Students travel to Belize, NYC, Cuba over spring breaks

Beyond the classroom: Students participate in research expeditions, language exchanges, musical performances during spring break

From an environmental expedition in Belize to a language + music exchange in Cuba to a choral performance at Carnegie Hall in New York City, many of our students took their learning from the classroom to the field during spring break and engaged with different cultures and communities. Read more about each trip below.

Research Expedition: Sarteneja, Belize

The Upper School Environmental + Engineering class traveled to Sarteneja, Belize on a field research expedition. The trip – which was a collaboration between the class, the Hiatt Center, Ph.D. candidate Eric Angel Ramos, and the Sarteneja Alliance for Conservation and Development in Belize – gave students the opportunity to connect with the local community and design research projects that reflected its main concerns.

“The trip opened up a connection that merged the fields of environmental research, social justice, technology, and design,” said Kim McCabe, US science teacher and the trip organizer.

Going beyond simply experimenting with interesting technologies like drones, submersibles, and hydrophones, students were immersed in the environment and got an authentic taste of life as a field biologist.

“We were doing real science in the real world to help real people,” McCabe said. “From helping to create enrichment tools for rehabilitating primates at Wildtracks to eating all of our meals at a local homestay, students got to engage with the local culture and community, and give back through service and the sharing of valuable data.”

After spending the previous term preparing by building and testing inexpensive devices, the eight students who went on the trip each focused on a different project while on the expedition. Senior Jameson Woods, who worked on The Manatee Hole project, said his favorite part of the trip was going out in the boat and setting up the cameras he and his team created.

“It was particularly exciting because not only did we get to deploy our Manatee Camera Traps, we also got to observe and take data on dolphin behavior,” he said. “We took pictures of the dolphins in an attempt to identify each one – Eric Ramos is actually using these pictures for his work with dolphins outside of the trip!”

Read more about the trip and the individual projects – and see some beautiful photos of the area – on the BVR in Belize Tumblr.

Students presented about the trip at an Upper School Meeting on April 5.


US Choral Ensembles: New York City

The Upper School Choral Ensembles visited New York City for four days over spring break, participating in workshops with The Choir of Trinity Wall Street and with cast members from the musical Dear Evan Hansen. They also sang at the historic St. Paul’s Chapel, and the trip culminated at Carnegie Hall, where students performed with more than 200 singers from across the country.

Junior Jack Duval said the trip gave him the opportunity to see music in many different forms.

“My favorite part of the trip was our improvisation workshop with an octet from the Trinity Wall Street Professional Choir,” he said. “They talked about their weekly Compline service which is entirely composed of improv music. The Choir not only told us making mistakes is a part of learning, they encouraged us to make mistakes. This taught us a lot about building confidence, which is important not only in music, but in life as well.”

Duval also said he felt that everyone they encountered – professional singers, broadway members, choral directors – really wanted to work with them.

“They didn’t treat us like kids, they treated us as professionals,” he said. “This created an environment where we could get a feel of what music is like in the real world.”


Cuban Jazz Ensemble + Advanced Spanish: Havana, Cuba

Students from the Cuban Jazz Ensemble and Advanced Spanish classes spent a week engaging in a cultural and musical exchange with Cuban students. They explored the Capitol building in Modern Havana, took a walking tour of Old Havana, visited music schools, performed at local clubs, and so much more.

Yolanda Wilcox-Gonzalez, Global History Department Head and a trip organizer, said the experience was eye-opening.

“We are always asking our students to look at multiple perspectives of issues and this trip provided me the opportunity to see Cuba through another lens,” she said. “I am aware of our country’s diplomatic relationship with Cuba, but I was able to put that aside and spend seven days having an authentic experience that exposed me to Cuba’s people, sights, and sounds.”

Junior Amy Chan said it was an amazing, vibrant trip, filled with delicious food, incredible music, and welcoming people.

We learned so much about the culture and were exposed to new things,” she said. “The food was great and it was so cool playing and performing with the ENA [National Arts School of Cuba] students. There was so much happiness and the vibe was always so positive and full of energy; everywhere felt so alive. Anywhere you went, you could always find live music.”

Senior Ryan Joy captured part of the trip in the video below.

Students will present about this trip at an All School Meeting in April.

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