If you go
What: Global Immersion Studies program presentations
When: 7 p.m. May 28
Where: The Lowell Whiteman School
Steamboat Springs In India, they painted classrooms.
In Vietnam and Cambodia, they unplugged completely from Facebook and the Internet.
And in China, they were surprised to see new green technology being deployed in Beijing along with restrictions on vehicular traffic.
More than 30 students from The Lowell Whiteman School recently returned from their spring trips around the globe as part of the campuses Global Immersion Studies program.
On Tuesday afternoon, many of them reflected on their unique experiences.
Margi Missling Root, the school's assistant program director, said the trips include some sightseeing and fun, but they're also meant to be rich in education.
“One of the things we try to do is almost the impossible,” Missling Root said. “We have a month to immerse the students into the countries we are visiting. ... A lot of times, it takes a year to immerse into a culture, and I think we're doing a better and better job to immerse our students into these countries. It's not just travel. It's not just tourism. It's understanding the world and your place in the world.”
Whiteman's freshman and sophomore students in the program traveled to India for a 25-day excursion.
The trip started in Sikkim, where the students stayed with different families.
“That was a really fantastic experience because you're living with the people, learning some of their language and learning how to make some of their food,” sophomore Paige Eivins said.
The trip also focused on community service in Calcutta, where students painted murals in schools, taught some English to students and put on a puppet theater performance.
Student Noah Zedeck was impressed by the trip's aesthetics.
“I found myself talking really quietly to everyone,” he said. “I found it remarkable how everyone could talk so quietly. That made everything there way more peaceful."
Vietnam and Cambodia
Juniors enjoyed the natural wonders of Vietnam, including a tour of the Thien Duong Cave.
Discovered in 2005, the large cave wasn't opened to tourists until 2005.
Chemistry and environmental science teacher Nikki Durkan used the cave trip as an example of how the excursions tie into the curriculum back at school.
“I teach chemistry, and I knew we were going to a cave, so we spent a full week in my chemistry class talking about how caves form and their importance,” Durkan said. “Connecting the classroom with what we do outside of the class is really special.”
Dylan Parsons said he won't soon forget his trip to the Cambodian Landmine Museum and School in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
"The founder of the museum grew up as a child soldier, and he didn't think it was abnormal that he was fighting people and that war was the norm,” Parsons said about Aki Ra, who returned to some of the villages he fought in to defuse landmines, according to the museum's website. “But he was able to come out of that and help others. It's cool to see he's rebounded.”
Like the other Whiteman trips, students experienced home-stays and took part in community service projects at a school and on an organic farm.
Mila Mason said she was surprised to learn about waste management in the countries she visited.
“One of the things that I didn't think about at all before was how much in developed countries we have ways to facilitate and manage our waste,” Mason said. “In Vietnam and Cambodia, they have landfills, but the trash doesn't always go to them that often.”
The senior trip to China often isn't the first global travel experience for seniors at Lowell Whiteman.
Before she landed in Beijing earlier this spring, senior Lolo Thornton had traveled to Bolivia, Tanzania, Vietnam and Cambodia with Whiteman.
“The trips have helped me gain perspective on my life,” she said. “There's so much out there. Now I kind of look at the world and I am more curious than definite about my beliefs. I've learned a lot, but it's made me want to learn more.”
Students started the trip in the hustle and bustle of Beijing, where they noticed solar panels on lights and schedules for car traffic.
From there, they took an overnight train to Xi'an, where they stayed in modern apartments with Chinese families.
In a mountain village, they taught English, cooked meals and sang at an orphanage for male children.
The school's trips to China come as many Whiteman students are taking advantage of new Mandarin classes introduced at the school this year along with the enrollment of new Chinese students.
“I think it definitely changed my views on China,” senior Hunter McLean said about his recent trip. “They're coming up in the world, and they're becoming this huge superpower. I've heard China is out to get us, and people are afraid of the country. But going there, I saw how much they respect us. It was also cool to go there and make a good impression of an American teenager at the college and change their views as well as ours.”
Community members wanting to hear more about the students' global adventures are encouraged to attend a public presentation at the school at 7 p.m. on May 28.
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com