UW News

March 14, 2007

UW students to spend Alternative Spring Break working in schools around Washington state

Departure set for Friday, March 16, 3 p.m., Johnson Circle (south of Gerberding Hall), UW Seattle campus.

Teaching middle-school children during Alternative Spring Break changed Nimisha Ghosh Roy’s life. She realized she wants to be a teacher, that she wants to teach physics and Earth science to middle school kids.

Friday afternoon, Ghosh Roy will leave on her fourth Alternative Spring Break. She and 54 other UW students will work for a week in rural and tribal classrooms around the state. Depending on assignment, they’ll be going to Brewster, Bridgeport, Curlew, Forks, Harrah, La Push, Neah Bay, Omak, Tonasket or Toppenish.

This year’s projects include:

  • Literary arts: Poems written, illustrated and collected into a book.
  • Environmental education: Hands-on environmental education at the Quileute Tribal School.
  • Earth and space exploration: A pilot project focusing on science, art and literacy.

The same week, 80 other UW students will participate in a similar program, Healthcare Alternative Spring Break.

For Ghosh Roy, 22, this year’s Alternative Spring Break will be her second week in Brewster. She spent days before departure gathering supplies — bags of flour, bottles of vinegar, art materials — for the new unit on Earth and space exploration. Ghosh Roy created the unit, which will include hands-on projects such as mock volcanoes.

Asked what she’s noticed since her initial trip as a UW freshman, Ghosh Roy said, “The disparities in education across the state,” that some kids get far better education than others.

James Thornton, 20, sees Alternative Spring Break a chance to give back. As a team leader, Thornton will return for a second year to Bridgeport, where he’ll work on language skills with third- and fifth-graders at Bridgeport Elementary School. “Alternative Spring Break is a really great opportunity to help,” he said. “A lot of the children are from migrant or immigrant families, and can benefit from our literacy project.” Thornton himself is a third-year UW student majoring in sociology and biology.

Total cost for the UW Alternate Spring Break is about $38,000, covered by The Pipeline Project and Undergraduate Academic Affairs as well as Enterprise Rent-a-Car and student fundraising.

Based in Mary Gates Hall, Pipeline links undergraduates with educational and service opportunities, including Alternative Spring Break, which was born about seven years ago. In 2006, 55 students worked with more than 8,000 elementary, middle and high school students, according to Pipeline Project Executive Director Christine Stickler. “Students from the rural and tribal schools delight in meeting new friends from the UW who bring stories and life experiences.” In turn, she added, UW students experience the rich cultural background of the communities they visit.


For more information, contact Christine Stickler, director of the UW Pipeline Project at castick@u.washington.edu or (206) 616-9564. Also, see