Did you know that Ridgefield High School provides students who take Spanish with opportunities to travel to Central or South America where they can practice their conversational Spanish skills and personally experience the culture? Ask David Dennett, Ridgefield High School Spanish teacher. He has organized two of these student tours already—to Costa Rica and Ecuador.

The tours give students an opportunity to learn about various cultures by visiting historical sites, schools, national parks and small villages. It’s experiential learning. Dennett believes that the tours are a great way to help students gain new perspectives and build skills for the future.

Traveling to these countries increases awareness of global perspectives, fosters appreciation for different cultures, strengthens new language skills and allows students to see curriculum come to life. In addition, the tours sharpen skills like critical thinking, problem solving, communication, collaboration and competence in a global setting.

“Our first trip was Spring Break 2014 to Costa Rica,” said Dennett. “It was a tour mainly about the ecosystem of the country . . . a lot of hiking through jungles, boat tours, and canopy tours. The next trip was to Ecuador, mainly to learn about the Andean cultures of the country. We did more visiting of small communities, farms, artisan workshops, cocoa plantations, national parks and schools.”

On these trips, students had the opportunity to climb volcanoes, kayak, take pictures of wildlife, swim under waterfalls, take dance classes, participate in school festivals, take zip-line canopy tours, pet llamas, visit historic ruins, try new foods, visit public markets, and much more.

“I have seen students, who have never flown before, visit another continent and hemisphere. I have seen quiet, reserved students talk, dance, and play soccer with students from other countries, be amazed at seeing sloths, monkeys and whales, and appreciate the breathtaking views of a city from the bell tower of a cathedral,” said Dennett. “I know that these trips are making a lasting impression on students that will last a lifetime.”

“Learning extends beyond the walls of Ridgefield High School,” said Tony VanderMaas, principal. “I appreciate our Spanish teachers taking the extra effort to provide a valuable, and very memorable experience for our students.”

The trips are optional for students, and the cost is entirely up to them. Countries in Central and South America are the usual destinations, but Spain is also a possibility. Dennett’s plan is to organize a trip every other year, in the summer so as not to conflict with other school trips.

“Our next trip will be in June of 2018,” said Dennett. “I am thinking of a trip to Belize (an English-speaking country) to learn more about the Mayan civilization.”