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Learn By Doing

As spring approaches each academic year, students and faculty eagerly anticipate the launch of Fountain Valley’s signature Interim Expeditions, which began more than 50 years ago. A weeklong immersion founded on the premise of experiential learning beyond the classroom, Interim encourages the exploration of new cultures, customs, and experiences that transform students’ perspectives and passions for life.

I highly value experiences that take me out of technology because that is something I crave every day. Interim [during my] sophomore year changed my life. I got to spend a week canoeing through Labyrinth Canyon and down the Green River, [and] had never felt more connected with nature, myself, and the people I was with.

— Annie W. '24

Exploration and Adventure Abound

A Look at Past
Interim Expeditions

Interim Expedition offerings range from planned experiences in Colorado State to international excursions. Regardless of the destination or theme, Interim has been known to provide some of the richest memories students carry with them long after graduating from Fountain Valley.


Students stand before an ice formation in Alaska.
The Unknown Frontier

This Interim aimed to explore the links between sustainable living, environmental preservation, and animal conservation in Alaska, and to redefine common misconceptions regarding “natives”, “Alakans”, and “surviving” in a cold place. Students visited interactive museums to gain a deeper understanding of the distinctive and enduring lifestyles of the Alaska Native population and to learn more about the history behind Alaska's statehood. Embracing the Alaskan way of life, students hiked local trails, sampled “reindeer dogs” in downtown Anchorage, sludged along the top of Matanuska Glacier, and watched the start of the unknown frontier’s great dog sledding race, The Iditarod. In addition, they ventured to the Kenai Peninsula, observing a vast and epic landscape and wildlife on long drives to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, and snuggled with manatees while spending the night at the Sea Life Center.


Students standing on the beach with the breaking waves in the background.
Explorations in Tropical and Marine Science

Andros Island–located in the Bahamas and known for its unique baskets, carvings, and batik fabrics–is home to a 140-mile coral reef (the third-largest barrier reef) considered the most diverse and pristine reef in the world. During this Interim Expedition, students studied marine biology and ecology, as well as the cultural and geographical wonders of Andros Island, via land and water excursions facilitated by the Forfar Field Station research facility located in North Blanket Sound on Andros Island. Days consisted of deep exploration of the largely undeveloped subtropical island’s five distinct vegetation zones and snorkeling in cays, blue holes, and patch reefs. 


Cooking class.

Foodies united in an exploration of cooking and cuisine during this Interim. Together, they developed their cooking skills, gained an appreciation for the slow preparation of food, researched the importance of a balanced diet, practiced the art of mindful eating, and studied the role food plays in health, culture, community, and the environment. This Interim Expedition included a stay in Old Colorado City and visits to local restaurants serving up various cuisines and regional influences, farms, spice stores, and cooking schools to prepare students for an ultimate “Fight for Flavor” cooking challenge judged by local food enthusiasts.


Student holding a trout.

Students in this Interim discovered the joys of fly fishing in the famed Arkansas Headwaters and spent three days aboard a drift boat on the San Juan River beneath New Mexico’s Navajo Dam. They learned to master difficult techniques, read water, and understand complex water ecosystems, and partnered with local organizations to engage in conservation efforts in the same areas where we fish. 


Students wearing Mexican face paint depicting the Day of the Dead.

Students brushed up on their Spanish-speaking skills in beautiful Guanajuato and witnessed first-hand the social, political, and economic realities of Mexico through a wide range of activities, local excursions, and experiences with their homestay family. In addition to attending daily courses on Mexican culture, cooking, dancing, art history, and local customs, students strolled the city’s colonial-style streets, played with the local children, and served as rural elementary school teachers for a day. In addition, they visited various cultural sites such as the Alhóndiga Museum, Diego Rivera Museum, El Pípila Monument, and more.


Kayak in a Florida stream.
Exploring the Sunshine State's Greatest Rivers, Swamps and Springs

This Interim Expedition took students to the beautiful waters of north-central Florida and southern Georgia, where they experienced the rich ecological diversity and historical significance of the region. Students camped in the historic Suwannee River State Park and spent their days paddling, swimming, hiking, and exploring local history and abundant wildlife ranging from alligators and manatees to turtles and raptors in nearby rivers and springs. Vestiges of the Civil War, such as mounds of earthworks built to guard against incursions by the Union Navy, served as reminders of the region’s influence on history, with other remnants from the past including one of the State’s oldest cemeteries, a paddle-wheel shaft from a 19th-century steamboat, and numerous Civil War-era bridges. Meetings with local guides and historians, dining at small local eateries, and speaking with residents only enhanced students’ experience in “Old Florida.”


Shakespeare play.

Immersed in the world of theater, students traveled back through time while visiting the Royal Shakespeare Theater along with Shakespeare’s birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon, England. While there, they saw a production at the Globe Theatre, toured backstage, and participated in an acting workshop. When not experiencing the food, sights, museums, and history that this legendary country has to offer, students also attended five separate productions, including Les Miserables at the Sondheim Theater, across a variety of theatrical venues to gain a broader view of the British theatre scene. 


Thumbs up

Through a partnership with the Keystone Science School (KSS), students spent several days in the field studying forest ecology, digging snow pits to reveal layers of the snowpack, discussing avalanche safety and science, and delving into alpine weather and climate. After departing from KSS, students headed to the FVS Mountain Campus and culminated their Interim Expedition in the high country, exploring the Leadville area, home to the nation's second-oldest National Fish Hatchery. This region is also famous for its history of extensive mineral extraction and consequent environmental destruction. 

Meet Our Interim Directors