Steamboat Springs The Lowell Whiteman School’s foreign travel program has evolved since its first trip in 1958.
It’s no longer just a way to circumvent the weather that made the dirt Routt County Road 36 impassable. The program is now a nearly monthlong experience that requires students to participate in community service projects, become immersed in another culture and undertake some type of physical adventure.
“We want our kids to basically be completely removed from their comfort zones and to have the experience of being a global citizen,” said art teacher and girls dorm director Lainey Heartz, who will lead her second trip this year, to Tanzania.
Foreign travel is a requirement, part of the curriculum for about one-half of the ninth- through 12th-grade Whiteman students. The 48 students will travel April 10 to May 5 in groups of 12 to Bhutan and Thailand; Vietnam and Cambodia; and Tanzania and Chile. Each group will be led by two adults, Whiteman faculty and staff members.
Margi Missling Root, Whiteman’s director of experiential education, said the school visits developing countries where it has developed relationships with guides, parishioners or even alumni to provide the richest experience for students.
She said the students aren’t tourists, something previous foreign travelers said couldn’t be more true.
“I’ve experienced a lot of things I wouldn’t ordinarily experience,” said senior David Lea, who has lived with the Wichí tribe in Argentina, among other events during trips to India, Bhutan and Thailand.
“I think you learn more because you’re experiencing it rather than being in a classroom,” said sophomore Lolo Thornton, who visited Bolivia last year.
Students sign up for trips in November and find out where they’re going and with whom in December. The groups start planning in January. Planning can include arts and culture, politics and current events, and basic language review to create the itinerary — anything to provide the students with as much information about the country before they get there.
Nikki Durkan, who teaches environmental science and chemistry, said whom leads each trip determines what the focus of that trip might be. Durkan, who is leading her second trip this year to Vietnam and Cambodia, said her group has talked about cultural preservation and how to be responsible travelers, including conserving water and energy when they travel.
John Morse, leading his third trip this year to Chile, said it’s important to find balance between the trips’ educational aspects, community service and fun. That hasn’t seemed to be an issue in past trips.
Junior Brian Asberg said his two previous trips were amazing. He’s traveled places he never thought he’d see and learned to appreciate cultures different than his own. And, Alsberg said, he’s learned something else.
“We’re lucky to live the way we live here,” he said after telling a story of seeing people sleep outside in Calcutta. “You look at things a little differently afterward.”
After the foreign travelers returned in previous years, Missling Root said, they gave presentations about what they experienced to the school’s students involved in the competitive ski and ride program and the rest of the staff. But they’re doing things a little differently this year.
Missling Root said students would give a presentation May 20 to community members at Bud Werner Memorial Library. She said Whiteman thinks sending its students out to the world promotes peace and citizenship. She said the school wants to share that with Steamboat.
“We may not teach much, but maybe it will bring some joy,” she said. “If we can do a tiny bit of that, by bringing back stories, bringing back experiences, bringing back images, this is a gift to our community that we can share.”
— To reach Jack Weinstein, call 970-871-4203 or e-mail email@example.com