THE SOUTH BAY OFFERS DIVERSE
PROGRAMS THAT ENLIGHTEN AND
STIMULATE STUDENTS BY EXPOSING
THEM TO EXPERIENCES ABROAD THEY
WOULD NOT ENCOUNTER AT HOME.
Fourth- and fifth-graders participate in student exchange programs
in France and China, where they spend part of their time
with host families, and part with the school group. Eighth-graders
can also participate in trips to Costa Rica.
The school bases its whole curriculum on cultural immersion,
so it follows that it would foster foreign travel at such a young
age. Chinese (Mandarin) and French are its two main language
programs. Eighth-graders can choose to add Spanish, or one of
the other two languages they’re not currently learning.
Kids at ISTP start learning Chinese or French as early as
preschool, so by the time they
go on their trips in the fourth
grade, they can easily communicate
with the native speakers
they encounter during their
travels. The students also prepare
by studying local customs,
giving them an understanding
of the cultural context that gives
language its true meaning.
Jovi Craig explains that the
ability to talk to people and
navigate as needed gives kids
more confidence about being
in a different culture. Unlike a
typical tourist visit, she notes,
“It’s a completely different thing
to go to school there, to wear
the uniform, eat fish and rice in
the morning, and speak for the
entire day in Mandarin.”
While school policy prevents
parents from joining their offspring,
Jovi says there’s an abundance
of teachers and other adults on the trip, and always nearby,
who can take care of any issues the kids have. In addition, kids
send parents emails every day with updates and photos showing
what they did and learned during the trip.
“We don’t just throw them on a plane,” she says. “We send
them with a lot of supervision. We have info nights for families,
and share students’ itineraries, so parents know exactly what’s
going to happen.”
LEARNING TO STAY FLEXIBLE
Palo Alto Preparatory School in Mountain View every year sends
about 25 eighth- to 12th-graders on an international trip for at
least 10 days in the spring. The students have explored Peru,
Costa Rica, Ecuador and much of Europe.
“We’ve found South America to be more of a growing experience
just because it’s more experiential—more about getting out
with the people and being in the outdoors, hiking and visiting
villages. The kids get to see how other people live,” says Dean of
Students Lisa O’Hearn-Keck.
Four chaperones accompany the kids on each trip, and they are
required to stay in “pods” of four at all times (although they all explore
in the larger group). According to O’Hearn-Keck, the trips
are designed to give students an emotional growing experience.
Participants not only learn about different cultures and history
but also get life lessons, like how to get along with each other,
how to handle a check in a restaurant, and most importantly, they
confront the fact that, when you’re traveling, things don’t always
COURTESY OF PALO ALTO PREPARATORY SCHOOL
August/September 2017 59
Palo Alto Preparatory
School students visit
Lake Titicaca, Peru.