One key part of Morgan Park Academy’s global curriculum is a school-wide Global Week each March. Upper School and Middle School students and teachers come together outside the classroom to share a broader range of learning experiences focused on language and culture, service, and sustainability. Lower School students explore the world’s countries and cultures closer to home.
This year’s experiences included trips to Japan, Iceland, Greece and Italy, Germany, Silicon Valley, and Yellowstone National Park; and local explorations of 3D printing, filmmaking, and alternative sports.
This trip was designed for students eager to mingle with locals and see sights off the beaten path. They began their trip in the capital city of Tokyo, exploring shrines, temples, gardens, cuisine, and eclectic neighborhoods. They took the Sumida River cruise, escaped to the Ghibli anime museum, and ate fresh sushi at the famous Tsukiji fish market. Next on the agenda: Mount Fuji, Lake Kawaguchi, and Matsumoto Castle, with a two-night homestay experience with families in Seishun village. While there, they participated in a farm service project, cooking class, and other local activities, then continued on to mingle with snow monkeys at Jigokudani Monkey Park. They traveled to the cities of Takayama, Nagoya, and Biwako, then raced to Kyoto on a bullet train in time for a traditional green tea ceremony and visits to the Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine, Kinkaku-ji temple, Nara Deer Park, and Todaiji temple. Before coming home, they said goodbye to Japan with a walk around Mount Koyasan, the center of Shingon Buddhism.
On a 10-day trek, students studied the natural wonders of the Reykjanes peninsula through the Gunnuhver geothermal area and bathed in the Blue Lagoon. They checked out a canyon where the earth’s tectonic plates converge and visited the world’s oldest parliament building. They saw the beautiful Gullfoss, the golden waterfall, where thousands of tons of icy glacial water thunder into a deep canyon, then the famous Great Geysir at Strokkur. The group went on glacier walks, visited the infamous Eyjafjallajökull volcano, and the Vatnshellir Lava cave, all along the way conducting research that would entice any STEM student: how to harness the enormous energy potential of Iceland. They visited a world-renowned ecological village to witness how a sustainable community functions and now better understand the fragility of the planet through an Earthquake simulator. And all along the way, they volunteered with local Icelanders who know and understand how a tiny nation thrives.
Italy & Greece
This trip provided the unique opportunity to take an online course, have tangible first-hand experiences, and learn collaboratively with not only peers at MPA but also students at American Community Schools (ACS) in Athens, Greece! ACS humanities instructors planned an innovative course for students to research and study the art and culture of the Italian Renaissance and make connections with classical Greek civilization. Two days of field study in Greece preceded students’ extended travel in Italy, where they spent five nights in Florence and two nights in Rome. They also stopped for brief cultural tours of Arezzo and Siena. Each day provided students with maximum exposure to the art treasures and historical artifacts of these cities. Students posted on discussion forums, recorded daily experiences in a field study notebook, contributed to a collaborative project, and completed a reflection on the course and field study experience.
Chicago has been designated a sister city of Hamburg, Germany — a major port city in northern Germany with a long history of trade, seafaring, and commerce — by Sister Cities International, an organization that fosters friendship and mutual understanding between people throughout the globe. This trip was the beginning of the cultural exchange between MPA and Wilhelm-Gymnasium, a school in Hamburg. Students learned about Germany’s history, culture, education, industry, commerce, and government. They stayed with host families from Wilhelm-Gymnasium and spent two days shadowing at school. For the remainder of the trip, students visited the Old City Hall, the Ballinstadt Museum, Lubeck (a medieval village), Speicher Stadt (the ancient warehouse district), and HafenCity, one of Europe’s largest inner city development and urban regeneration projects. To honor Hamburg’s standing as Germany’s capital of sport, they even took in a soccer game! Students who participated in this trip will host German students next fall to complete the exchange program.
Yellowstone National Park
Students learned the art and skill of photography and film in the beautiful setting of America’s West. They studied Rocky Mountain ecology and used photography and film to inspire global conservation. They traveled to both Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, where they discovered the abundant and varying ecosystems, and volunteered at a grizzly bear rescue center. Students took part in some additional fun activities, including whitewater rafting on the Snake River. Days were spent learning from local biologists and ecologists and a photography and film expert.
Silicon Valley, California
Students saw real business in action in a place that has become home to Fortune 500 companies, software giants, high-tech start-ups, and more of the world’s largest corporations. The mission of this trip was to support education, research, and outreach programs that promote entrepreneurial activity in the lives of young students. Students visited the headquarters of Apple and Facebook and engaged in an internal visit to Google and Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center. Students additionally had the opportunity to visit University of California at Berkeley and Stanford University to demonstrate the connection between college and career. Students also volunteered and made a positive impact by serving at the Feed America Center in San Francisco. Sight-seeing opportunities included a trip to the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Fisherman’s Wharf, and Half Moon Bay.
Students who love watching movies and wanted to learn how to write, film, and edit traveled to Facets to learn about the history and language of film, and the techniques and process of filmmaking. Film educators and filmmakers provided students with a foundation in film concepts, language, structure, and production. Students learned film analysis, vocabulary, and history, and worked in teams to conceive, write, storyboard, act, shoot, and direct a short film. By the time we were done, each student created their own short film.
Becoming a Maker
Students explored 3-D printing at the Chicago Public Library’s “maker space” in the Harold Washington Library, learning how to use simple 3-D printers and vinyl-cutting and laser-cutting machines. The group then returned to MPA to complete their work, using software to design their own objects and prepare their creations for printing. On the last day, the group returned to the Harold Washington Library to print and cut their designs. The students learned how to take an idea from conception to reality, were introduced to the important field of computer-assisted design and computer assisted manufacturing, and created their own objects as a tangible demonstration of their new skills.
Little World in Chicago
Students explored the different cultures in Chicago’s neighborhoods. They visited immigration communities and went on walking tours guided by Accenting Chicago Tours. Since we offer Spanish, French, and Mandarin Chinese language classes at MPA, students first visited communities of these three cultures and then Greektown and Little Italy. They studied architecture, toured museums, and visited places of worship and local shops. They also tasted food from each culture and learned more about the lives of local immigrants.
Students experienced alternative sports such as rock climbing, yoga, indoor skydiving, paintball, and Whirlyball.
Eighth Grade – Washington, D.C.
As a culminating experience for their middle school program, students visited our nation’s capital, seeking to understand the role of an American citizen in a global world. In Washington, students learned how the definition of “citizen” has evolved over time; history came alive as they visited major landmarks and museums of our nation’s past. By this time in their curriculum, students have begun to see themselves as an important participant in the timeline of history.
Seventh Grade – Heifer Ranch, Arkansas
Students learned about global issues like poverty, hunger, and environmental degradation. They spent the night in a Global Village, experiencing lifestyles from around the world. Participants also engage in service work, community building, and hands-on educational learning activities. They learn about hunger, sustainable development, caring for the earth, and how livestock can help change the lives of people everywhere.
Sixth Grade – Nature’s Classroom Institute, Wisconsin
Students immerse themselves in the natural environment for ecosystem exploration and study, working together with their peers and learning about their role as a citizen of the earth from an environmental point of view.