Harker’s global education department is thriving, as is evident when one looks at some of the amazing places Harker students and teachers traveled to this summer. Enjoy the ride!
This article was originally published in the Fall 2011 Harker Quarterly.
Upper School Students Visit Friends in Switzerland
In late May and early June, several students traveled to Switzerland with Jennifer Gargano, assistant head of school for academic affairs and Kevin Williamson, upper school dean of students, to meet their buddies at the Collège de Gambach in Fribourg.
The Harker students began their first day at Collège de Gambach by learning about Switzerland, said Gargano. The students also attended an English class to participate in discussions, helping the Swiss students with their English skills and giving the Harker students an opportunity to gain insights into Swiss culture. Harker French students also participated in a French class for German speakers.
The next day they traveled to Lausanne to visit the Olympic Museum, which featured many interactive exhibits. Vevey was their next destination, which they traveled to via a boat ride across Lake Geneva. Vevey’s Food Museum provided a fascinating look into the history of how food is prepared and consumed.
Since Switzerland is famous for its chocolate, the students visited the Maison Cailler chocolate factory in Broc. “Many students described Maison Cailler as ‘Disneyland-like’ and some indeed said they felt like they were in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory,” Gargano said.
Thursday of that week was set aside for classes. The Harker students were divided into French-speaking and non-French-speaking groups and assigned an appropriate set of courses to attend. After classes, the Harker students were taken out to lunch, after which they left on a train to explore the town of Murten, where they enjoyed a scavenger hunt.
Another day of classes was followed by a train trip to the country’s capital city, Bern, to have lunch at a local hotel, where the Swiss buddies were thanked for being so kind and accommodating.
The students’ final day in Switzerland was spent hanging out with their Swiss friends playing sports, shopping and exploring the local mountains.
Middle School Students Visit Costa Rica for Spanish Immersion
Middle school Spanish students, chaperoned by Spanish teachers Julie Pinzás and Susan Moling, participated in Harker’s vibrant global education department with a trip to Costa Rica, starting in late July and extending into mid-August.
The students arrived in the Costa Rican capital city of San José on July 31, and were taken to the town of Grecia, where they ate at a restaurant tucked away in a bamboo forest in the mountains. Everyone headed to San Luis the next day to go zip lining through the lush treetops, which Pinzás said was “a definite highlight of the trip.”
Getting down to business, the students began their classes at the Academia Centroamericana de Español (ACCE). “As usual, they impressed the director and their Costa Rican teachers with their Spanish!” Pinzás exclaimed. They also visited Centro Educativo Nuevo Milenio, a private K-12 school, where they shadowed CENM students in grades 7, 8 and 9 during their classes. Another school visited was a local public school with more than 1,400 students in grades 7-11.
During their visit to La Carpio, a refugee camp inhabited mostly by Nicaraguan immigrants, the Harker students went to a daycare center in a park just outside the camp and played with some local children.
En route to Manuel Antonio National Park, the students saw crocodiles and macaws by the Tárcoles River and hiked through Rainmaker Park, a beautiful remnant rainforest. Once at the national park, they saw many species of plants and animals, and took a refreshing dip into the water at a pristine beach.
Other fun activities contributing to the goal of cultural and linguistic immersion included a painting class at the town of Sarchi, known for its painted oxcart wheels and hand-carved furniture and crafts, a Latin dance class, and a scavenger hunt in Grecia.
During their final evening, the students and teachers had tremendous fun (and great food!) during a special farewell barbecue party. The Harker students were each presented with a group photo of the ACCE students they had befriended during the trip, and another successful Harker global education journey came to a close.
Grade 8 Students Discover Beauty and Culture of China on Annual Trip
Each year a group of grade 8 students embark on a trip across the world, and this year’s participants, who departed on May 29, now have lasting memories of a fun- filled and enlightening excursion.
The trip hooks students up with Harker’s sister school in Shanghai, the World Foreign Language Middle School (WFLMS). After a sightseeing stop which included the Oriental Pearl TV tower, the travelers took part in an assembly at the school, at which Harker student Neil Sadhu spoke about the long-standing student exchange between the two institutions. Harker students participated in a number of classes, including one on Chinese opera.
Over the next couple of days, the students visited Zhujiajiao, the water town known for its canals and historic buildings dating back 1,700 years, and the famed Yuyuan Gardens in downtown Shanghai.
Later, the students flew to Beijing and visited the Temple of Heaven, which the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties visited annually to offer prayers for a good harvest. They next explored the hutongs, Beijing’s traditional alleyway neighborhoods, riding on rickshaws to the house of a man who kindly allowed the students to take a tour of his home and answered questions on a variety of topics.
At the Ming Tombs outside of Beijing, the students were led to the dragon- headed turtle pavilion, where they rubbed the statue’s tail for a long life, and its head for continued happiness. The next major stop was none other than the Great Wall of China. “We took a ski lift to the top of the mountain where we could enter onto the wall. It was amazing!” said Jennifer Walrod, Harker’s global education director, in one of several dispatches to parents.
Upon returning to Beijing, the hardy group visited Tiananmen Square, and then headed to the Forbidden City, touring several of its 980 palatial buildings. The group later visited the Summer Palace, China’s largest imperial garden, and rode a dragon boat to the palace’s pavilion.
The students arrived back home on June 6, ready to rest and reflect on a trip they won’t soon forget.
History Teacher Visits Australia for Annual Exchange
Ruth Meyer, upper school history teacher, spent two weeks in Australia for this year’s teacher exchange with Saint Stephen’s College in the small Queensland town of Coomera. Meyer spent most of her time teaching freshman history and junior English to the school’s students, who she said were like Harker students in that, “they are happy, helpful and enjoy school.”
Meyer, who has always been interested in dream analysis, was able to instruct juniors about the role apparitions play in “Macbeth.” She also sat in on an intriguing lecture exploring gender roles, and anticipates using her experiences to explore gender roles in history when she teaches her Harker classes on feminist literature in Western Political Thought.
The staff and faculty, Meyer said, were also a treat to work with. “They were all tremendously helpful and made me feel like one of their team,” she said. “I felt very comfortable there and they gave me a great welcome.”
Meyer enjoyed some learning of her own, visiting a rainforest and a heritage museum to learn about life in the Australian countryside circa 1900. She also went to an attraction called The Outback Experience, where she learned about the role Australian horses played in World War I. She benefitted from the reversal of seasons from crossing the equator; her counterpart, who traveled from St. Stephen’s to Harker last April, missed school, while Meyer was on her summer vacation.
One of the differences between Harker and St. Stephen’s, Meyer noted, was class size. “The class sizes are a lot bigger than at Harker,” she said. “Some classes that I taught had 26 students.” Friday afternoons at St. Stephen’s are set aside for sports activities.
Like Harker, however, the St. Stephen’s students were “very friendly and kind,” Meyer found, and the school also has “excellent library facilities and a very dedicated and friendly group of teachers.”