Sandy looks back at our school visits around the globe as we travel to raise geography awareness.
One of the most rewarding experiences of our 424-day journey has been meeting with students and visiting schools as we have traveled around the world. It is such a thrill for us to talk about our expedition, the importance of geography and to learn more about students. With our inflatable globe in hand, we spoke at 16 schools located in American Samoa, Thailand, Laos, Nepal, Latvia, Serbia, Kenya and Ethiopia. Unfortunately, summer vacations in Australia and South America precluded us from speaking at schools in those areas.
What was it like to visit these schools and meet their students? Learn about each visit below and take a more in depth look by clicking on any of the video links.
Pacific Horizons School – American Samoa
Our first stop in Oceania, in February 2012, was in American Samoa, which is a territory of the United States. We arranged our first student visit at the Pacific Horizons School. We were honored to have the opportunity to speak to these students about our journey, answer questions that they had and learn more about them. For example, we discovered that some of the sports that they like to play include cricket and rugby!
Varee International School – Thailand
In April, while in Chiang Mai, Thailand, we visited an international school. The students spoke some English so we did not need an interpreter.
We were able to present with PowerPoint, which allowed us to show the students some of the pictures and video that we had already taken on our journey to date. The students were enthusiastic and friendly and we were even invited to have lunch in the cafeteria after the presentation with some of the school’s teachers. It was interesting to learn more about education in Thailand while eating lunch with them.
Schools in the Phongsali area – Laos
Later in April, our trek was shortened in Laos because of bad weather. We instead spoke about our journey at the school in the village where we had hiked to and spent the night. The school was a bamboo building, open on the sides, with a dirt floor. Inside were a few tables and a chalkboard. We used our inflatable globe while speaking, as our guide Sang translated. When Sang saw the positive reaction of the students and the teacher to our talk, he suggested that we spend the day visiting other schools in the area.
Sang arranged motorbikes to transport us to several other remote villages and we visited four more schools, plus an English class at the Chommeuang Complete Secondary School in the town of Phongsali. All the teachers and students enjoyed hearing about our journey and learning more about geography. While speaking to the students we discovered how they love art and to play basketball and volleyball.
Kunga Boarding School and Great Compassion Boarding School – Nepal
While trekking in the former kingdom of Lo / Mustang in Nepal for 12 days in May, we took time out to visit two schools along the way. In the village of Gheling, we spoke at the Kunga Boarding School, where 23 boys and 17 girls live and study during the week. The students were enthusiastic and crowded around us even before we spoke to look at our inflatable globe. We were amazed at their knowledge of the location of places around the world.
We reached Lo Manthang, the largest town in the Mustang area, after six days of trekking. There, we visited the Great Compassion Boarding School and used an English to Tibetan translator. The students ranged in age from 10 to 14 and introduced themselves before we spoke. They gasped when they heard how many other students were following our journey; you can hear it in the video below.
Mustangs’s monarchy was dissolved by Nepal in 2008, but the former king still lives in the palace in Lo Manthang and is recognized by many Mustang residents in a symbolic role. We were honored to have a private audience with him. He speaks Tibetan, so we needed to use two translators (English to Nepali, Nepali to Tibetan). The former king expressed support for our journey and asked that we pass along the need for qualified teachers to come to Mustang to teach!
Skrivanek Language Solutions English Day Camp – Latvia
Since we were in Latvia in mid-July, we felt fortunate to be able to arrange a presentation at a summer school. We especially enjoyed our time at the Skrivanek Language Solutions English Day Camp, where we spoke to a class of 2nd to 4th year students about our journey and its geography emphasis. Since their English was limited we showed pictures from our journey and relied on their teacher (who was from Australia) to do some translation. They were studying Australian animals so we showed them some video we had taken of the Tasmanian devil. It was a hit!
We learned that these students rank English, math and social studies as their favorite subjects. They like playing tennis and handball and swimming in the nearby Baltic Sea. As we were leaving, they even sang two English songs for us. We so appreciated the opportunity to get to better know these young Latvian students.
International School of Belgrade – Serbia
By the time we reached Belgrade, Serbia, in mid-September, school was back in session. We spoke at the International School of Belgrade and, as these students had a good understanding of English, no translator was needed. Using PowerPoint and a projector allowed us to show them some of our journey sights and sounds and help them learn more about the countries we had visited.
Being an international school, there were students from many different countries. They were excited when they heard that we had been to their country or were planning to visit it later in the trip.
Kikurrukur School, Ntepes Primary School and Wamba CCN Primary School – Kenya
While in Kenya we visited three schools. The first was in the Maasai Mara area of the country while we were trekking. This school had several classes of five to seven year olds. We brought our inflatable globe and spoke to two classrooms, with our guide Kisea interpreting our presentation into the Maasai (Maa) language.
Ten days later, we spoke to older students (12 to 14 year old) at two schools in the Samburu region town of Wamba.We had some of our most lively exchanges with students there, who spoke excellent English. It was mid-October, and only about two weeks before our presidential election. The students had many questions about the campaign, how government was structured in the United States and how schools worked there. We could have answered questions all day but the students needed to get back to their studies so we finally had to cut our time off there.
One of our biggest thrills of all the education-related visits that we made during our travels was our interview in Nairobi with the Minister of Education of Kenya, Honorable Mutula Kilonzo, MP. The Minister was a gracious man and covered a range of topics, including the importance of education, the near-term and future goals for education in Kenya and some of the challenges facing this African country.
Chenek School, Simien Mountains – Ethiopia
Our final school visit took place in November at the end of our Simien Mountains trek in Ethiopia. This school was one of the most remote we traveled to, as we were already deep in the national park and then had to walk several more miles, crossing two streams, to finally reach it. When we arrived, the students were all outside and rushed over to meet us. They shook our hands as we walked by them, which was an amazing experience for us. Several students showed off their school books.
The school was built by a German NGO and has just a few basic classrooms. So we took the opportunity to speak outside to the entire student body of about 140 students. Our guide Birhan translated while we used our inflatable globe to tell them about geography and our journey.
We have just a few weeks left in our global expedition to raise geography awareness. When we arrive back in Southern California, we want to visit as many schools as possible to tell students about our journey and the importance of geography. We have a 45 minute to one hour multimedia presentation that can be presented on-site at schools in our local area or be scheduled as a webcast for others not in the Southern California region.
If you are interested in learning more about our free presentation, contact us at Info@TrekkingthePlanet.com.