TTS23 in the Galapagos Islands

TTS23 in the Galapagos Islands
From left to right: Scout, Lindsey, Sophie, Feyza, Erin, Caroline, Lena, Susannah, Charlotte, Rebecca, Allie, Hannah, Alizah, Maisie, Anne, Kate, Courtney

Friday, February 14, 2014

Peek into some of the classes

Every few weeks we will post academic updates to help you understand what your daughters are doing in their classes. Check back for more class updates.

History and Government
The Honors History and Government course began with students exploring the grounds of Hacienda Guachala. They encountered photographs from the 1800's, plaques explaining land and labor relations, the old horse stalls, the old jail where indigenous laborers were tortured, a wing where workers were forced to weave and embroider 14 hours a day, a run-down church, a chapel with a decaying mural, and other remnants of life in the Hacienda system.

Their studies continued when the Hacienda owner Diego spoke his history. Then we received different perspectives when we visited the Quichua people of the Highlands, many of whom were forced to work at the Hacienda in exchange for a small plot of land. History students have touched the stones of Pre-Incan astronomical sites, and learned about the social life of indigenous populations. They have eaten meals in houses built in the traditional Highlands style with mud and grass roofs, and are practicing asking better, more poignant questions to each person they encounter.

Last class we played a historical version of Taboo, with students becoming familiar with key terms for the semester: Encomienda, huasipunguero, mestizo, indigena, CONAIE, Cayambis, Pizarro, hacienda, mita, IMF, land reform, development, World Bank, and many more. Class readings began with Pre-Incan civilizations, into the Incas, and they are just about to step into the Spanish  conquest. What is the legacy of colonialism? Why was there so much political instability in the 20th century? How am I related to Latin American history? These are a few of the questions students will explore this semester.

Coming up we will visit Otavalo, and step in the history of the world-famous Quichua weavers!

Literature and Composition  
Students in Honors Literature and Composition have almost completed the first novel of the semester, Queen of Water. The book is teeming with relevant issues such as child servitude, indigenous/mestizo tension, and class relations. Next week we have the opportunity to meet Maria Virginia, whose life unfolds through this biography and students will be able to ask her firsthand what it was like to be taken from her family and grow up working for others.

Each class begins with 10 minutes of journaling for students practice the art of writing, uninhibited by form. Additionally, students have already written two poems. The first was an introductory poem, about their real names, who people think they are, and how they view themselves. Some shared their words before dinner as part of our evening ritual in front of the fireplace. The second was a 'Found' poem. Students pulled 50 words from the novel, cut them out, rearranged them, and cut more words as they played with shape, emphasis, lyricism, and meaning.

Next class I will introduce the analytical essay, the first major assignment of the semester. As students grapple with their topics and develop their mechanics, we will read poetry from Neruda, and short stories from Latin America. Through all of this we hope to grow literary skills and release inhibition, immerse in creativity, and understand form.

Global Studies 
Global Studies helps students frame their experiences throughout the semester. So far it has encompassed many of the orientation activities such as team building games and cultural simulations, and also the debriefs we have after each guest speaker or site-visit. Students have peppered our speakers and guides with critical questions, from the Hacienda worker Luis, to the scientist Josue, to the director of equatorial research Cristobal, to the Hacienda owner Diego, to the eco-tourism proponent Patricia, to the Quichua mother Carolina, to the NGO worker dedicated to indigenous rights Jose and have started to understand the complexities of the global community.

One of the highlights of Global Studies is Oil Day, a day dedicated to sharing work students have prepared around oil issues in the Amazon region. Students teach each other through their poetry, mathematical projects, science lessons, and by participating in a big debate or town council on current issues.

The course lays out larger themes that tie each of the individual classes together such as globalization, human rights, oil exploration in Ecuador, climate issues and carbon footprint, tourism, and leadership. Many of these themes have already come up in class discussions. the Global Studies curriculum ends by not only giving students the tools for re-entry to their home culture, but for collaborating on a final project to put what they learned into practice post-TTS. 

Math Concepts
Ecuador is an ideal spot for our course as it constantly provides us with tangible examples of economics in action. Already we discussed minimum wage (now $360/month, up from $318 last year), trade agreements (and Ecuador’s relations with the US & China), dollarization and the subsequent elimination of the former national currency, the Sucre (25,000 = 1USD!), and the national debt (now a key factor in the ongoing oil extraction debate). Before leaving the Hacienda, students successfully completed their first quiz on the laws of supply and demand, production possibilities frontiers, elasticity, and marginal utility. Grace and Courtney are now undertaking their own economic study: collecting data on market basket costs, housing conditions, and access to social services. They’re comparing and analyzing such economic indicators in each new place we visit and looking forward to sharing the preliminary results with everyone soon!

Intermediate Spanish
¡Saludos desde Cayambe, Ecuador! Greetings from Cayambe, Ecuador! Intermediate Spanish is off to a fantastic start. After a diligent review of regular, boot, and irregular verbs in the present tense as well as a discussion on family vocabulary, the girls enjoyed putting their Spanish skills to the test. We read a few short scenes from a play in class, and Kate did a fantastic playing the role of “El Tigre.” Blanca, one of the kind cooks at Hacienda Guachala, spent an afternoon with our class, teaching us how to make traditional Ecuadoran empaƱadas, a fried flour pastry filled with the queso fresco for which Cayambe is so well known. All the girls partook in mixing the dough, stuffing the filling, and carefully folding and decorating the shell. Allie showed off her cooking skills and finished making our afternoon snack, expertly frying nearly 50 empaƱadas for everyone to enjoy. The girls wrote out the recipe in Spanish and will look forward to making the tasty treat for family and friends upon their arrival back home.

Honors Natural Science: Biodiversity and Climate Change

Where to begin? The northern region of Ecuador has provided us with a most ideal foray into the natural sciences and the themes of biodiversity. The girls are already becoming quite adept at the art of scientific observation. They recorded several entries in their science journals, creating records and illustrations of the vast number of plant species we have encountered thus far. Gabriela, a member of the family that owns the Hacienda, gave us a wonderful tour of the gardens, sharing with us the history of the flowers, trees, fruits, and vegetables at Guachala. She explained to us the intricacies of the grounds, noting which plants were native and which had been imported, when, and why. She pointed out aloe plants and explained how the plants are harvested in a unique way in Ecuador. Later on our tour, Gabriela even picked some vegetables exclusive to the region from the extensive garden for us to enjoy at dinner that evening. In addition to dutifully keeping up their science journals, the students have been reading essays from Tropical Nature, and are working on presentations on the regions diverse biomes.  


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