Last year's trip to Costa Rica showed us that education can, and should, be a life-altering experience. This year, a largely new group of students, have decided to learn about and travel to Puerto Rico. With this new topic and destination in mind, we have developed a year-long interdisciplinary class that is based on the same three core principles:

1) Travel to expand students' horizons
2) An explicit connection between the classroom and real world
3) The use of sweat equity for students to see that their efforts can make a difference

During the early fall, the curriculum was largely focused on developing the 21st Century Skills of problem solving, critical thinking, decision-making, and collaboration. This was initially done using group challenges in the classroom, but then became vitally important once we started raking lawns. In addition to being our major fundraiser, this hard work put students in positions that required group problem solving, as well as perseverance and responsibility – traits that we all know are central to changing the trajectory of their lives.

During the winter and spring, each student will be developing an independent research project on a chosen aspect of Puerto Rico.
We hope that you will keep checking back as we share our learning, growth and adventures.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Our Day in Old San Juan

Hannah’s Blog Post
Thursday, May 25, 2012
Today was a full day.  First, we took an extensive tour of Old San Juan. 

My visit in Old San Juan truly was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  I have never seen such a bright and colorful city with buildings so exquisite in nature.  They varied in rainbow colors, like reds, blues, teals, purples, yellows, and pinks.  The architecture was fantastic, as well.  I was totally taken aback by the magnificence of the Spanish architecture.  The entire time, I found myself continually wondering: “How is it I have never seen the beauty in architecture before?”  I have seen pictures before, after all.  The only answer I could come up with is that such a glorious sight could never be properly captured on film.  Although that didn’t stop me from trying.  I doubt very much if the pictures I took—and I took A LOT— will do the city justice.  In addition to our tour of Old San Juan, we also got to explore several forts that were built by the Spaniards in the early 1500s.  They were very cool, and their location (Oceanside) added to their regality.  As strange as it sounds, my favorite part of the forts was seeing the old graveyard.  Odd, I know.  But I have never seen anything quite like it.  The graveyard was not open to public at that time, but I got some fabulous aerial views.  I find it difficult to explain how wonderfully different that graveyard is from the ones back home.  First of all, it is literally right on the ocean.  The gorgeous Oceanside view made me (a little) jealous of the people buried there.  It was a real old-fashioned graveyard—like the kind you see in books and movies.  The Catholic and Spanish influence was very prominent, and each grave/tombstone exerted a regal quality, like someone of extraordinary importance was buried there.  Most of the tombs were white marble and had some sort of statue or cross at the base.  Also keeping with Puerto Rican theme, a lot of the tombs had flowers planted or placed next to or on them.  Unlike the cemeteries back home, however, these flowers were colorful, bright and cheerful.   Again, unlike our customs back home where we place flowers as way of mourning the loss of our loved ones, these flowers are more symbolic of celebrating, or commemorating, someone’s life, rather than mourning their death.  The color scheme is very similar to that of their buildings: Bright, bold colors with exotic qualities.  When you combine each of these “ingredients” that make Old San Juan, you have one of the brightest, most colorfully extravagant cities in the world.  

The rainbow buildings + the Spanish architectural styles + the mix of traditional and contemporary styles + the baby blue skies + the fluffy white clouds + the teal ocean + the surrounding green trees + the colorful plants + the cobblestone roads + the cast-iron doors + the birds and wildlife + the people who call it their home = OLD SAN JUAN (Viejo San Juan)

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