Middle School Studying Abroad
Each morning this week, I eagerly awaited Instagram posts from our Grade 8 teachers and students in France and Spain. Today, our Grade 7 students leave for Italy, and our Grade 6 students head to Utah on Saturday. Since announcing these trips in last weekend’s Sunday Night message, several parents have asked me for more specifics about our Middle School Study trips.
Our study trips have deep roots here at WES and are one of the distinguishing elements of our experiential learning approach. The program has evolved over the years, but has always focused on enthusiastically introducing our students to new learning experiences that are relevant and engaging–all while building community and students’ confidence. In addition, our program encourages our students to continue to be inclusive, curious, and appreciative of one another and our greater world by immersing them in cultures, traditions, and histories.
I invite you to look inside each of our middle school study trips below. I think you will be amazed, as I was when I first arrived at WES, by the thoughtful construction and the depth of experience each unique trip offers our middle schoolers.
Grade 6 – Utah and the Desert Southwest
Students in Grade 6 spend six days visiting some of the country’s most renowned National Parks, including Zion, Bryce, and the Grand Canyon. The academic focus of the trip is field study in ancient and indigenous cultures. Students view petroglyphs in Valley of Fire State Park and along the Colorado River, and learn about the area’s agricultural history and how it contributed to growth of communities. Grade 6 also studies geology before the trip and experiences prime examples of weathering, erosion, rock formation, and geological history at places like Antelope Canyon, Glen Canyon Dam, and the Coral Pink Sand Dunes. This trip is a first-of-its-kind experience for many students, where they can cultivate and celebrate friendships at a starlit campfire and practice independence and responsibility while traveling for a week with their teachers and classmates.
Grade 7 – Classical Italy
Grade 7 students combine their knowledge of ancient cultures and their developing understanding of classical cultures and literature (Latin, Religion, English, and Geography) to experience the treasures and highlights of both Classical and Renaissance culture across Italy. In addition, students refine their growing artistic skills and appreciation for art and architecture with sketching studies and journaling assignments tied to major sites such as the Duomo in Florence, St. Peter’s Square and the Colosseum in Rome, and the medieval towns of Todi and Orvieto. The Italy trip introduces the idea of students as citizens of the world, providing opportunities for students to develop a growing confidence in that role.
Grade 8 – Cultural Immersion (Spain or France)
Grade 8 students travel by groups to either Spain or France, depending on the language they take here at WES. These smaller groups travel extensively through a native-speaking country to immerse themselves in the languages and cultures of the different regions: Barcelona, Madrid, and Malaga in Spain, and Paris and Normandy in France. Students bring all of their learned skills and talents to this trip – journaling in the native language, sketching at sites of historical and cultural significance, and practicing their speaking skills while shopping, dining, and meeting local hosts along their travels. A final study trip before their graduation in June, this trip is an important opportunity to demonstrate both their academic and personal growth before they step into the larger world of high school and beyond.
Among the reasons for investing time and resources in the Middle School Study Trips is this: the high schools I visit yearly often remark on how unique and powerful the trips are in forming the young adults who graduate from WES. They are not just sightseeing trips but study experiences that integrate with and complement the curriculum, expand students’ cultural competencies, and open their minds to the vast possibilities in front of them.
Head of School