Field Trips & International Travel
It can be hard to get invested in AP government. No matter how politically motivated you are, so much of the class is just facts and procedures that it can all seem just a little bit dry. Which is why the class field trip we took to capitol hill was so important.
We spent the day touring congressional offices, before heading to the capitol building to watch the House of Representatives in session. Being able to see everything we’d learned about play out around us in real life made the class much more engaging and helped to give us a sense of the real-world importance of what we’d been talking about in the
Class of 2019
For the “Norse Mythology and the Silmarillion” class, we took a field trip to The Wharf in Washington, DC to see a working historical recreation of a Nordic ship. It was kept as accurate as possible, recreating mechanisms of a Norse ship, as well as carvings one might have. There were also crew members to explain the creation of the ship and cover some Norse history. The trip as a whole was very interesting and helped the class understand the history and craftsmanship of the Norse people.
Class of 2020
The Air & Space Museum
Why does the sun shine? How do stars end their life? How did the structures we see in the universe today (stars, planets, galaxies…) form? Are we alone in this universe? Is there any place out there in space which is habitable or could ever be made habitable?
We discussed in middle school science what astronomers know today about the answers to each of these questions. Our field trip to The National Air & Space Museum was a culmination activity to reinforce our readings/discussions through their exhibits and multimedia collections.
Math & Science Teacher
Essential Skills at Work: Photography
Reprinted from the April 2019 Newsletter
It was a sunny, 70 degree day when my A-module digital photography class loaded onto the bus and headed into D.C. Upon arrival, we parked at the Washington Monument and walked a few blocks to the Natural History Museum. On the third or so floor, tucked behind the mineral gift shop, we found our way to a one-room photography exhibit: The Windland Smith Rice International Award 2018 winners. There, we spent 45 minutes wandering between the various sweeping nature photos; examining the technique and positioning; and taking note of the camera settings, location, and overall beauty of each shot. At the end of the time period, we all reconvened, walked around discussing our favorite photos, and wrote reflections on the exhibit.
Upon leaving the museum, we walked the few blocks to the Reagan National Trade Center to patronize their large food court on the lower level. Travis then drove us to a spot on the Potomac River that sits in close proximity to the Roosevelt and Martin Luther King, Jr. monuments. We took about an hour and a half to walk around the area freely. It was windy, but not chilly, and the trees had not begun to turn green yet, but it was still a nice day, the first warm one in a while. We all split up once again, and I spent the time wandering between the two monuments. There was not too much green scenery to photograph, but the two monuments with their striking rock carvings and layouts, and the twisting trees along the river, provided much creative fodder.
In writing this article and reflecting on the experience, I’d say the essentiaI skill we used the most was self-awareness and management. As Travis gave us so much freedom to walk around by ourselves, we had to be responsible and use that time wisely to take photos. The overall experience of the trip was calm, and seeing the photography exhibit definitely inspired me to go out and do more nature photography. I also managed to get a lot of good shots at the two monuments thanks to not getting distracted by the abundance of freedom.
Class of 2020
Essential Skills at Work: Spain
Reprinted from the May 2019 Newsletter
Over spring break The New School took a trip to Spain. We stayed in Madrid and took trains to see the beautiful sights of Toledo, Avila, and Segovia. Our time there was wonderful, and we saw more cathedrals and chapels than one can imagine. Throughout the trip, there were many opportunities to put the essential skills in action, especially while navigating the streets of Madrid and ordering food.
One of the most practiced skills was communicating meaning. In a foreign country with a native language that you have not grown up with, not everyone speaks English. I tried to become more versed in Spanish so that I could handle myself. I practiced whenever I could, mostly when ordering food. Communicating meaning is a skill that is essential to getting what I needed, so when my Spanish would fail, I still had to get my point across. Other than my listening and language skills, my charades improved greatly too. I know now the best motions for pretty much anything that you would find in a restaurant.
The other skill that I found myself using was self-awareness and management. To get the most out of the trip, I wanted to be able to navigate independently around the cities that we visited so that I would not feel restricted or helpless if a chaperone were not around. To do this, I had to be constantly aware of my surroundings and where I was headed. Street signs are much different in Spain than they are in Fairfax. In the U.S., you always know what street you are on and where you are walking because of all the signs posted to guide you. In Spain, you often have to hope that the block you are on has any street sign, and in order for you to find the sign when there is one around, you have to walk around an historical structure to find it painted onto the wall. With some trial and error, I started to become acquainted with the layout of the streets, and I definitely had a better time knowing how to navigate myself.
These skills will follow wherever you go. They are like virtues that are necessary for thriving in the world, and I am happy to have practiced them internationally. Without the essential skills, I would have felt lost and confused, but with them, I felt confident and safer.
Class of 2021
In Service of Turtles
Reprinted from the May 2019 Newsletter
From beaches to rainforests to mountains to raging rivers, New School students experienced Costa Rica’s varied and lush ecosystems this spring break and helped give back to the natural world through environmental service projects. Our main service stop was at the tiny beach community of Barra de Parismina (population: 500), where a local environmental organization, Association Save the Turtles Parismina (ASTOP), hosted us as sea turtle volunteers.
Among our service work, we helped to monitor sea turtle nesting activity by conducting nightly beach patrols and taking turns on “guard duty” at the sea
turtle egg hatchery. One of our optional service activities was conducting a beach clean-up to reduce the amount of plastic pollution found on the beach. Finally, our “voluntourism” dollars support beach patrol guides, paying them to help save turtles and earn a living instead of possibly seeking to poach turtle eggs to sell.
In addition to their valuable environmental service, students pushed their limits, growing personally. Their living quarters mimicked those of many Central Americans, and the adventures in which we participated, like ziplining, rappelling, and white water rafting, required students to be self-aware and work as a team.
Students were also treated to several cultural experiences, like cooking classes on how to make cajeta de coco, a caramelized sugar coconut candy, and tortillas from soaked, ground corn kernels. When visiting our home-stay families in the mountain town of Mollejones (population: 250), we were treated to traditional Costa Rican dance with its flamboyant skirt-twirling. In turn, we shared some of our culture: The Cha-Cha Slide.
German Cultural Exchange
THE NEW SCHOOL – KREUZGYMNASIUM DRESDEN GERMAN LANGUAGE AND CULTURE EXCHANGE
This is our second full year of participating in a German language and culture exchange with a large private school for 5-12 graders in Dresden, which is about 2 hours south of the capitol city, Berlin. Golo Hofmann and Caspar Wagner were with us for the month of October this school year, and had a great time getting to know their host students and families, our school, and sights around the DC area and Manhattan. Karin Kober, the Biology/English teacher who runs this exchange on the Kreuzgymnasium side, also spent a week with us to get to know our school better. On April 5, Rudy Smith and Surya Punjabi flew to Dresden to spend a month with their host families and partner students at the Kreuzgymnasium. I accompanied Rudy und Surya on the trip over, and spent a wonderful week walking around different parts of the city and countryside with old friends. I also gained new cultural and pedagogical insights through visiting classes in a wide array of subject areas and grade levels. On my last day at the school, I was invited to join a 9th grade government class field trip to a working session of the Sächsischer Landtag (Saxon’s parliament), and afterwards, heard how representatives of three different parties fielded challenging questions from the students.
During the last week of their trip, Surya and Rudy got in touch with me and answered a few questions for you:
1) What was the coolest thing you got to see/do in Dresden so far?
Rudy: The Dresden Military Museum was interesting, and die Sächsische Schweiz [Saxon Switzerland] was awesome!
Surya: The Kunstsammlungen, a network of 15 museums and collection of cultural arts exhibits, is one of the most fascinating things I have seen in Dresden. Like most of the Altstadt (Old-City), the building is a majestic Renaissance style castle, and contains an assortment of statues, ornamental weapons, jewelry, and everything in between. Personally I was most amazed by the Grünes Gewölbe (Green Vault), a collection of Baroque era treasures presented with an incredibly strong, consistent
2) Did you go anywhere special with your host family during your one week Easter vacation?
Rudy: Die Sächsische Schweiz, and we visited a Renaissance town that I can’t remember the name of.
Surya: We went to Berlin and did a quick 3-day trip to hit all the major tourist attractions. Some highlights for me were the Natural History Museum and Alexanderplatz, Berlin’s equivalent of Times Square.
3) What has challenged you the most at the Kreuzgymnasium?
Rudy: Trying to speak in German.
Surya: While I was able to communicate easily in normal conversation, outside of science, I found it very difficult to understand and speak German in an academic context. This made most classes, and my day-to-day school life, a bit of a struggle as I was unable to keep up with what was being discussed in class.
4) Did you learn something new/special in one of your classes?
Rudy: Not especially. English class is alright, and Religion class is more interesting than I expected it to be.
Surya: It was interesting to see the way they approached math. This allowed me to reflect upon and gain new appreciation for a subject that I’ve historically not liked too much. Civics at times was also very interesting and sparked multiple conversations between Golo and me about the different financial systems in Germany and the US.
5) What/who will you miss the most?
Rudy: Caspar, obviously! I will also miss eating homemade salami sandwiches, they were/are great!
Surya: I will definitely miss the youth culture and thriving nightlife, and the overall lack of pressure in comparison to our extremely competitive Northern Virginia high schools.
Music, Drama, English, & German Teacher