Mackie Academy Pupils have returned from their fourth Wild West Tour covering three states in the USA over 12 days.
Led by Mr Iain Macdonald, six staff members and 50 pupils had a trip of a lifetime visiting California, Nevada and Arizona.
Iain told us how the trip went.
Students have been saving for the past two years and there was certainly no disappointment as they embarked on what was to be an unforgettable trip of a lifetime containing many educational experiences that will never be forgotten.
There was no let-up in the jam-packed itinerary as students arrived at Los Angeles International airport, most for the first time on the Airbus A380 double decker. Sleepy students were soon brought down to earth as they were taken through American customs. Once through customs the party were greeted by their coach driver for the duration of the trip, Mario.
Mario is no stranger to Mackie Academy as he has previously driven for the school and has proven a great asset to the experience building up extremely positive relations with students and staff. Indeed, many were in awe when Mario explained that he is often asked to drive for various US sports teams and even entourages for stars such as Madonna!!
Students experienced the glamour of Los Angeles and the facade that is Hollywood as they strolled down the famous Walk of Fame.
Venice Beach Boardwalk proved a hit with skaters, street performers, and unique vendors ranging from clothing to more hand crafted art and other exotic imports. There was certainly a constant stream of colourful characters for students to engage with!!
A visit to Universal Studios, Hollywood, allowed the party to experience the magic of movie making with a studio tour giving the chance to explore the backlot of a real Hollywood movie studio. The tram ride took the party past sets from movies such as War of the Worlds, Psycho, Jaws and many others. The tour also included Peter Jackson’s heart-pounding King Kong 360 3D - the world’s largest 3D experience.
From Los Angeles, it was on to Las Vegas. En route the party took a stop at Calico Ghost Town. This atmospheric former silver mining town allowed students to experience what life was like back in the 1800s before heading to a traditional 50s diner for lunch.
The bright lights and intensity of Las Vegas proved a hit for the Mackie party who stayed at the Circus Circus Hotel on the world famous Las Vegas Strip.
The sheer magnitude of the Circus Circus hotel, containing the America’s largest indoor theme park, was an experience in itself. All the must-do’s of Vegas for students were lapped up by students - Bellagio Fountain Show, Mirage Volcano Show, Fremont Street Experience, miniature Venice in the Venetian Hotel, Hard Rock cafe. No Mackie visit to Las Vegas could be complete without a trip to the highest rides in the world, 1000 feet in the air, on top of the world famous Stratosphere. Students certainly enjoyed this heart-pounding experience. For those who chose not to participate in these rides, the stunning views of the city and the Mojave Dessert beyond were enjoyed.
As part of the Las Vegas experience, a short coach ride was taken to the Hoover Dam, one of the greatest engineering constructions of last century. As students strolled on top of the dam, they were able to cross the States of Nevada and Arizona in just a few steps.
And so the hustle and bustle of American city life came to an end as the party left Las Vegas and aimed towards the Grand Canyon, staying at the charming town of Williams on the world famous Route 66.
At an elevation of 6800 feet it was unusual for students to feel a chill in the evening! The aptly named Grand Canyon left an unforgettable impression on all as they experienced it from the air on their helicopter flight as well as on foot. Nothing could prepare the students for the sight that is the Grand Canyon carved out of the rock by the mighty Colorado River. During the flight the students learned about and visualised the different colours and layers of rock one mile deep and how the Canyon was formed.
The stunning town of Sedona in Red Rock country proved a huge hit with its colourful collection of pinnacles, mesas and canyons. These were further enjoyed as the students participated in a bumpy jeep tour learning about the geography, geology and wildlife of the area.
The final leg of the trip was quite possibly one of the favourites for the Mackie Academy party. Saguaro Lake Ranch is described as being the “most scenic ranch in Arizona”. In Tonto National Forest along the banks of the Salt River this historic Mesa ranch boasts rustic cottages, a traditional western feel, and warm hospitality with hosts who have built up a very close relationship with Mackie Academy over the past eight years. During the three-night stay, students were able to enjoy horse riding and kayaking as well as many other activities provided by the ranch. Students were able to further engage with locals with a line dancing and ceilidh evening. Scottish tartans and kilts were in full swing as Mackie students taught traditional dances such as Dashing White Sergeant, Strip the Willow and Military Two-Step!!
Heartfelt farewells were made at the ranch as students made their return journey back to Scotland. Learning experiences and memories have been made that will last the students a lifetime. Active learning in the truest sense of the word has been experienced by one and all during this trip. Responsibility, participation, communication skills, culture, budget, time keeping …. the life skills and learning experiences are endless.
Parents/carers, students and staff were all thanked by Mr Macdonald for their continued support and participation over the past two years in ensuring that the trip was the huge success that it was!
Further spin-offs from the trip are that charities will be gaining donations from previous fund raising activities as well as a forthcoming DVD celebration evening on Friday November 21 where families and friends are invited share experiences and watch the trip DVD where copies will be sold in aid of a cancer charity.