Inspiration for new classes comes in many forms. The catalyst for the Middle School’s new Spring International Travelers course occurred in the Spring of 2018 in Italy, as our intrepid group of Middle School students stood mesmerized before a vast collection of Byzantine art and the chaperones were asked, “Who’s the man-baby?” (in reference to the omnipresent Christ child!)
The chaperones realized that “common” information and situations that adults take for granted may be unknown or unfamiliar to our students, and their experiences abroad would be greatly enhanced were they educated ahead of time about the culture and sites they would be visiting, as well as how to be a better traveler. This year, as we prepared for our spring trip to Costa Rica, participants were assigned a city that they would be visiting (San Jose, Sarapiqui, Arenal, Monteverde, and Coastal Puntarenas) and were charged with researching information about its sites, weather, activities, and clothing requirements. In addition, the course offered a mock-airplane flight that introduced the students to the Customs and Immigration paperwork they would have to complete without the aid of the parents or chaperones (“What’s a surname?” … “What does tipo de passport mean?”…“Does anyone have a black pen?!”).
Since most parents had packed their child’s luggage on previous Spring trips, the chaperones already knew that students have difficulty repacking their bags for the way home (“…it all fit on the way down!”). A “how to efficiently pack a suitcase” lesson was thus given in class as the chaperones demonstrated their own “folding”, “rolling”, and “luggage cubes” techniques, and then a contest was held to see which student could pack the most into their suitcase.
Other activities the students participated in included how to use Trip Advisor to learn about their hotels and visiting a local Costa Rican restaurant to experience Tico food before the trip occurred. The group also planned, advertised and successfully executed a Bake Sale and Dress Down Day to raise funds for the school they would be visiting. A subsequent outing to a local Dollar Store followed, where they used the funds to buy gift bags loaded with school supplies for the less fortunate Costa Rican students they would be visiting. Spending $20 each and choosing the best items proved to be an excellent experience.
Having the opportunity to meet twice weekly with the travelers also gave the chaperones a chance to get the mundane travel preps completed, such as creating a GroupMe for easy communication, collecting all the paperwork required, and getting the group to know each other better. Even before the group de-planed in San Jose, the chaperones noticed how much easier it was for the kids to fill out their own immigration forms – something that in the past had been somewhat chaotic and stressful. Because of this, as well as for a myriad of other reasons, the course was deemed a success, and will be offered again as our next Spring Trip travelers prepare for London 2020!