Mrs. Joan Anderson, our Secondary Chair of World Langauges, provided this wonderful overview of our recent exchange experience in Peru.
One of the principal goals of our exchange program is to increase students’ use of the target language among native speakers. Another focuses on students experiencing the real world as they interact with the environment as well as with others from another culture. The social-emotional goal brings Wheatley students together (those who do not normally socialize with each other) to strengthen their sense of community within our school.
Arriving in Cusco on Monday, students had the opportunity to experience, firsthand, the effects of altitude on the human body. They were eager to run up the stairs of the ancient Incan fortress and temple complex of Sacsayhuamán. They arrived to the upper level out of breath, remembering that they were no longer at sea level. They quickly learned that keeping hydrated helps to fight some of the effects of the lack of oxygen. During the visit to Machu Picchu, they learned how the conquistadors navigated through the jungle and mountainous terrain with heavy armor and supplies in tow. This was in addition to the history they experienced as they walked through the remains of the famous Incan city.
Our students navigated their way linguistically as some began to master the art of bargaining at the local markets in Cusco. The experience intensified as they moved into the homes of their host families on Wednesday. In most homes, the parents did not speak any English. Wheatley students gifted their hosts with exchange sweatshirts designed by Neil Shah and Mrs. Mary Martinez. Throughout the week, participants sampled a wide variety of foods, learned to dance some traditional dances and attended classes where they taught about our thirteen colonies, learned Spanish punctuation rules, sang or collaborated with their Peruvian peers.
Friday brought an opportunity to travel south to Paracas where they explored the Ballestas Islands to observe the sea lions, penguins, starfish and birdlife for more real world learning. They saw a recycling station where bird excrement is recycled for use as fertilizer. Next came a visit to the desert dunes of Paracas for some boogey rides and sandboarding with their Peruvian friends.
Beginning with our hotel stay in Cusco and finishing with our return flight to JFK, the group of twenty Wheatley students not only socialized but also supported each other. They began to feel more like a family as each day passed. Students who had never known each other had now made connections, forged friendships and embraced their time together as they made the most incredible memories, ones that will last a lifetime. As with previous exchange experiences, we anticipate that many of them will keep in touch with their hosts for a very long time.
Participants included: Rahul Ajmera, Adam Aldad, Emma Azevedo, Grant Callahan, Karen Chu, Ava Golden, Tobey Hirsch, Aarushi Jain, Siddhant Jain, Ansh Jhaveri, Theodore Khafif, Anne Koszalka, Ari Mizhiritsky, Eli Mizhiritsky, Audrey LaMonica, Madeline Lindenauer, Emma Melnikov, Tara O’Brien, Tyler Richman and Neil Shah. The group was chaperoned by Mrs. Joan Anderson, World Language Dept. Chair, Jason Craven, WH ENL teacher, and Mrs. Arlene Kuchcicki, WR nurse. A very special thank you to Wheatley Spanish teachers, Mrs. Mary Martinez and Mr. Angel Rivero for making all the travel arrangements and organizing the exchange experience with our sister school, Colegio San José de Monterrico.