An Independent School • Grades 5-12
Taking classrooms to an Andean weaving village and a Central American organic farm
Taking classrooms to an Andean weaving village and a Central American organic farm

by Charlotte Blessing, director of global education

In the last weekend of March, 30 Lakeside students will travel to Peru and Costa Rica for a new kind of GSL experience. The three-week global trips are an integral part of two school-year academic courses that integrate academic theory and real-world practice. Students will use what they've learned throughout the year to engage in meaningful service work and apply their academic knowledge to real issues in the communities.

The science elective Advanced Ecological Studies: GSL Costa Rica, taught by David Joneschild '90, uses the mountains and surrounding cloud forest of Central America as an extension of the Lakeside classroom. Students will live with local families and work on service projects with three different sustainable living organizations. This is the second time we have offered this class: Joneschild, who has led many student trips abroad, took a group of seniors during the 2015-2016 school year. Students loved their time in the rural village and many expressed that it was one of the highlights of their senior year.

Based on the success of that pilot year, we continued developing yearlong academic courses with GSL components. This year, Meg Johnson's section of the 10th-grade history course, The Modern World and You, will use the Peruvian highlands as its learning context. Students' service work will focus on connecting Andean women and their crafts with global markets. The nonprofit with which they'll be working, Awamaki, was founded by a Lakeside alumna, Kennedy Leavens '02. Leavens, who was one of the first Lakeside students to participate in a GSL Peru trip, came to meet with the sophomores earlier this year and she looks forward to hosting them in a place that is like a second home to her. 

Not all students are able to participate in a summer GSL trip and for those students, the academic courses with GSL provide an opportunity to stretch out of their comfort zones, speak a different language, and learn in a new environment and context. My hope is that, one day, all graduating students will walk across the stage with a GSL experience on their transcript.  

Lakeside places high value on preparing students to participate in a dynamic, globally connected world.  Effective participation requires practice – which is what students gain on a GSL trip. They will need to solve problems, often applying their foreign language skills. They will need to unpack myths and misinformation about the new culture, and they'll work with community members whose world views might present very different perspectives. 

Lakeside students are curious about the world and their place in it. Next year, they can choose from three academic courses with GSL components. In addition to the two above, a third course was offered: Resistance, Empowerment, and Identity: GSL Nicaragua. Sign-ups exceeded expectations, an indicator that students are looking for challenging, innovative, and different learning opportunities. 

Keep an eye out for blogs from students as they reflect on their experiences while abroad! 

Charlotte Blessing is director of global education. You can reach her at