A group of 18 eighth-grade students from Oceanside High School left July 24 on a two-week Advanced Trekkers expedition.

Trekkers is a youth-mentoring organization that connects young people with caring adults through expeditionary learning, community service and adventure-based education. The group, calling themselves Team Puma, met throughout the school year to create and design their own unique expedition around five educational components: community service, wilderness education, environmental education, adventure-based education, and cultural awareness. Their choices led them as far away as Pittsburgh and included many stops along the way.

Students were joined by three adult mentors from the community and three student leaders. Team Puma first traveled through the Berkshires of Massachusetts to Watertown, where they visited Perkins School for the Blind, which was founded more than 180 years ago as the first school for the blind in the United States. During the two night stay in Massachusetts, they also hiked in the Berkshires and camped at Tolland State Forest.

The next stop was the Poconos of Pennsylvania and Francis Slocum State Park where they went whitewater rafting on the Lehigh River Gorge. The adventure continued as the students spent a day ziplining before leaving for their next destination. They arrived in Pittsburgh July 30 and spent three nights at Raccoon State Park. A visit to the Pittsburgh Zoo was next on the itinerary, where they learned about endangered species such as snow leopards, red pandas, and polar bears.

While in Pittsburgh, the students visited the Zen Center of Pittsburgh where they learned about Buddhism from a Buddhist Monk. Students participated in a short sitting meditation and toured the monastery. Later that evening, the team took to the stands at a Pittsburgh Pirates game.

As the team started their journey home, they spent the Fourth of July at Hershey Park, riding roller coasters and water rides. The next day they had a guided tour of the Amish Country, camping in Harrisburg that night. As they continued east, the students visited the Lehigh Valley Beekeepers Apiary and discussed the environmental impact of the declining bee population. After a stopover in Connecticut for a good night’s rest, swimming and ice cream, Team Puma returned to Maine.

For more pictures and the trip log from the expedition, visit trekkers.org and follow the links to the Advanced Trekkers page or at facebook.com/trekkersonline.