Embracing a new way of seeing things

Words can’t describe the feeling one gets when seeing the glow of a crocodile’s eyes on a night trip down the Amazon river, or gazing at the Southern Cross while frogs perform a hypnotizing chorus. Or getting a glimpse of an elephant nudging her calf while the breeze parts a lion’s mane as he rests in the shade of the African savannah. With adventure and travel, we gain experience and awe.

One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.

Henry Miller

As an international teacher, I’ve been fortunate to chaperone school trips in Ecuador, China, Inner Mongolia, and Kenya.  After teaching abroad for more than 11 years, these adventures are some of my most cherished memories.  As an educator, seeing students’ perspectives change on international trips is invaluable.  If we want to teach students how to make a positive impact while becoming global citizens, one clear path is to go out into the world and gain real life experience.  By immersing ourselves in foreign languages, experiencing other peoples’ traditions, eating unique foods from various cultures, and taking part in different ways of life, we gain a deeper understanding of our own cultures and the greater world around us.

In my experience, one of the most rewarding aspects of school trips is through service learning projects. And if there are curriculum connections, the experience becomes even more rich and authentic.  As part of a Shanghai American School trip, we planted trees with Jane Goodall’s Million Tree Project just outside of Ulaanbaatar.  I was proud of my students as they worked hard shovelling, planting seedlings, and then teaching lessons at a local school about how trees benefit the environment, mitigate soil erosion, and provide economic opportunity.

I’m also grateful to have chaperoned two trips with Universal American School students to Kenya through Camps International.  With blood, sweat, and tears, we worked to refurbish classroom floors, and then provided lessons about clean energy and how solar lights work. Science curriculum links focused on engineering, design, solar power and energy transformations helped make these lessons more relevant and meaningful. And seeing my students give hundreds of solar lights to students of Mkamenyi and Sasenyi Primary School so they could read after dark was truly rewarding.

The positive impact of international trips can be readily seen by the smiles of people in communities served, and possibly even more so, by the students and educators who take part in service learning projects.


Article written by: Adam Hall

MYP PHE Teacher, International School of Denver
Chief Star Organizer, Million Solar Stars

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