After a challenging yet spectacular five hour hike through the Aletsch valley and across a rope bridge suspended above the Europe’s largest glacier the ‘Aletsch’, we arrived at our destination - the ProNatura education centre ‘Villa Cassel’, perched at 2200m on the top of Riederfurka mountain. This impressive and unique building was built at the turn of the 20th century by a German banker from London as a summer home for the Cassel family and welcomed a number of notable guests from the world of European politics, including a young Winston Churchill. As one of the first structures built specifically for tourism in the area, the centre, which was to be our home for the duration of our visit, also represented the geographic and historic context for our study.
Despite the fatigue from a long day hiking, students quickly set to work on defining hypotheses and outlining methods to collect primary data in the field. The following days were dedicated to data collection, presentation and analysis, with students using the centre’s classrooms to write up their work in the evenings. We learned about sustainable development in mountain communities and through our investigation were able to critically evaluate the extent to which tourism is a sustainable Swiss industry, balancing the various positive and negative economic, social and environmental impacts resulting from mass tourism.
The Aletsch Arena has developed incredibly since Mr. Cassel first step foot in the region in 1900. Our students have followed in the footsteps of these tourism pioneers and learned first-hand the advantages and disadvantages of such development, while completing a quarter of their final grade in geography in one of the most stunning locations in Switzerland.
Many thanks to our students for their hard work, determination and maturity throughout the trip, as well as to Mr. Sykes our Head of IB for his invaluable contributions as a geography specialist.
For more information and photos from the trip, please consult our geography webpage www.geo41.com/ibfieldwork as well as the Champittet IB Twitter feed www.twitter.com/ibchampittet
Teacher of IB Geography