Students, family members travel to Australia

“Best trip of my life!” said Sawyer Riffle. “It took a long time to get there but was 100% worth it because of everything we got to see and do.”

Students and family members gather in a group in Australia with the Sydney Opera House in the background.
A trip three years in the making, two groups of Brainerd Public School students and family members traveled to Australia in June 2022. Gathering for a group photo, the Sydney Opera House is visible in the background.

BRAINERD — Two groups of Brainerd Public School students and family members traveled to Australia this June to learn more about Australian culture and get first hand experience of Australian life.

“This is a trip that was three years in the making,” said Dalen Hodge, Forestview teacher, who led one of the two groups, in a news release. “We originally planned this trip to take place in 2020 but had to delay the trip because of Australia’s COVID travel restrictions.”

The other leader was Lori Hodge, also a Brainerd Public Schools educator.

The groups departed from Forestview a few days apart so as to keep the groups small and flexible. Hodge’s group departed on June 10, flying from Minneaplis to Los Angeles and then onto Sydney, Australia.

While in Sydney, the group took in many of the landmark sights including the Sydney Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge, Hyde Park Barracks, and walked the beaches around the harbor.


“One of the major highlights of the trip was seeing the Sydney Opera House and learning more about it,” said Derek A. Grady Jr., 16, one of the students on the trip. “Seeing that it is small tiles that are multiple colors that make up the structure and learning how much engineering went into building the Opera House was impressive.”

The group flew from Sydney to Brisbane to continue their travels. As the group members continued to move north up the East Coast, they visited historic places including Frazer Island, Whitsunday Islands and Maryborough. The group members spent the day on Frazer Island, the world's largest sand island. They were able to go snorkeling while touring Whitsunday Islands and see the large variety of fish species and learn about the pure silica sand that makes up the beaches of Whitsunday.

One of the places the group stayed at was an Eco Park, which gave the group the opportunity to see kangaroos in the wild and hear the songs of a wide variety of birds.

The group continued to move north and finished the journey in Cairns, Australia. While in Cairns, the group traveled on the skyrail traveling over the world’s oldest rainforest and learned more about the Aboriginal people of Australia during the visit to Kuranda. They took in a dance show, learned about hunting with boomerangs and spears and the music of the people played on didgeridoo and clapsticks. They learned about the oral history passed down by the people and how the various tribes of Australia live in the different parts of the country.

The group spent their last full day in Australia on the Great Barrier Reef. Traveling by boat from Cairns to the outer edge of the reef to a platform where they had the chance to snorkel and see the beauty of the coral reef and the numerous marine life that make their homes in the reef.

Many of the group members had the chance to see up close a green sea turtle, which was swimming in the area.

“When the sea turtle came right up to me while snorkeling was the most memorable moment of the trip for me,” said Chloe Patrick, 14.

“Best trip of my life!” said Sawyer Riffle. “It took a long time to get there but was 100% worth it because of everything we got to see and do.”


“Travel is special way for students and really anyone to learn,” said Hodge. “There is something unique about experiencing a culture first hand in that country. I have lead numerous groups to a wide variety of countries. So many students write to me later in their lives about how these trips were life changing for them and how it sparked their love of travel. I feel very fortunate to be able to bring these young people on these adventures.”

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