Field Notes from the Middle School Study Trips

“It was a life-changing, one-of-a-kind experience for my child.” I have heard this from dozens of WES parents in the past few days as our Dragons have slowly started to return from the Middle School study trips.  

These trips–much more expansive than any field trips during my own academic career–are the pinnacle of our program. After years of building their critical-thinking, executive functioning, and language skills, our students travel to Utah, Italy, France, and Spain–without their parents–to put a broader and richer perspective on everything they have learned during their time with us. They begin to truly understand that “you don’t know what you don’t know” and that in every instance of putting yourself out there, you are learning about the ignorance that you never even knew you had.  Our students reflect deeply on how they view the world around them, as well as their place in it. 

Grade 6 just returned from exploring geology and geography in Southwest Utah and roughly half of Grade 8 just got back from testing their language skills and experiencing the culture of Spain. While we are still awaiting the return of the teams from France and Italy, I am already hearing about the great learning that is taking place. 

Here are just a few of their reflections:

  • Grade 7 saw the international power of play during a pick-up game of soccer with the locals in Rome. 
  • Grade 6 students learned what it meant to trust one another as they engaged in a blindfolded hike to admire the view at Bryce Canyon. 
  • Grade 6 also reflected on respect and compassion when they wore masks to visit Native communities that had previously suffered greatly from COVID outbreaks. 
  • Our Grade 8 Spanish students dressed in their finest to attend the Corral De La Moreria, a famous flamenco show that draws Hollywood celebrities and other notables. They displayed excellent maturity as audience members. 
  • Our Grade 8 Spanish students also wandered the El Rastro, a famous marketplace with over 1,000 vendors selling everything from antiques to clothing to souvenirs. We trusted them to wander independently, be responsible about the group meeting time, and to make safe decisions. 
  • Our Grade 8 French students explored students’ familial connections. One student’s great grandfather was among the 200,000 people deported from Vichy, France, to the Nazi concentration camps during World War II. They visited the Memorial des Martyrs de la Deportation, which honors those lives. They also toured the grounds of the Lu Val de Richer estate, which belongs to the family of another student. 
  • Our Grade 8 French students also proved they can flourish in a multitude of environments, as they navigated the faster-paced urban culture of Paris to the calm, quiet, and relaxing feel of the rural countrysides in Northern France. 

I can’t wait to hear even more as the rest of our students return home!

Danny Vogelman
Head of School