ENCINITAS — In late April, a group of students and faculty members from The Grauer School took an eight-day, educational expedition to Cuba where they toured the cities of Havana and Trinidad, with side trips to remote villages.
The trip was part of the school’s Expeditionary Learning model, implemented to broaden students’ education.
Assisted by Cuban guide Abel Garcia, the tour included immersions into three Cuban schools, including a school for teenagers with chronic medical conditions; a state-owned research garden; an art museum founded in 1913; a coral reef for snorkeling with a marine biologist; and a visit to the residence of a Sundance Film Festival producer for a private viewing of a Sundance film. In addition to cultural experiences, The Grauer School students interacted with Cuban students in a variety of activities including playing Cuba’s national sport, baseball, participating in a musical performance, and taking showers in the rain due to a lack of tap water.
The Grauer School Counselor Patricia Shemwell traveled with the students and observed, “This trip for the students entailed a broad sensory experience; there was music on every corner, oxen plowing fields and bicycle riders carting sugar cane or bananas. Our students gained an appreciation for a culture that appeared to be in a time warp, a novelty in comparison to their customary daily lives in Southern California. This broadened their perspective.”
Expeditionary learning provides students the opportunity to engage in meaningful life experiences with international students on a global level. Shemwell said, “When we visited the school specifically designed to help children cope with illnesses such as asthma and diabetes, our students rallied to help load oxygen tanks onto a bus for a field trip to the beach and, once there, engaged the students in sports activities and card games despite not being able to speak their language; compassion seemed to transcend verbal communication. We also learned how music is capable of bridging the verbal communication gap. During a concert by a children’s guitar group in Havana (Vocal Clave de Sol de Cuba), several of our students played songs on borrowed guitars and a broken keyboard. Our students gained so much by learning how little Cuban students have but how resourceful they are in doing so much with it. These once-in-a lifetime experiences transcend borders and enhance the value of a Grauer School education.”