Summer of Learning in the World

 In Blog, Featured, Learning in the World

Carmen Ecuador 2015 Headshotby Carmen Muñoz Fernández
Instructor in Spanish, Tang Fellow and Global Coordinator

Summer is finally here! The Learning in the World (LitW) team and the Tang Institute are buzzing with excitement. Not because of vacation time, but because summer finally brings our much-anticipated LitW programs. After the school year ends—while students reunite with families, dorms and classrooms empty out, and the PA community starts to disperse for the summer—the tremendous work and planning of our LitW program teams turn into action (off-campus, that is). Curricula have been carefully developed; packing lists are double-checked; plane tickets, passports, and IDs are in hand. Our faculty and students embark on exciting experiences – that can amaze, move, and challenge them in transformative ways.

During the 2014–2015 academic year, 240 Phillips Academy students will have participated in a Learning in the World program. This summer alone, 23 faculty members and more than 140 students are traveling in 11 countries, across 19 different locations!

Most of our programs are conceptualized, created, and executed by PA faculty. Their process starts at least a year in advance, often with a scouting trip to the desired location–for research and exploration, to vet the accommodations and transportation, and also to establish connections with local schools, programs, NGOs, and other potential partners. We refer to these experiences as programs, rather than “trips,” since they function as “traveling classrooms.” Our faculty leaders carefully prepare our students before, during, and after their experience. In advance of being in the field, we go through a series of discussions, lectures, activities, and assessments to ensure that students are fully ready for their experience. During travel, we guide them to safely explore, engage, and build local relationships; and finally, when they return, we provide them with opportunities to reflect upon their experiences, to tie them to our curriculum, and to share them with the PA community.

Part 1:
American South, New Mexico, Russia, Peru, France, Berlin

June is our most active month. The summer season kicked off on June 8, and soon after, colorful notes, photos, and descriptions started coming in from the field. View a compilation of the many exciting Tweets from our programs at #TangLITW and our Notes from the Field on the Tang Institute’s blog. Also, please check in later in the summer for our Part 2 update!

Following is a summary of programs that have been completed thus far, with links to additional information from program leaders:

American South: Civil Rights Movement Immersion Program


A highlight of the American Civil Rights Immersion program was a visit to Sunflower, MS, to work with students attending the Sunflower Freedom Project.

One of the first programs to launch, the American Civil Rights Immersion Program, shared reflections about their powerful “road trip” through the Civil Rights Movement in a poignant Notes from the Field blog post. Judy Wombwell, the Program Leader, her colleagues Allen Grimm and Damany Fisher, as well as the participant students reflected on this physical and emotional journey which took them through Atlanta, Birmingham, Memphis, the Mississippi Delta and numerous other areas. They powerfully connected the past with current events to discuss a variety of themes like social justice and social change, human rights, race, poverty, and education. On the way, they met with PA alums and they worked with students attending the Sunflower Freedom Project in Sunflower, MS. As Judy mentions in her post, students “participated in the drama classes, played theater games and shared pieces from the Facing Our Truths and Hands Up.” They connected with middle-schoolers, hosted deep discussions in a hotel room, walked in the footsteps of those who fought for social change—which created a strong bond between them and much to reflect on and share with the wider PA community.

Pecos Pathways in New Mexico

San Diego mesa hike

Students hike the San Diego mesa.

Another group of students, along with their leader, Lindsay Randall, and chaperone, Liza Oldham, ventured to New Mexico to start the Pecos Pathways program. Since 1998 the Robert S. Peabody Museum has been partnering with the Pueblo of Jemez, NM, and Pecos National Historic Park (PNHP) to bring our two cultures together. In this unique opportunity, PA students are able to travel, live, discuss, and work together on archaeological sites during the day, and then spend the night with host families from the Jemez communities. While at Pecos, our students are shown the Peabody Museum’s collection of artifacts that are currently hosted at the Park. In the last week of the program, both our PA students and the students from the Pueblo of Jemez come back to New England, where they learn about Native American tribes in New England; they even get to excavate an archaeological site at the Mashantucket reservation! Some of the updates from the field we received from Pecos Pathways came from a very special member of the Pecos team named ChuBs. ChuBs, is a delightful little beaver that loves to take selfies of himself helping our students. He has his own Facebook page, where he posts things like: “While out hiking to a site, I found this 6000 year old projectile point. Everyone was impressed by my detective skills.” You can see why ChuBs has such a faithful fan club!

Russian Language Immersion Program

Students learning about fantasy worlds and the artists who create them.

We were so excited to receive Tweets from program leader Victor Svec from places like Kizhi, Petrozavodsk, St. Petersburg, and Peterhof. His thoughtful descriptions of the experience are captured in his detailed Notes from the Field blog post, which is well worth a read. Victor, who has been leading this program for more than 30 years, has an impressive record and deep experience with Russian culture, which he shares with students. Students spend three weeks immersed in Russian language, taking classes, living with host families, and traveling to diverse cities. This summer, they were able to connect with Andover alums who took Russian at PA. Their four hours per day of Russian language instruction were taught by local teachers. Students had many other opportunities to immerse in the Russian language and culture, like going with our beloved Kassie Archambault to the opera to see The Barber of Seville, to explore the city, or even to learn Russian food by having a picnic. It was hard for our students to say goodbye to their host families and return home, even if it was on such a historical day… the 4th of July!

HUACA Project in Peru


Taking part in a cultural exchange with Q’eros Nation.

Mark Cutler from the Spanish Department and Donny Slater from History and Social Sciences led a group of students on an amazing archaeological, linguistic, and cultural exploration of Peru, with help from Yasmine Allen from the Spanish Department. Few people can say that they have walked the Inca Trail finishing in Machu Picchu – but our students get to do that through the HUACA Project (Human Understanding through Archaeology and Cultural Awareness)! The group traveled from Lima to iconic places like Chavín de Huántar and an archaeological site 10,0000 feet above sea level; to Chankillo, an ancient site right on the coastal desert; and to colonial towns like Cusco in the Sacred Valley. Students have used words like “vibrant,” “active,” and “vivacious” to describe their surroundings, and parents and friends have been following their steps through the HUACA Project’s Facebook page. One of the students’ favorite experiences was a cultural exchange with the Q’eros nation, considered to be the last Incan community of Peru, and featured in the photo above. From there, they started their trek through the Inca trail, carrying their possessions with them, camping along the way. Donny’s picture of the night sky at 12,500’ elevation makes us dream about camping in such a powerful and sacred land.

Piette Program


Students take notes as they experience Monet’s water lilies at the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris.

Moments in the field can create a strong bond between faculty and students, which is just what happened during the Piette Program—where they call themselves, “The Fam” (and they even designed a family tree!). You can read the Piette blog or view photos on Instagram, pietteprogram, or on Twitter @piette_program. Updates feature students walking through the World War II American Cemetery and visiting the Louvre, Normandy Beach, the medieval town of Sarlat, and the impressive building and gardens of Chenonceau Renaissance Castle. Students, together with Claire Gallou, the program leader, as well as Debra Pickering, Instructor in French, and Ryan Wheeler, Director of the Peabody Museum, take us through a virtual tour of the program through their written reflections. History, art, archaeology, Paris, Normandy, food, Louvre, and learning are words that stand out in their word cloud. One of the students, Skyler Sallick, summed up the experience: “There simply is no way of grasping the depth of our past from reading history books and having discussions. This kind of understanding and knowledge about our history is something that can only be gained from physically being within the same walls where so much of our history was created and staring at the same ceiling our great historical figures once had.”

Berlin, History, Culture and Language Week

Berlin Wall

Students at the Berlin Wall.

History, culture, and language are themes that are also present in the Berlin Program. Designed as part of the interdisciplinary course, “Berlin: From Imperial Capital to Weltstadt,” this week in Berlin offers students the opportunity to experience, first-hand, Germany’s rich history, while also polishing their language skills. Lisa Svec and Ben Duclos, Instructors of German, together with Mary Mulligan, Instructor of History, designed, taught, and led this thrilling week. They also led the exploration of the city… by bike! Their Notes from the Field: Berlin are filled with pictures of students and faculty members strolling along with their bikes and stopping on the way to take pictures with Marx and Engels or in places like the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe or the Museum at Checkpoint Charlie to learn about the Berlin Wall, among many other locations. A highlight of the trip was a visit to the U.S. Embassy, and a meeting with current Ambassador John Emerson, thanks to the generous help of Tammy Murphy ’83 and husband Phil Murphy, former ambassador to Berlin. What an incredible time the students had walking and biking for miles, ordering food in German, having deep discussions about the Holocaust, and feeling and processing Berlin’s history and language together!

Recommended Posts

Leave a Comment