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Travel Brings a World of Understanding
Dianne Willoughby, Editorial Manager

Going… coming. Going… coming… From early April to the end of May, students from grades 1 through 12 are travelers as Nueva’s Trips program provides a perspective beyond classroom life. Trips are planned and led by Nueva faculty, and the focus of each trip varies depending upon the destination. 

Trips begins for Nueva students in first grade when one Friday evening each spring they sleep over in the Mansion Ballroom. It is always a fantastic night for the seven year-olds, where they enjoy favorite foods, playtime with classmates, and the beloved tradition of “Stuffy Sharing Time.” While some students may be experienced travelers, others may never have spent a night away from their families. This is a growth experience for all. “The children always seem to grow a few inches taller after the sleepover,” says Emily Mitchell, First Grade Teacher.

Beyond the Ballroom, trips are joyous, but are not passive sightseeing. Each program is designed to engage students in experiences that stretch them. Students learn independence, strengthen their connections to one another, and actively explore history, social anthropology, global studies, and environmental stewardship.

Examples of curricular tie-ins include the fifth-grade trip to Crow Canyon Archeological Center that brings their studies of ancient Puebloan to life, the seventh-grade trip to the Ashland, Oregon Shakespeare Festival that culminates their spring drama unit, the fourth-grade retreat where students continue their “Path of the Hero” thematic study, and the eighth-grade international trips to Japan, Spain, and China as part of the Middle School language and humanities curriculum.

No matter what their age, each student’s travel experience becomes part of their life journey. In tackling team-building ropes and other physical challenges, fourth graders faced down personal "dragons," the obstacles heroes must overcome, and where they experience the greatest growth and learning.

“Yesterday was a transformative day for many, as students pushed past their comfort zones into their growth zones and conquered fears they thought impossible,” wrote Sarah Merkt, Fourth Grade Teacher, upon their return. “I cannot wait to see how they bring these experiences back home and apply them to their lives back at Nueva.”

Fourth graders tackle ropes course on their retreat.

Upper School students go to Peru, Costa Rica, and to numerous locations in the United States, making connections to biology, American studies, environmental studies, civic engagement, leadership, public service, and political activism.

Students witness ecosystems up close on trips focused on environmental conservation. Whether living on a deserted island in Alaska for a week or visiting the cloud forests of Costa Rica, these experiences are surprising and eye-opening.

In Costa Rica, students saw how limited and valued water resources are, learning from experts in biodiversity. “It was interesting to see how conservation was stressed as part of the ecological education of the communities living next to the habitats,” said Willow Y., tenth grader. “My biggest trip ‘ah-ha’ was the awareness of the amazing birds and animals all around us. You could look almost anywhere and see something incredible.”

And for many, their experience really registers when they’re back home and have a chance to reflect on what they learned about their place in the world and their ability to influence it.

It is harder to make an impact with your actions alone, but if you’re able to inspire others to make the same choices, that’s when change happens.

-- Jordan M., Tenth Grade

“I really saw how fishing, urbanization, and light pollution have the biggest impact on sea turtles,” said Jordan M., tenth grader, who just returned from studying turtles in Costa Rica’s Pacaure Reserve. “Coming back, I realized that there are things everyone can do. For every issue on this planet, there is some way for you to take some action. It is harder to make an impact with your actions alone, but if you’re able to inspire others to make the same choices, that’s when change happens. Nueva is great at being a place where we are having those conversations each day and doing work that shows us the impact we can make.”

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