Spring break European style
Dozens of Mirror Lake Middle School, Chugiak High and Eagle River High School students experienced the sights, history and culture of foreign countries as they traveled abroad during spring break this year.
Twenty-five Mirror Lake seventh- and eighth-graders and nine adult chaperones spent 11 days traveling through seven different cities in Spain (Barcelona, Valencia, Costa Del Sol, Seville, Cordova, Madrid and Granada) and Morocco. A group of 25 adults and students from both high schools spent two weeks in seven Italian cities (Rome, Sorrento, Capri, Pompeii, Florence, Ancona and Bevagna), Greece and Turkey.
Mirror Lake’s inaugural excursion abroad was a great success, said sixth grade Spanish immersion teacher Ynez Slaymaker, who coordinated the trip.
“It was phenomenal,” she said. “We were tired, but everybody was happy. There was never a complaint at all.”
Chugiak art teacher Denise Baker felt the same about the high-schoolers’ trip.
“I have kids that still can’t talk about it,” she said. “They’re still processing it.”
Slaymaker said the group was in awe of Spain’s rich history.
“It was amazing all the history they got to see,” she said. “We were all wowed.”
A tour guide accompanied both groups their entire time overseas.
“All along the way we were getting extra information, which was great,” Slaymaker said.
The high school trip focused on art and history, Barrett said. Just some of the myriad of historical sites students saw included the Parthenon, Vatican and the Colosseum.
Students also sampled the local fare.
“We got to experience the local cuisine during lunch,” Barrett said.
One of the biggest highs the MLMS trip offered was the multitude of compliments the students received on their grasp of Spanish, Slaymaker said.
“That was a nice plus for those guys,” she said. “That was the whole point.”
In addition to Spanish class, Mirror Lake Spanish immersion students are also taught social studies in Spanish, Slaymaker said.
Traveling to foreign countries forces people to step out of their comfort zone, Slaymaker said.
“You learn so much about yourself,” she said. “Right now, they don’t realize how much they got out of it.”
Over the years, the students’ appreciation of the trip will continue to grow, Slaymaker said.
Barrett, who typically takes a group abroad every few years, said this was the first time the high schools went together. She said it was great having three ERHS students and art teacher Jacob Bera travel with Chugiak.
Visiting foreign countries studied in the classroom is a great way to make education relevant, Barrett said.
“This is probably the best type of educational experience they can have,” she said. “The things that these kids got to see is pretty amazing.”
Slaymaker, who’s been at MLMS for five years, noticed the school hadn’t gone abroad before and she wanted students to have that experience. With kids still buzzing about their trip, Slaymaker said she’d like to take a group abroad every other year so students can have at least one opportunity to go while in middle school.
Spring break 2012 will be a long-lasting memory, Slaymaker said.
“It’s one they’ll remember for a while,” she said. “They’re still smiling.”