Spring and summer saw students all across the Upper School board planes and set off for international adventures. Three trips, led by French teacher Kathryn Garrison, Spanish teacher Fernando Pomar, and Science teacher Mike Hill, exposed CDS students not just to an immersive language and academic experience but also to an exploration of diverse cultures and environments.
“This deep cultural dive is definitely worth everything,” said Garrison, who brought her students to Paris and Dijon in the middle of the spring ’22 semester. “We forget we’re not the same culturally…that we do have different ways of viewing the world.” Because of CDS’s exchange with Notre Dame Private School in Dijon, Garrison’s students were able to spend ample time in the French classroom, sharing their perspectives on difficult topics across cultural lines, like gun violence, racism, and drinking. In addition to honing their French, students also focused on important facets of pre-recorded history, like the Battle of Alesia in 52 BC.
Fernando Pomar’s Spanish class also took a whirlwind, nine-day trip across several cities in Spain, including Madrid, Toledo, Granada, Seville, Cordoba, and Barcelona. Because Spain is so diverse in its culture, Pomar wanted to offer the most variety possible to help his students avoid thinking of Spain as a monolith. “That immersion actually worked on our behalf because they have been studying Spanish from a disembodied perspective,” Pomar said. Some of the highlights from this trip included students attending a bullfight, visiting the Royal Alcázar in Seville, and a flamenco class and dance demonstration.
In July, nine CDS biology students, joined by Mike Hill and Head of School Stephanie Whitney, trekked to the Peruvian Amazon for ten days of tropical rainforest immersion. The CDS team traveled with five members of the Asheville School community (three students and two faculty), and they all gathered with subject matter experts in the rainforest for a program run by Morpho Institute. Highlights include hours spent on the canopy walkway at the Amazon Conservatory for Tropical Studies, nature journaling and learning about leafcutter ant colonies, viewing wildlife such as sloths and a huge diversity of birds, exploring the vast river systems, piranha fishing, and a full day spent with the Maijuna Indigenous People, caretakers of nearly one million acres of primary rainforest. Both the natural setting and the many wonderful Peruvians met on the trip left an indelible impression on the group.
For some wildcats, this is the first time they’d left American soil, and they had to do so without their parents. Though Garrison and Pomar both noticed an increased confidence in their students’ French and Spanish, they both noted that these trips created opportunities for their kids to grow their independence and discover how they fit into a global community. Pomar and the Spanish chaperones allowed students to explore the cities while adhering to a buddy system and curfew times, a practice that created a sense of responsibility and allowed students to rely on their learned language skills as well as their cultural competence. For Garrison, watching her students adhere their strengths to the practice of global travel and global citizenship was a huge reward.
“I think my biggest joy as an educator is to get to know my students,” said Garrison. “I can see how they’re forming themselves into human beings, and I can see what gifts they bring to this world. What I love to see is for them to realize without their parents by their side, without anyone by their side guiding them, to realize who they are. Traveling somewhere without your home base like your parents and without your home language makes you rely on yourself in ways you’ve never done before.”
We’re thrilled to welcome these students back to the classroom and cannot wait to see how their overseas experiences will further enrich our campus community.