The Middle School's world language program hosts global travel excursions each spring for its eighth graders, with an emphasis on experiential learning.
The Middle School offers eighth graders the chance to practice their language skills in Mandarin and Spanish, and immerse themselves in the culture and history of the countries and peoples they'd been studying, through a global excursion program that's held each year in June after school ends. The trips represent Calhoun's commitment to experiential and expeditionary learning--two notions that are central in the progressive tradition. [Trips are optional; financial aid is offered for those who qualify.]
Mandarin Students Head to China
Thirteen students and four teachers traveled to China for the first time in June 2014, for an extraordinary 11-day trip, with stops in Beijing, Hangzhou and Shanghai. Along the way they enjoyed local food and explored magnificent historic spots--including the Great Wall of China, the Summer Palace and Temple of Heaven. In a visit to a local school, Calhoun's travelers exchanged stories with Chinese students about academics, sports and even Justin Bieber. "For our students to see and hear what a student's life is like in China was truly invaluable," notes one of the teachers. "It was great to experience the cultural differences and use the Mandarin we've learned to talk to native speakers," says Jeniffer Rodriguez '18.
Students have continued to travel to China each year since the inaugural visit, with several side-trips added each time.
Peru, Spain, Cuba, Galapogos Islands
The first overseas trip for Spanish language students was a nine-day adventure in Peru, In June 2015. And according to the students, it was the experience of a lifetime. Calhoun's explorers traveled to Lima and Cuzco, testing their Spanish-language skills all along the way. "Visiting the ancient city of Machu Picchu and the Convento de San Francisco was certainly a window into the rich Peruvian capital," observd MS Spanish teacher Linda Sandoval, who led the trip along with MS art teacher Amy Konen.
In an example of Calhoun's commitment to being a "private school with a public purpose," Linda and Amy wove a community-service component into the stay. It turned out to be the highlight of the trip. The students visited an orphanage in Cuzco and quickly connected with the children. They danced, played soccer, and ultimately gained an understanding of how drastically different life can be for someone their age. "It was a very emotional day," remembers Linda. "our kids stepped up and were so humble and friendly. Amy and I were teary-eyed seeing this side of our students--wathcing them recognize how privileged and lucky they are, and then giving back the way they did."
Since that first excursion, groups of Calhoun's students have traveled to Cuba and Spain. In 2017, the travelers head to the Galapagos Islands!