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Mayerthorpe students spread their wings in Greece!

Posted on May 3, 2019

Mayerthorpe Jr/Sr High students learn more about their world and themselves in Greece!

Not all education happens within the classroom. From learning about other cultures first-hand to seeing where historical events took place with their own eyes, educational travel gives students the opportunity to deepen their understanding of art, science, history, and culture in ways they never have before. But the benefits of student travel go beyond the curriculum, bringing the concepts, lessons and information off the page or screen, into reality, allowing students to connect to it in a strong and meaningful way.

And so it was, for the contingent of 16 MHS students in Grades 9 through 12, and the eight parents and staff members, who set out for Athens on April 18.

"I try to leave the travel selections up to the kids," shared coordinating teacher, Lillian Lundstrom. "Greece was an option that excited us. There is so much to experience with the history, architecture, archaeological sites, culture and people. We wanted to sample everything Greece had to offer."

One of the most popular activities was a guided visit to Olympia. In ancient Greece, Olympia was the chief sanctuary of the god Zeus and the place where the original Olympic Games were held.

The site was also a favourite of Mrs. Lundstrom and Grade 11 student, Jorja Werenka, who joined their group in running a victory lap around the track, "I couldn't stop smiling," commented Werenka. "It was just a really special feeling, to know we were walking, or running, in the footsteps of all of these incredible people from history and mythology - the gods, the Olympian athletes, the philosophers."

After trekking sites like the Parthenon, the Acropolis and Hadrian's Arch, the group headed west to the coastal town of Delphi and the Temple of Apollo with their Greek tour director Margarita.

Our tour guide was fantastic," added teacher Mrs. Lundstrom. "As a local, we learned so much about ancient Greece and present day Greece from her. She taught us how to say commonly used and needed phrases in Greek and talked to us enthusiastically about religion, the economy, Greece's infrastructure and industry, and how the 400 years of Turkish occupation impacted and influenced the country. Hearing it told through the voice of a local brings that history to life in a different way than books and articles do."

A cruise in the Saronic Gulf, wading in the Aegean Sea, poring over ancient archaeological sites, incredible landscapes, and chatting with locals, marked the eight day excursion which took place over the Easter Break.

"I just loved Delphi," shared student, Jorja Werenka. "The landscapes and this little town hugging the mountainside and bordering the sea. It was just so beautiful and so different from what we're used to seeing. The size or scale of everything was also something we really noticed. Houses are much smaller, cars are smaller, many people ride mopeds, as opposed to our homes, which are huge by comparison, and the trucks and SUVs that we're used to seeing at home. And how families can live together for much longer than what is generally the norm here. We graduate high school and we move on; in Greece, homes are regularly renovated with floors added to accommodate new family members - husbands, wives and children."

Thomas Wildman, also in Grade 11, agrees, sharing his particular interest in learning more about the country's beef production from a local they met along the way. "Everyone was friendly and interested in talking with us. I wasn't able to actually find out from this man where they get their beef, but it was a great conversation and we learned more about their way of life and their agriculture, which is limited, but includes olives and fishing. We saw maybe three dairy cows our whole time there."

Werenka adds with a chuckle, "We shared pics of cougars, bison and moose, just general wildlife from our province and our tour director seriously asked, "How are you guys not dead?"

For Grade 10 student, Avara Taralson Schaupmeyer, the trip ignited a confidence and comfort in taking chances and not missing out on experiences:

"I realized that, as a person, you can connect with anyone. I met this woman from Israel and we just started talking. You get out there and realize how much bigger the world is beyond Mayerthorpe, or Alberta, or Canada and that we can talk, connect with people from other countries, work and/or pursue our dreams, abroad."

Avara took one of those chances when she was offered the opportunity to do something on stage at the Epidaurus Theatre. "I just figured, this will be the only time, ever, I have this chance. I have to do it." Drawing on her Drama and Choral Speaking experience, she recited a poem in the ancient ampitheatre with its awe-inspiring acoustics. 

"Many of the kids who came on the trip hadn't been on a plane, or a ferry, or to the ocean," said Ms. Lundstrom. "To give them the opportunity to see another part of the world, meet and socialize with people from another country, experience the culture and the food, its just an incredibly empowering experience for them, and one that I hope gives them confidence to take more chances and pursue more opportunities in the future." 

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