mangroves and Marx with me to the observatory.” Huang summarized his experience saying, “I wish I were doing my work at RC4 instead of here.”
On the other hand, others appreciated the chance to get out of RC4 and Singapore. Karen Ho ’17 especially enjoyed the night hike. “My most memorable part of the trip was when I got to hold the toad [during the night hike]… It was sitting there in the middle of my palm and I could feel how much weight it was putting on each leg… I felt like I could connect with that toad.”
“When you stay in Singapore, you don’t see a lot of nature,” Ho added.
Following feedback from the first trip, the FoS faculty made changes to the trip, such as changing the hotel and including some free time into the schedule. During the five-hour period on the second day, students engaged in various activities such as exploring different islands, going for massages, or staying in the hotel to rest.
“People have different requirements when they come on a trip like that and that four, five-hour block really gives you the chance to do whatever you want to do.” Manas Punhani ’17 commented, “The administration was very considerate.”
Next semester, students in the FoS course can expect to be doing more work around Singapore. “[It won’t be] so big next semester”, McAdoo commented. “Each unit may do some individual outings and we’re going to try to do a couple of class outings.”
It is unclear whether the Langkawi field trip will be a constant for all future FoS classes. “I actually hope so, but it’s going to be an additional challenge because with each year there will be more students,” McAdoo said. “[It becomes] expensive, logistically challenging.” A larger class size may also make it more difficult for learning to occur, according to McAdoo.
After three days in Langkawi, the sophomores flew back into Singapore at late afternoon on Oct. 26.