Tuesday 2 Oct, 2012

Puerto Rico: A cross-cultural, cross-cirricular adventure

When Talia P. traveled to Puerto Rico with her friends in 2009, the enchanting Caribbean island captured her imagination. She dreamed of returning, and sharing the beauty and culture of Puerto Rico with her students.

This summer she had her chance. Talia took six students, carefully selected for their strong academics and behavioral performance for her first educational tour to La Isla del Encanto (The Isle of Enchantment, as Puerto Rico is often called.)

Talia’s group takes time out at the beach for a group photo.

“I love that I had the opportunity to share this experience with my students.  Puerto Rico is such a great island and rich in culture…who knew a place this beautiful would bring everyone together! I feel happy to have taken this group of kids, have shared so many laughs. We met great people, and experienced new adventures. Though we were all so different from one another, it was awesome to see us come together for this journey”.                      ~ Group Leader Talia P. 

Great for Spanish teachers

As a Spanish teacher, Talia knew the trip would be an incredible experience for her students. They could practice their language skills, but still be able to get around using English. Plus, they’d get to encounter the unique Hispanic culture of the island.

…and social students…and art…and science…

In talking with her colleagues, she found Puerto Rico had a lot to offer across the students’ curriculum. Biology lessons incorporated the flora and fauna the students would encounter in the El Yunque Rainforest and the sea life they’d see on their snorkeling expedition. The Spanish conquests and Puerto Rico’s role was covered in history courses. The art teacher taught a lesson on murals, and the students who traveled to Puerto Rico brought back photos of the murals they saw to analyze and critique them with their classmates.

Check out this tour video created by Tyree, one of Talia’s students!

Talia said her favorite experience was the sea kayaking and snorkeling excursion, but her real “a-ha” moment was hearing her students using their Spanish.

“They were absorbing everything in Spanish,” she said. “It was incredible to see just how much comprehension they gained.”

Talia saw her students grow in confidence, too. Since the group was consolidated, they traveled with another group from Louisiana and a group from Michigan. She said she was impressed to see normally shy students take the initiative to introduce themselves at the airport to their new traveling companions.

“Having the opportunity to travel with my students enabled me to obtain a better sense of who they are as young adults and as individuals. I had a joy observing the students learn and support one another; for instance, while some experienced culture shock others experienced missing their friends and family members. Along with this it was nice as an educator to see the humanistic and endearing side of my students and vice versa. I truly enjoyed taking them on this excursion and helping them step out of their comfort zones by visiting a new environment.”

Talia’s advice for Group Leaders

– Organization is key

– Be optimistic and keep an open mind

– Pick a chaperone you know you’ll work well with

– Be ready to have fun!

The group and their Tour Director Jesus snap one last shot before they head home.