Article by James Gussis, Upper School Latin Teacher
Photos by Michael McGovern, Upper School English Teacher
A few days after commencement, 21 eighth grade Latin students, as well as Mr. McGovern, Mrs. Rosenberg, Miss Fowler, and I, departed for a 10 day trip to Italy. Upon return, I found myself feeling reinvigorated before I started summer vacation, energized by the quality educational experience the students had just enjoyed. Here are a few of the highlights that I think were impactful for the students and affirm why a trip of this sort is the perfect stimulant for academic and personal growth:
The Foundation of Venice: The city’s beginning is a prime example for the students of two touted Mission Skills: resilience and creativity. Northern Italians in 421 AD in the path of constant barbarian invasions came up with a fantastic solution: build a city on the outer reaches of the coast in a lagoon. This location would become Venice’s greatest asset, as it became a powerful and wealthy trading city. Its watery uniqueness also continues to make it one of the most famous cities in the world. In addition, the city provides a great visual example of the beauty of multiculturalism. Influenced by both Europe and Asia, the buildings are largely built in an Italo-Byzantine architecture, with Saint Mark’s Basilica being the most notable and striking example.
Michelangelo: His paintings in the Sistine Chapel and his statues, the one of David in particular, sparked an appreciation of art for the students and prompted a lot of spontaneous “Oh my God!”s. My favorite student quote which capsulized it all was “I usually don’t pay attention in museums, but that was pretty cool.”
The Ingress into the Colosseum: We were able to gain access to a special entrance into the Colosseum, which, separate from all of the crowds, had us going through a dark tunnel, then ultimately stepping into the bright sunlight of the arena. Standing on the floor and looking at the mass and height of the stadium around us, it was easy to visual a gladiator doing the same thing. This brought the students’ past education of the Colosseum to life.
Making Pizza: Students gained an appreciation for a favorite food by making it practically from scratch at a cooking school. There was wonder and pride as they nurtured a pile of flour into pizza dough. While they did not make the sauce and cheese from scratch, they watched a demonstration of how mozzarella is made while their dough was setting. With a striking sunset over the Bay of Naples as they ate the fruits of their labor, many students proclaimed that this was their favorite dinner of the trip.
Gennarino Alberino: This guy is history. He is the 81 year old owner of Capri Whales Boat Charters. He has been taking our group around Capri for the last eight years. Before starting his company, he was a maritime archeologist, discovering some of the Roman artifacts from the Blue Grotto. He also dove for a period of time on Jacques Cousteau’s crew. He traces his family roots to Capri back hundreds of years. He is a legend around the Island, and his stories are amazing.
Beyond all of the educational experiences, there are opportunities for personal growth. Without the presence of parents on the trip, the students take an active role in daily activities, such as going into restaurants in smaller groups and ordering lunch on their own, using ATMs, and bargaining with merchants. Coupled with the fact they are in a foreign country, this leads to a greater sense of independence and breeds confidence. Lastly, for some students who will be going to different schools next year, this trip provides a final shared time with some of their classmates and teachers, and it is a great culmination to their GCDS experience.