Tag Archives: project week

My Project Week Trip to Andros Island

By Abbey Haynes ’20

Editor’s Note: A key part of Morgan Park Academy’s global curriculum is a week of school-wide global explorations each March, which this year included an Upper School trip to study the ecology and culture of Andros Island in the Bahamas.

When you think of the Bahamas, you usually picture gorgeous beaches, palm trees, tourists, and endless sun. Our Project Week trip to Andros Island was all of that and so much more — except for the tourists!

While the capital of Nassau is known for its populated areas, Andros, the largest of the islands, is acclaimed for its friendly residents and an abundance of nature available for scientific research and exploration.

[See more photos and videos from this trip or check out stories and photos from other Global Week trips.]

Continue reading

Project Week 2017 – La Pura Vida in Costa Rica

“Pura Vida” is a common expression I often heard the people of Costa Rica say to one another during one of my visits to this beautiful country.  I asked several Costa Rican people what “Pura Vida” meant and  what I surmised from many responses and my own experiences I will disclose at the end of this blog.

Private School Chicago Morgan Park Academy

The MPA trip to Costa Rica provides a good balance to learn about the language, cultural, ecological, and environmental systems of this peaceful country.

Some experiences that students will have include having Spanish lessons taught by native instructors in traditional Costa Rican structures that are located outdoors.  These outdoor “classrooms” will immerse students in the sounds, sights and aromas of nature during their Spanish language instruction.

We will also visit with and attend traditional Maleku Indigenous community celebration.  The Maleku is one of the few indigenous populations that currently exist in Costa Rica. During our unique visit we will  learn how many plants in the forest are currently used by the Maleku for daily purposes.  We may even see a Theobroma Cacao (chocolate tree) and experience a taste of chocolate in its beginning stages.

We are excited to participate in a reforestation program and learn about eco-farming.  Students will learn the impact humans have on conservation and the environment.  Students will also learn about organic farming and using resources of the earth more efficiently that will ultimately create a better environment for everyone to use.

The students will be grouped and hosted by several Costa Rican families for meals during our visit.  Students will be able to practice their Spanish and experience traditional Costa Rican daily life  during their visits.  Perhaps the students will see the tree that provided the avocado which they are eating during one of their meals just as I did.

This is just a snap shot of Costa Rica 2017.  So many more experiences are awaiting them! I hope  to see many of your children on this trip!

So now, as promised, I will tell you about “Pura Vida”.    This expression is often used as an informal greeting, to express gratitude and it can also refer to someone who is nice and friendly.  “Pura Vida” also reflects a relaxed simple lifestyle and being happy.  This is another example of what your child will learn  while they experience Costa Rica…”Pura Vida”

-Señora Ortiz

Gloria Ortiz is a Spanish Teacher at Morgan Park Academy, a Chicago Private School.

Chicago Private School - Morgan Park Academy

Why We Travel: Director of Global Leaders Program Monica Pickett Discusses the Importance of Travel

My friends often marvel at the fact that we take teenagers overseas every year for Project Week, which is one of our signature programs in the Upper School. Project Week forms a part of our greater Global Studies program at the Academy. Common remarks are, “Wow, you’re so lucky that you get a free vacation!” or “That’s super cool that you get to travel with your students!” I always chuckle in response to these comments because any of the faculty members at MPA that have led trips abroad can tell you that taking twelve plus teenagers overseas is as far away from a vacation as one can get. If anything, this is when we do some of our hardest work, and we are put to the test as educators, professionals, and quite frankly, as human beings.  In an instant we become a parent, confidant, therapist, paramedic, customs agent, mediator, interpreter, comedian, negotiator, protector, and travel guide, just to name a few roles that we might take on during our time away. Although traveling overseas with our students can be some of the hardest and grueling work that we will ever do in our careers as educators, it also ranks high as some of the most rewarding work that we will ever do in our lives.

monica pickettThe reason why we travel is because if we are really going to prepare our students with 21st century skills, it is imperative that a part of that preparation be experiential in nature and involves getting our students out into the world. Maria Montessori and John Dewey were huge advocates of experiential learning and education. According to them, children should be educated through their experiences, and as a school that takes global education seriously, we would not be doing our part if we did not provide international experiences to our students. The world is becoming smaller every day, thanks in part to advancements in technology and communication, and the breakdown of political and religious barriers. Our students have to become adept at dealing with people from all over the world in order to have a competitive edge, but more importantly to become empathetic and knowledgeable of different cultures, languages, and ideas.

The classroom is where we begin to present, exchange, discuss, and contemplate knowledge. However, the world is where we take everything that we have learned in the classroom, and we then begin to put things into perspective. When we travel with our students overseas, there is a level of learning that we witness in them that is different from what we see from them in the classroom. It is a literal awakening. When our students participate in homestays, service projects, or academic endeavors abroad, they begin to see themselves as part of the whole, which is something that brings the learning process full circle, and connects the classroom with the world.

Traveling challenges us, and it takes us out of our comfort zone, which forces us to be introspective and mindful. Although we observe and acknowledge geopolitical differences, we also become aware of how much we have in common as human beings. There is nothing more fulfilling than seeing your students make connections with what they have learned in the classroom with an experience overseas. Whether that means using the subjunctive correctly in French with a total stranger, or recalling a lecture from the AP Comparative Politics class about how different governments function in regards to immigration and the granting of citizenship, or visiting a small village in Nepal where your English teacher lived while a Peace Corps volunteer, all of these experiences help to give our students a deeper understanding and appreciation of the world, and of themselves. At the end of the day, our hope is that our students experience a level of growth and understanding that will help aid them in becoming the leaders that will eventually guide us deeper into the 21st century.

By Monica Pickett

Ms. Pickett teaches Upper School Spanish and is our Dean of Academics. She also is Director of the Global Leaders Program.

My Project Week Trip to India

image4

By Vincent Oganwu ’17

Editor’s Note: A key part of Morgan Park Academy’s global curriculum is a week of school-wide global explorations each March, which this year included a Project Week trip to India.

This trip to India was definitely a life-changing experience. We participated in various activities ranging from traveling past the Himalayas, to seeing the Dalai Lama, visiting the Taj Mahal, and participating in service projects.

[Read more about this trip and view our explorers’ photo gallery.]

Prior to the trip, I was anxious and a bit nervous; however, I was eager to explore, learn new things, and to interact with new people! Upon arriving in India, we quickly adjusted to the new atmosphere,people, and culture. After we deplaned, I was very excited to finally be in India, after many long hours of travel. We traveled from Chicago to Zurich, then from Zurich to New Delhi.

India is a country of rich history and culture, that has evolved over the years. The cities we visited include, Agra, Amritsar, New Delhi, and Dharamsala. In all of the cities we visited, the people I interacted with were very kind and excited to see an American tourist. By talking with the Indian civilians, I was able to get a different and more relatable view on what their lives are like.

Continue reading

My Project Week Trip to Hawaii

Chicago Private Schools

By Theo Covello ’18

Editor’s Note: A key part of Morgan Park Academy’s global curriculum is a week of school-wide global explorations each March, which this year included a Project Week trip to Hawaii.

Before this Project Week trip, I thought that beaches, beautiful scenery, and relaxation was all that Hawaii had to offer. But I learned that Hawaii has so much more within its many islands, including a wealth of science and history and some of the most interesting geography, coral reefs, and water life in the world.

On this trip, we delved into all of this and more as we explored the beautiful island of Oahu. We learned the significance of coral reefs and how many species depend on them. We swam with some of Hawaii’s well-known sea turtles and learned about their lifestyle and the threats to their survival. We hiked Diamond Head and learned about the formation of these volcanic islands.

[Read more about this trip and view our explorers’ photo gallery.]

Many of the historical sites we visited were the location of struggles for control of Hawaii. We saw where many warriors fell to their deaths in a brutal battle for Oahu. We visited the grand Iolani Palace, home to many Hawaiian monarchs, and we also learned how the United States came to annex Hawaii and end that monarchy.

Chicago Private Schools

We also explored Hawaii during World War II. On Diamond Head, bunkers that were built during the war still remained. We went to Pearl Harbor, and this was probably my favorite part, because I like to learn about the two world wars that changed the world in so many ways.

Pearl Harbor itself had multiple stories. A guide gave us a very detailed account of the attack. Our group took a ferry out to the USS Arizona memorial, and learned how she was bombed and exploded, taking over a thousand men with her. Then we went around the harbor to the USS Missouri, saw the surrender documents that ended World War II, and explored the massive battleship.

Of course, we also enjoyed the island’s beautiful beaches. But what I liked most about this trip was finding out what Hawaii truly is — how it got there in the first place, how it came to be as it is today, and how life exists and around the islands.

The trip allowed me to truthfully and fully say that Hawaii is indeed a spectacular place.


Theo is a freshman at Morgan Park Academy.

Want more from Global Week? Check out stories and photos from our other trips.

My Project Week Trip to India

justus india

By Justus Pugh ’16

Editor’s Note: A key part of Morgan Park Academy’s global curriculum is a week of school-wide global explorations each March, which this year included a Project Week trip to India.

Our experiences in India ranged from breathtaking to heartbreaking.

As soon as we landed, it felt as if we were in an entirely different world. The architecture, the people — even the air was different!

We spent time in the cities of Dharamsala, Agra, Amritsar, and New Delhi. Each city we visited was a completely different type of amazing, and I learned so many different things from every one.

[Read more about this trip and view our explorers’ photo gallery.]

Dharamsala gave us a look at the world from way up in the mountains! We got a chance to see the beauty in nature and service, and experience the culture of the Tibetan people.

india mountain

Agra was a city of beauty in history, where we toured the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort, both places of ancient and exquisite architecture.

Amritsar showed us the beauty in giving and acceptance. We observed Sikh practicioners at the illustrious Golden Temple, where they feed up to 100,000 people every day!

Lastly, the city of Delhi was where we experienced the harsh realities of the world we lived in. Poverty was everywhere, reminding us all just how fortunate we are to live comfortably in America.

india city

Venturing all over the country on trains, cars, and buses while seeing so many different aspects of the rich Indian culture was an experience unlike any other — one that can never be relived, duplicated, or replaced!


Justus is a junior at Morgan Park Academy.

Want more from Global Week? Check out stories and photos from our other trips.