Thirteen Locust Valley High School students had an immersive learning experience during a trip to Prague that turned their spring break into an experience they will never forget. The students attended a Board of Education meeting to share their experiences and each one stated that they learned more in the week than they ever imagined they could. They thanked high school principal Dr. Kieran J. McGuire who chaperoned the trip.
Dr. McGuire said the purpose of the trip was to promote the goals of the experience, which were to educate, challenge and inspire students through the IB CAS model of Creativity, Action and Service. The Locust Valley students joined a group of 130 students from all over the world, including Bahrain, Brazil, Indiana, Jordan, Rwanda and Singapore.
Working with these other high school travelers, the Locust Valley students participated in activities that enhanced their critical thinking, creativity and teamwork skills. Building chairs during a sustainable design workshop resulted in one of their designs being chosen for use in an actual Prague kindergarten class.
Cooking for the homeless, selling magazines to raise funds for the homeless and working at an organic farm were among the ways in which the group gave back and left their mark on the city. They also went on street art tours, visited a concentration camp and learned about Nazi propaganda regarding the ghetto town and concentration camp of Theresienstadt in Terezin. They attended a classical concert in an ancient church and visited all of the major tourist attractions, including the Charles Bridge, the Jewish Quarter, Old Town Square and Prague Castle.
Dr. McGuire said the students learned an enormous amount of history from late medieval times through the present, including the Holy Roman Empire, the Black Death, the Hussite religious wars, the Protestant Reformation and Catholic Counter-Reformation, World Wars I and II, the Iron Curtain and the fall of communism, and modern Europe. He said the experience of learning about things they were actually seeing was exciting for them and helped them to realize that there are many ways to learn.
Another benefit of the trip that Dr. McGuire described was the relationships the students formed. Many of them were not yet friends prior to the trip. They may have known each other, but not known much about each other. “We had a variety of personalities traveling together and the group bonded, respected each other’s differences and learned from one another.” He added that most days, they walked 10 miles and all were glad to do so.