Middle School News & Stories
Staying with host families, gathering research for presentations and visiting schools? Not your typical Spring Break activities. But then, these aren’t your average Spring Break vacations.
Over the next two and a half weeks, four groups of students will spread across three continents. Accompanied by Riverdale faculty chaperones, they’re taking part in exchange trips to Spain, France and China, with an additional outdoor leadership trip to Patagonia.
Middle and Upper School Language Teachers Lu Li and Mung Lusardi have taken a group of 14 freshmen and sophomores to China. The students, all enrolled in Chinese I to Chinese III at RCS, will spend five days in Suzhou. There, they’ll stay with host families from Suzhou No. 6 School, an academically strong school that specializes in art education. The group will also spend a few days in Shanghai and Beijing, traveling, visiting schools, and volunteering. Li and Lusardi have also asked the students to focus on a certain research theme on which they can present when they return to Riverdale. Think topics like architecture, dialects, and Western influence.
“We’re hoping they’ll experience the real, modern China first handedly, to interact with the locals, to get to know their host families and keep long-lasting friendships with them,” says Li. “We also hope that they find the aspects about China that fascinate them and motivate them to keep studying the language.”
Meanwhile, nearly 6,000 miles away, a group of Middle Schoolers (along with their chaperones History Teacher Will Bellaimey and Global Studies Coordinator and Language Teacher Susan Polise) is settling in with its host families in Spain. While there, they’ll visit the Lourdes School in Valladolid, go on an excursion to Salamanca (featuring one of the most famous Plazas in Spain) and visit Segovia to see the famous Roman Aqueduct and el Alcázar. And they’ll learn how to prepare a three-course meal of both traditional and contemporary Spanish dishes.
In a different Spanish-speaking part of the world, Director of Outdoor Programming Marshall Nicoloff is leading a group of Riverdalians on an excursion throughout Patagonia. Beginning with a 40.8 mile trek throughout the Aviles Valley, Nicoloff and the students will spend the next two weeks putting their hiking, camping and wilderness preparedness skills to the test. They’ll wrap up with a day hike along the Lagunas Atlas Loop and a celebratory dinner in Coyhaique, Chile.
Under the guidance of Community Engagement and Global Studies Coordinator Antoinette Quarshie and Middle and Upper School Art Teacher Nicky Enright, a group of 16 Middle Schoolers are spending their Spring Break in Bordeaux and Paris. Paired up with families from Saint-Genès School the students will take a guided tour to Saint Emilion, take a day trip to Arachon (complete with a climb of the Dune du Pyla) and make daily visits to Saint-Genès. And what’s a visit to France without learning how to make macarons?
“We hope the kids will have a great time traveling alongside locals instead of tourists and develop their French expertise,” says Enright. “And who knows? Maybe [build] some cross-border, lifelong friendships.”