Mid-winter break was an eye opening opportunity for two different groups of Shaker High School students who traveled to Costa Rica and Germany.
Spanish teacher Jessie Morgan and German teacher Christine Connor along with adult chaperones, helped students enjoy the memorable, “immersive experience.” Both educators described it as, “culturally educational with language exposure.”
Highlights of the Costa Rica trip include:
- Visiting Volcano Arenal, the coastal, Punta Arenas region, and San Jose;
- Touring Manuel Antonio, one of the national parks, as well as several other national parks;
- Doing volunteer work at Natuwa, an animal rescue center where sloths, monkeys, macaws, and other wildlife are cared for; and
- Shaker High School students also helped to plant a tree in the rainforest.
Ms. Morgan said the animals that reside at the rescue center had been owned illegally and can no longer survive in the wild and students did a lot of labor and hard work cleaning at the center. In addition to speaking and hearing Spanish, the students grew tremendously, now knowing what they are capable of and stepping out of their comfort zones.
“They also bonded with one another and became a ‘trip family.’
“I had had some students tell me that before the trip they were introverted,” Ms. Morgan said. “Since they’ve been home they’ve come out of their shell and feel they can talk to anybody now.”
The students who took part in the trip to Germany traveled to the cities of Heidelberg, Mannheim, Koblenz, Kassel, and Berlin. Highlights included:
- Heidelberg: Home to the oldest university of Germany, dating back to the 13th century;
- Mannheim: SHS students spent a day with their pen pals of two years at the Ursulinen-Gymnasium, a secondary school for grades 5-12. They attended lessons with their pen pal partners and were given a city tour.
- Koblenz: A Rhein River cruise to see the Unesco World Heritage Rhein Valley with its many medieval castles. Students toured Marksburg, a castle from the 12th century.
- Kassel: Students visited the Grimm’s Brother’s World and learned about them as linguists that not only collected fairy tales, but also wrote the first German dictionary.
- Berlin: History of the Berlin Wall and the reunification. Students toured the Reichstag and saw the Holocaust Memorial and Museum.
Years ago, Ms. Connor worked at the German school where HS students met their pen pals. It was a highlight to see them “function in the target language and target culture.”
“They were happy to test out what they’ve learned,” Ms. Connor said. “They pushed themselves to order food in German and in their free time they’d go shopping and eat lunch on their own and would share with me how much they enjoyed understanding what [retail staff] told them and said.”