If the French students get to take a field trip to Canada, why don’t Spanish students go on any field trips? Spanish teacher Ashley Warren, continuously confronted by her students about this issue, decided to take matters into her own hands. “I think my kids had always asked, ‘Can we go on a field trip? Can we go on a field trip?’ but it’s like, when do I take kids on a Spanish field trip? How do I make Spanish authentic for them and take them on a meaningful field trip?” Warren said. Instead, independently of the school, she looked into an organization—EF tours— with which she had traveled when she went on a high school trip to Italy, and she started organizing the students’ journey to Spain.
Traveling to four different cities, the students truly had an adventure in Spain, visiting the royal palace, taking a gondola ride to Madrid, and going to the beach at Barcelona. More than the sights, however, the students were awed by the rich culture of Spain. “The trip taught me a lot in terms of learning new cultures and having an appreciation not just for the Spanish culture, but for foreign cultures as a whole; physically going to a new country and learning about it was a much richer way of learning to me than simply reading from a textbook,” junior Amar Desai said.
For Warren, this was an enlightening moment of seeing her teaching pay off in the real world. “It’s the best feeling ever; you try to teach them so much, and you release them out into the world. You give them a map and you say ‘Meet back here at this time,’ and you watch them ask for directions. As a teacher it feels like…what we teach really works!” The extensive application of the students’ knowledge of culture and language in Spain reflects the strength of the world languages department’s instruction.
Despite this success, however, there were still challenges. Because a large portion of North’s student body has diet limitations, such as being vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free, eating was a difficult process to maneuver. “They don’t necessarily understand all of [these limitations] in Spain, like ‘Oh, you’re vegetarian, I’ll give you chicken!’ But no, not every vegetarian eats chicken, so that was definitely a challenge,” Warren said.
Persevering through the difficulties of managing 34 high schoolers, Warren has created an unforgettable learning experience for her students. “It’s really good exposure to different cultures and learning how to conduct yourself…it may cost a lot, but the experience is priceless and if I could I would do it all over again,” junior Apoorva Balaji said.
Warren is organizing a trip to the Galapagos Islands this August, where she and her students will spend half the trip volunteering in the Ecuador mountains. Carrying over her ever-present hope to open students’ eyes to new cultures, she is ready to foster a passion for traveling abroad and learning in the Spanish students. It may take a year of arduous planning and coordination for Warren, but the hard work is just a tiny price to pay for her students. “It was crazy,” Warren said, “but I would do it again in a heartbeat.”