Sage seventh and eighth grade travelers have just returned from this year’s school trip to Puerto Rico! In preparation for their travels to this Commonwealth, students learned about the history, art, culture, geography, and language of the island in their Spanish classes, and in conjunction with their study of memoirs in English class they read excerpts of Esmeralda Santiago’s When I Was Puerto Rican, discussing perspectives on imperialism and immigration.
While visiting the island, Sagers started in the city of San Juan, where they visited the historic forts, el Morro and San Cristobal, built by the Spanish. In addition, their tour of the capital city included a visit to the Capitolio to learn more about the island’s governance and its relationship with the US House and Senate, as well as a visit to the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico, the Cathedral of San Juan (the 2nd oldest in the Americas and final resting place of Ponce de Leon), and a local farmer’s market where a scavenger hunt got them acquainted with new tropical fruits and vegetables. Branching out of the city, students visited the Centro de Conservación de los Manatíes to learn more about efforts to rescue injured manatees, a federally protected species. After getting a sneak peek of the animals and learning how they’re cared for and what they eat, students supported the center by helping prepare food for the marine inhabitants. Upon our return to Sage, members of the Service at Sage Committee are busy planning a service project aimed at heightening Sagers’ awareness of manatees and the dangers they face from humans – raising donations to further support the Conservation Center in Bayamon.
Later in the week students ventured to the el Yunque, where they were able to see lasting impacts of Hurricane Maria on the rainforest’s plant life, hike a short trail, swim in a river, and climb a lookout tower to admire the mountains. That evening, we took a kayaking adventure to experience Puerto Rico’s bioluminescent bay – one of only five in the world!
In wrapping up the trip we traveled to the southern part of the island. On our way, we stopped at a ceremonial site of the Taíno to learn more about the indigenous people who inhabited the island prior to the arrival of the Europeans and whose culture still has an influence on the island today. Our last stop in Ponce allowed us to see a city with a different feel than San Juan, learn about the local history, and see the Parque de Bombas in the central square.
At Sage, we believe that travel is an invaluable experience. Not only do students learn content first hand, but they learn crucial life skills, independence, adaptability, and perspective taking. Everything on the trip has a purpose and helps forge independence and as a result, self-esteem – from carrying their own boarding passes, to sharing a room with classmates, trying new foods they may not have seen before, or using their Spanish language skills to order in a restaurant – gentle encouragement to step outside of your comfort zone to grow is an underlying tenet of our travel program. As some of the reflections from this year’s travelers allude to, Anthony Bourdain states it the best, “travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable…but that’s ok. The journey changes you; it should change you.” But, it’s still fun!
Written by Jennifer Tanner, Travel Coordinator and Associate Student Dean of the Language Department, Director of Secondary School Placement & Alumni Associate
Travel Takeaways from Sagers:
This was one of the best weeks that I’ve ever experienced in my life! I learned such much about myself and other people. I am so grateful that I got this opportunity and I hope that I can experience another amazing trip next year! 🙂
I appreciated the chance to use the skills I have learned in class in a real-world situation. I learned about placing trust in people I had not interacted with much previously.
I learned that I get much more comfortable around people when I live with them. A take away for me is that sleeping away from home can be good, as I had a negative first experience with sleep-away camp last summer.
My favorite part of the trip was looking at the castles. I loved being up high and looking over the city. This trip has taken me out of my comfort zone but in a positive way. I learned to bunk with other students, and to be responsible for timing, staying clean, staying organized, and other things.
I am always challenged while speaking in Spanish to the locals, as they speak very quickly and sometimes they cannot speak English. I find it engaging to carry on a conversation in Spanish because it gives me a sense of what native Spanish is like.
I really enjoyed this experience. I felt that it both taught me a lot about responsibility and also was very fun. The aspects like waking up by myself, rooming with others, and generally having to be responsible… taught me a lot about being a bit more grown up. But the activities and free time, whether that was in our rooms or walking around town, taught me a lot about my friends and was also highly enjoyable. All in all, this was a great experience.