Summer Scrapbook

by Emma Zhang, Features Editor
Teachers and students share what they've been up to this summer
photo contributed by Michelle Caine

Biology teacher Michelle Caine organized a nine-day trip to Costa Rica this summer and chaperoned a group of 16 students from across the nation to explore reservations. 

Caine’s past trip to the Galapagos Islands through an Ecology Project International fellowship inspired the Costa Rica trip, which she said felt like the perfect opportunity to explore abroad after coming out of the pandemic.

“It was an adventure, especially after feeling so limited in what we were able to do throughout the past few years,” she said. “It was certainly a much more peeled-back version of living than a lot of us were used to, so for a lot of students, it was new for them to be able to experience life in that way.”

Whether it was observing monkeys or sea turtle hatchlings, Caine said that it was amazing to see the animals and scenery native to Costa Rica, especially from her scientific background.

“We saw turtle hatchlings in their nest, a bunch of different monkeys, butterflies laying eggs and rare birds. Everytime I see it, I’m struck again by how beautiful and amazing and magical nature is. It never gets old for me,” she said. “I can see on the kids’ faces that they were having a moment, too, so it was nice to see some of the joy that I was experiencing reflected in them. Every day there was something that took my breath away.”

photo contributed by Faye Cassell

From hiking Machu Picchu to visiting rural schools, data analyst and scheduler Faye Cassell made the most of her time in Peru. As the Massachusetts delegate to the National Education Association Foundation Global Learning Fellowship, she spent 10 days working with Peruvian education policy makers. 

As a former history teacher, Cassell said she appreciated the community of fellows filled with diverse and passionate perspectives.

“The only stipulation of the fellowship is that you have to be a member of the educators union. We had elementary school teachers, dance teachers and IT specialists,” she said. “Being able to think about education with such a broad cohort of people was fascinating because when I go to Machu Picchu, I think about it from a historian’s lens, but a music teacher comes at the experience in a completely different way.”

Cassell said she values making an impact on schools beyond just Newton and teaching the emerging generation what it means to be a part of the global community. 

“Even if you never interact with anyone outside of your city or state, you will at some point start to encounter global connections,” she said. “This fellowship is designed to help educators think about teaching those things to students. What does it look like to be a global citizen?”

photo contributed by Willa Foster

Nine days in the Costa Rican wilderness isn’t exactly what comes to mind when most people think of a field trip, but for senior Willa Foster, that’s exactly what the class trip organized by her biology teacher Michelle Caine was like. The group learned about wildlife conservation along with 15 other students from schools across the nation, who each joined the trip for their own reasons, she said. 

“I’ve always wanted to go to Costa Rica, and I love being outdoors. Some people there were into the ecology, and they got a lot out of it, but so did the kids who went just because they thought it would be fun,” she said. “Everyone had a great time no matter who they were.”

While most people would shudder at the thought of trying new things, Foster said she did everything she could to make the most of her time.

“One of my outlooks I had throughout the trip was to take every opportunity to do the things I would never be able to at home,” she said. “For example, one of our instructors would always point out a fruit or bug that was edible, and I always said, ‘Yes, I’ll eat it. I’ll eat this random root.’”

Foster said that she will forever hold fond memories from the trip. 

“It was nice to be able to get to know Ms. Caine outside of school,” she said. “Everyone bonded during the trip in different ways, and when we see each other in classes in the future, we will always have a talking point.”

photo by Claire Lee

For two weeks in June, junior and violinist Claire Lee toured six different cities in Greece with the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra. The orchestra collaborated with local young musicians to play in concerts.

Although there was a language barrier between Lee’s orchestra and their Greek audience, she said their music was able to bridge connections.

“Each piece we played has a story behind it. One of the Shostakovich pieces was very emotional because he used music as an escape from his life,” she said. “Even though you didn’t say anything to the audience, the audience could really understand what that joy meant.”

Lee said that for her, music has always been about sharing joy with other people.

“In the past when I did rhythmic gymnastics and sports, all I cared about was just being better than others and winning,” she said. “But when playing music, especially in these concerts, I realized that it’s really about sharing the love and making connections with other people.”

As Lee continues to play with both the South orchestra and Boston Youth Philharmonic, she said that she is only more inspired to dive deep into her music.

“After this tour, my love for music has just gotten bigger. Now, it’s not just that I can enjoy it, but I realized that everyone in the world can enjoy and understand music,” she said. “I will always have music in my life to some level.”

photo by Gerald Ng

In July, physics teacher Gerald Ng played on a team of 10 bowlers from around the country in his third United States Bowling Congress (USBC) Open Championships. With tournaments every weekend from May to mid-July in Las Vegas, there were more than 50,000 bowlers of all skill levels playing together. 

Ng said that while his team played well and earned some prize money from the tournament, he has always bowled for the joy and community the sport offers.

“Growing up, I [went bowling] with my parents three or four nights a week. Bowling has been one of those things that I’ve built so many communities and relationships through, unlike some other sports like basketball or hockey,” he said. “Bowling is a chance to talk to people and to connect with your teammates.”

Ng said that as bowling builds off of hard work rather than physical strength, he feels welcomed in the bowling community and motivated to put in the work. 

“Growing up, I was never thought of as a very athletic guy, but bowling is one of those things where really anyone can do well or do poorly depending on how much effort and time you put into it,” he said. “Especially for this tournament, I spent a lot of time researching, watching lots of videos, thinking about equipment and training. It was exciting to see everything come together.”

photo by Ari Zeren

Senior Ari Zeren went abroad to Granada, Spain as part of the Arcos Learning Abroad Program. For four weeks, Zeren stayed with a host family for an immersive Spanish experience. In the daytime, he took language classes with professors, and on the weekends and evenings, he toured landmarks and cultural centers. In a country with so much history and a language with so many nuances, Zeren said he found himself caught in between student life and tourist life. 

“Four weeks is enough time that you’re not just there as a tourist, but it wasn’t enough time to be fully living there,” he said. “That’s the weird balance in this summer program. I definitely want to go back to Spain or maybe to a country in Latin America at least at some point in my life.”

Since Zeren’s mother is a French teacher at South, he said that learning about language and culture will always be a part of his life, even as small as a casual conversation on the streets of Granada.

“I just love chatting with people in Spanish. It’s actually really funny because I talk faster in Spanish than I do in English. It doesn’t always work out great, but my classic move has been to spit out a ton of rapid-fire Spanish and get there eventually,” he said. “Spanish kids are just like us for the most part and are super welcoming. I find it a lot of fun to just talk to other people with other cultures.”