Eighth graders at Browne Academy finished the year with a bang. They spent the last week of May in Costa Rica and then had a graduation ceremony a few weeks later at The George Washington Masonic National Memorial Auditorium.
They have now dispersed for the summer spending a few months of freedom before going onto T.C. Williams, Thomas Edison, Bishop O'Connell, Thomas Jefferson, Bishop Ireton, The New School, West Potomac, Paul VI, Flint Hill, Georgetown Day School, The Field School and The Madeira School.
In all, 23 students graduated; 19 of those students went to Costa Rica. They were accompanied by Eighth Grade Advisors Danielle Gerber (English Teacher) and Brian Galzerano (History and Civics Teachers), Spanish teacher Ofelia Oronoz and PE instructor David Post.
According to Mary Tobias, French teacher and advancement officer, the eighth-grade class trip is a long-standing tradition at Browne Academy. Past trips have included Paris, San Francisco and Canada.
"It is the culmination of the eighth-grade year which involves a seminar research paper and a trip connected to their studies. It is also an opportunity for the class to bond as a group prior to heading off to high school," Tobias said.
"During this trip, the class stayed in an Eco-Lodge, hiked the Rain Forest, studied different habitats (went in a bat cave), toured a volcano site, dared an exciting whitewater rafting trip in the Pacuare River and toured a coffee plantation."
"Every year Browne does a trip as a culminating event. This is the first year we went to Costa Rica and it was fantastic," Galzerano said. "We did a lot of prep work, and studied the history before we went."
Gerber's classes read Costa Rican literature before they went and wrote children's books about the rain forest.
"It was quite a trip, the students did a lot of team building," she said. "The kids had a chance to step outside their comfort zone and were able to get a feel for the culture."
All the teachers agreed that the best part of the trip was the white water rafting and Galzerano said that the coffee plantation was really neat as well.
"It's a very friendly nation," Galzerano said. "It was a good experience for the kids; they learned a lot about each other."
"THE 8TH GRADE CLASS TRIP gives our students an international context for their academic studies which includes Spanish and foreign cultures," said Mort Dukehart, Head of School.
Oronoz said, "The highlight of the trip was definitely our rafting adventure, not only because of the exercise but because of the bonding experience. We had four rafts going through the rapids of the Pacuare River. We needed to row and work together for 21 miles."
Oronoz said one of the most interesting parts of the trip was doing the canape/zipline circuit through the Rain Forest.
"You felt like you were flying. We saw the whole scenery, the whole landscape," said Oronoz, who felt that as a teacher she saw that the students quickly realized that the Spanish language was not just in the books.
"They learned that they can do things with the language," Ofelia said. Tyler Rehl gave an example of when he and other classmates tried to bargain with somebody at the market. They were thrilled when the person actually understood them. Rehl thought that all the activities were fun, except for the caving, which he said was "sketchy."
"The students noticed what they had done was worth it — not for the grade — but for raising their confidence level while communicating in the language," Ofelia said.
"They learned enough to converse," said Tyler Rehl's mother, Kathy Tresnak. "When they announced where they were going, the kids were excited to go to a place like that."
Erika Delman missed her graduation day, but participated in the Costa Rica trip. "It was a trip of a lifetime. The class really bonded on the trip. My favorite activity was the white water rafting. The instructors were very knowledgeable and good looking," she said.
Oronoz is off to Spain later this summer. This is the result of a recent award of a Spanish Cultural and Language Fellowship sponsored by The Washington Post and The Education Office of the Embassy of Spain. The purpose of this fellowship is to improve the quality of Spanish instruction in the United States. Ofelia is a native Spanish speaker who recently received her Masters of Multicultural/Multilingual Education from George Mason University. She learned about this fellowship opportunity via The Washington Post. She will attend The Spanish Language and Culture Course at The University of Granada in Spain from July 12-30. She is anxious to learn innovative teaching methods which will benefit her instruction in the classroom at Browne.