South Africa Global Learning 2019

A Summer of Service, Safaris and Summits Through Our Global Learning Trips

This summer, MICDS Upper Schoolers ventured to China, South Africa, Peru and the Grand Tetons as part of our global learning program. Check out the trip recaps below to see what students experienced this summer around the world!

Students and Teachers Explore China

Teachers and students enjoyed a variety of experiences in China this summer, including partnering with educators from the Shanghai Foreign Language School (SFLS) and learning about local traditions and customs. After a long flight, the group was ready to hit the ground running…and they did!

Teachers from the Language School took the group on a wonderful tour of Shanghai, where they saw the Pearl Television Tower located in the heart of Peoples Square, the History of Shanghai Museum and a cruise on the Huangpu River. Students then stayed with their host families for a truly immersive experience. As they enjoyed daily life in Shanghai, teachers toured Watertown and the Shikuman Walixiang Museum. The educators from both the United States and China spent time together that afternoon sharing stories about their countries and profession.

Teachers and students reunited for three classes presented by teachers of the Shanghai Foreign Language School: the history of Shanghai, including the land, people, geography and cuisine; the Festivals of China, including Lunar New Year, the Mid-Autumn Festival, the Dragon Boat Race Festival and the story behind “Moon Cake;” and an art class.

The group enjoyed the Suzhou Museum which offers a rich display of art, sculptures and personal artifacts from the Majibang, Songze and the Liangzhu Cultures ranging from 5200 to 2200 BCE. They also saw art and artifacts from the Song, Han, Tang, Sui, Jin, Yuan and Ming Dynasties. They also toured the People’s Garden and its buildings and tea garden. They enjoyed a performance by one of the local poets playing an ancient Chinese string instrument.

A second day of cultural classes presented by SFLS teachers included lessons in Chinese animation movies/history, the history of Chinese writing, and instruction on Tai Che which resulted in the teacher choreographing the moves to music. Check out the video!

The expedition also enjoyed a tour of the Shanghai Museum, seeing art, statues, drawings and paintings from the early days of the Chinese Empire. There are silver coins and ingots that were used as currency and Buddhist masks and clothing of the many different tribes of China.

An overnight sleeper train transported the tourists to the city of Xian, where they visited the Terracotta Warrior Museum. The group went to the Small Wild Goose Pagoda for a tour of the Xian Museum before taking a short bus ride to the City Wall of Xian. Some of the more brave tourists enjoyed a bike ride around the entire 22-kilometer top of the City Wall!

A visit to China should always include seeing Tiananmen Square, and so our group went. A walking tour inside the Forbidden City took the visitors to the many buildings in which the Emperor of China would make decisions on ruling the vast empire. They also visited the Temple of Heaven and the Badaling Great Wall. Several members of the group climbed/walked their way up Tower Three, the highest tower, and some rode the “roller coaster” down from the top. They visited the Sacred Way and the Ming Tomb, viewing the many stone animals guarding the passage to the tombs of the Ming Emperors before leaving the site and driving past the Bird’s Nest Olympic National Stadium.

Finally, the trip rounded out with a visit to the Lama Temple and the Hutong area of Beijing, where they visited a local home and learned about Chinese symbol writing. The group also took a tour of the Drum Tower that was used to keep track of the time in ancient China. Their final stop was a tour of the Summer Palace for the Ming Dynasty, a wonderful way to round out an exciting adventure before the long trip home!

An Unforgettable Trip to South Africa

On a trip that combined community service, cultural engagement and adventure, a group of 15 MICDS juniors and seniors, along with three teachers, spent 18 days traveling throughout South Africa this summer. After opening the trip with an emotionally jarring visit to the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, the students then spent their first afternoon in the Kliptown area of the Soweto Township, which gave them a firsthand look at the lasting legacy of the apartheid system of racial segregation.

From Johannesburg, the students traveled to Hoedspruit, the gateway to Kruger National Park, to experience the rugged beauty of the region and see magnificent animals. The students participated in several data collection surveys to support ongoing wildlife research studies and spent time doing conservation work, helping clear the bush of invasive species. The students also went on several spectacular safaris where, in addition to spotting each of the “Big Five”  — lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant and Cape Buffalo, they were awed by the close sightings of numerous giraffes, ostriches, warthogs, impala, baboons, monkeys, magnificent birds and other animals. Of particular note was a rare sighting of a leopard with three cubs in tow and coming almost face-to-face with a herd of elephants crossing in front of the safari vehicle on a nighttime game drive.

Finally, the students spent the last week of the trip in Cape Town where they went on a number of sightseeing adventures and spent the better part of three days working with students in the Kayalitsha (Kaya-Leet-Shah) Township and the Masiphumelele (Mah-See-Poom-a-Lay-Lay) Township. The sightseeing included a strenuous pre-dawn hike up Lion’s Head Peak for a gorgeous view of Cape Town at sunrise and a short walking tour of the colorful Bo-Kaap neighborhood, followed by a delicious lunch of Cape Malay food for which the neighborhood is renowned. The students also ventured to and hiked out to the Cape of Good Hope as well as stopped off to see the wild penguin colony at Boulders Beach.

The trip to South Africa was one that these MICDS students will never forget, as clearly indicated by Naomi Ferguson ’20 who shared the following: “My time spent in South Africa was a life-changing experience. Our visit to the township in Soweto was personally one of the most memorable experiences of the trip as I witnessed some of the happiest people in one of the most energetic environments I have ever seen even when they had very little resources and opportunities compared to what I have. But what these people did have was each other and a deep love for their neighbors and that was all they needed to be happy.”

Naomi also created the following video that is a wonderful glimpse into what students experienced in South Africa this summer. What a phenomenal trip!


Spanish and Service in Peru

Despite the delayed start to the trip, our global learning Peru trip participants had a wonderful time exploring and getting to know Cusco. In the region, they visited Ollantaytambo, Machu Picchu, Saqsaywaman, Las Salineras de Maras and Pichingoto, and Los Chincheros. At the Maras Salt Mines, students learned how to harvest salt in the Incan tradition and then walked from the mines to the neighboring Pichingoto, where they interacted with children from the village as they distributed bags of school supplies, books written by MICDS Spanish 200 students and winter clothes. The supplies were donated from the annual MICDS “Pennies for Peru” collection drive. “It was wonderful to see the interactions and I know the locals really appreciated the care and kindness,” shares Upper School Spanish Teacher Sarah Elliott.

The following week, students volunteered in Chincha, a city south of Lima. Half of the students worked at a health fair at the clinic, and the other half volunteered at a local school on alternating days. Additionally, they visited la Calera, a citrus, avocado and chicken farm that employs many of the locals in Chincha, as well as Tabernero, a pisco distillery, in order to enhance their cultural understanding of the region to see important businesses that support the local economy. The group celebrated with a seven-course Peruvian dinner and dancers that presented an Afroperuvian dance. The following day, they enjoyed a morning excursion to Las Islas Ballestas, where they saw a variety of birds, including Humboldt penguins and sea lions.

One student took the time to share about what she got out of the trip. Bonnie Sneider ’21 shared, “On the Peru trip, I realized more than ever why we study foreign language: to open up the doors to the importance of engagement with people who are different than ourselves. Donations can’t bandage the gashes in devastated and poverty-stricken areas. It takes care, exertion of one’s own time and compassion to provide true, emotional comfort for those in need. We can’t all donate money, but what we all have the ability to do is interact, whatever that might look like. We have the ability to let someone know it’s going to be okay, because it will be, so long as we take it upon ourselves to provide a safe space for the person in need to open up.”


Putting the Scientific Method to the Test at the Grand Tetons

Twelve MICDS Upper School students traveled to Jackson Hole, Wyoming to visit the Teton Science School this summer. The course they took focused on the geology and biology of the Grand Tetons. While there, they worked on developing field science practices, leadership in the community and connection to place.

After the trip, the students presented the results of their field research to friends, family and fellow MICDS community members. Some students looked at algae coverage on rocks in a stream and tried to determine how algae relates to the temperature of water. Others studied the circumference of trees and figured out how that relates to the tree’s altitude.

When asked about how the MICDS science curriculum prepared students for this type of research, some students shared the following:

“We did do some experiments during the school year, which helped us figure out the IV (independent variable) and the DV (dependent variable), what we needed to keep constant, so our experiment would be valid.” –Ashley Cooper ’23

“At the beginning of the year in science, we learned a lot about the scientific method and going into the trip with that prior knowledge was helpful.” –Ethan Kolman ’23

Science Teacher Kevin Hava, a chaperone on the trip, shared “From Day 1, Teton Science School staff members commented on how impressive our students were. They asked great questions. They had a solid background and understanding of testable variables. We were told by the Teton Science staff that that is not common for 8th and 9th grade students.” He also said, “Maybe we came home with more questions than we had before, but that is, in my opinion, a good thing. I am proud of these students.”

Fellow chaperone and Science Teacher Laura Bradford also shared what a highlight from the program: “A big takeaway for me was the Teton Science School’s constant statement about the connection to place. And being in the greater Yellowstone area, the place is awesome, and the scenery and the mountain views are breathtaking. But as awesome as it is and with the great experience we had there, it is important to keep in mind there are equally awesome things around us here at MICDS. There are beautiful creeks and rivers, trees and parks, and even places on our campus that we can take advantage of and explore. Our hope is that we never stop asking questions and that we keep that spirit of inquisitiveness alive.”

We can’t wait to see what questions these students will ask and research next!

What an impact these trips have had on our students! We can’t wait them continue to grow in understanding and compassion, sharing these adventures and perspectives with others along the way. We’re already looking forward to the next global learning trips and adventures!