MPA seventh- and eighth-graders got a chance to practice their French, Mandarin, and Spanish language skills and explore language and culture, community service, and environmental sustainability on week-long trips to France, China, and Panama in February.



Highlights of nine days in Beijing and Xi’an, China, included:

  • sightseeing in and around Beijing and Xi’an, including world historic sites such as the Great Wall of China, the Terracotta Army, Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, and the Temple of Heaven;
  • taking a bullet train from Beijing to Xi’an;
  • a behind-the-scenes tour at Light Chase Animation Studio;
  • exploring the old district via rickshaw;
  • making traditional Chinese dumplings with a local family;
  • culinary adventures including a roast Peking duck banquet;
  • Buddhist calligraphy class at the Wild Goose Pagoda;
  • visiting the Great Mosque of Xi’an, China’s largest mosque; and
  • practicing Mandarin with native speakers.



Highlights of seven days in Paris, France, included:

  • sightseeing all over town, including the Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame Cathedral, the Musée du Louvre, the Pont Neuf, the catacombs of Paris, and much more;
  • a trip to Versailles to see the palace and gardens;
  • impressionist and post-impressionist masterpieces by Monet, Renoir, Cézanne, Gauguin, and Van Gogh at the Musée d’Orsay;
  • cruising on the Seine in a bateau-mouche tour boat, followed by dinner at a bistro along the banks;
  • playing pétanque, a traditional bowling game, with the locals;
  • a special tour of the Opera Garnier, featuring the beautiful ceiling painted by Marc Chagall; and
  • practicing French with native speakers.



Highlights of eight days in Panama City, Panama, included:

  • hiking in the natural beauty of Soberania National Park, including an aerial tram rainforest tour;
  • touring the beautiful churches and monuments in the historic quarter of Panama City;
  • visiting the Embera, an indigenous people of Panama;
  • exploring the Panama Canal;
  • service work: painting and raking leaves at an elementary school;
  • lunch and a game of soccer with local families;
  • visiting at a girls orphanage and a public high school;
  • milking a cow and picking sour tangerine limes at an eco-farm;
  • practicing Spanish with native speakers; and
  • dancing and cooking classes.

Local Explorations


Seventh- and eighth-graders who did not travel abroad explored world languages and cultures in the Chicago area. Highlights included:

  • touring the French Impressionist Collection and other works at the Art Institute of Chicago, followed by a classic French three-course meal at La Sardine;
  • exploring the artwork of Frida Kahlo and her gardens at Four Rivers Educational Center in Channahon, followed by a catered Mexican lunch back on campus; and
  • a walking tour of Chinatown, including Chinese calligraphy and paper cutting at the Chinese Culture Institute and a traditional Chinese meal at the cultural center.