Summer Travels for Faculty, Staff and Students Offer Powerful Experiences

By Sue Counterman, Middle School Science teacher

Summer travel, exchange programs, and professional development that took Colorado Academy students, faculty and staff across the country and around the world created memorable learning experiences that they will begin to bring back to their classrooms.

Student Travel

Students taking part in CA’s Travel and Exchange program visited destinations around the world – from the coast of Spain to Argentina. Twenty Middle School students, led by teachers Mary Singer and Kate Van Cott, traveled to Florida to explore and understand the environment in south Florida. Among their stops was the Shark Valley for a tour where a guide explained the beauty and the challenges of the Everglades today.

A topic of special interest to students was the Burmese pythons, an invasive species that thrives in the Everglades. The snakes are responsible for more than a 90% reduction in the mammal species. Their trip also included night walking through the Everglades, snorkeling on the Florida reef, dip netting at Curry Hammock State Park, sea kayaking in the mangroves, touring the Turtle Hospital, and swimming with dolphins in a facility committed to the protection of marine mammals. The program builds a personal connection to the life in the ocean and deepens student passion about caring for our ocean planet.

professionaldevelopment- colorado academyAmong the adventures taken by Upper School students was a photography trip to coastal Spain led by CA teachers Jesse Myers and Miten Patel. “The powerful combination of a trip created around history and photography helped our students experience this beautiful country in important ways. Hiking the Camino or visiting Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia with the assignment of photographing what they saw promotes a deeper understanding than one would have as simply a tourist,” says Upper School History teacher Patel.

Six CA Upper School students also took part in an exchange program through St. Andrew’s High School in Buenos Aires, Argentina. CA exchange traveler Sophie Sileo says, “What a way to start out summer! My two-week exchange to Buenos Aires, Argentina could not have gone any better. The people, the culture, the ‘futbol,’ the city, the classes; everything truly exceeded my expectations.”

“In the two short weeks we were there, I had many personal realizations about myself. Being in another country where English wasn’t the primary language was so thrilling. I loved every second of it. My time there showed me just how deeply I care about language and how much I want to pursue it in the future.”

Faculty & Staff Travel & Training

Faculty members traveled nationwide from Connecticut to Alaska and beyond. Of the 22 classroom teachers traveling over the summer for professional development, half of the programs faculty attended focused on STEM training — science, technology, engineering and math. Says Head of School Dr. Mike Davis, “This work through professional development speaks to our commitment to continued training that helps us bring the most relevant education to our students.” Three faculty members took part in the Computer Science Teachers Association Annual Conference in Texas. Conference presenters included the Vice President of Educational Development at Google, the Technology Manager at Lockheed Martin, the founder of Bootstrap, and many more. ”There is so much that I learned that I can use immediately in my classroom, says attendee and Upper School mathematics teacher Charity Smith, “And it gave me additional ideas about bringing even more course offerings to the Upper School.”

Upper School Spanish teachers Jennifer Suárez and Meg Hill took part in a 60-hour Spanish course in Alicante, Spain. Still other faculty members investigated future learning possibilities for student programs, from the exploration of field sites for a trek in Alaska to exploring learning possibilities in Havana, Cuba. CA teacher Daniel Lopez went to Peru to explore a partnership with Peruvian Hearts, a CA alumni-founded organization.

For counselors in CA’s College Office, Cathy Nabbefeld traveled to China for two weeks as part of a college counseling institute with more than 250 Chinese students. Sara Purviance and Mark Moody attended the ACCIS Summer Institute at the University of Puget Sound. Prior to that, Moody presented with a group of four other counselors on “20 Things Colleges Can Do to Make a Kinder, Gentler Admission Process for Students” at the joint conference of Rocky Mountain/Pacific NW and West Coast Associations for College Admission Counseling held in Reno, Nevada.

No matter the experience, summer frequently provides some distance from the school-year routine, and brings new and diverse perspectives. “This only enhances what takes place in the classroom,” says Davis. “Just one person having that experience can change the whole class; when the world is your classroom, all students benefit.”

Details about future student trips/exchanges will be available soon on the Global Exchange page of our website. Our new Coordinator of Global Travel, Daniel Lopez, is already busy developing next summer’s offerings.