by Taylor Replane, Watershed School Art Educator
At Watershed School, a project based, experiential learning school in Boulder Colorado, students and teachers culminate our spring semester a month early to design and implement a completely new, month-long course. Each “Expedition”, as our courses are called, have an Essential Question that guides the teacher’s planning and the student’s learning. The essential question for this course was, “What does it mean to walk well in the world?” In order to answer this question, students contemplated the difference between a tourist and a traveler and reflected on their own character in order to explore what it means to be a global citizen.
Our trip to Cambodia provided students with the opportunity to exercise humility, grit, curiosity and myriads of other character traits while encountering another culture drastically different from their own. Students were responsible for assessing their character in order to set appropriate goals for the trip. Additionally, they were provided with lessons and instruction on how to create a travel journal that used a range of writing and artistic techniques to capture reflections on the internal and external experiences of being in another country. On the trip we traveled from Bangkok, Thailand to Siem Reap, Cambodia where we practiced speaking Khmer, visited Angkor Wat, took a cooking class and acclimated to a new culture.
The cornerstone of our course was traveling to Battambang to work with Children’s Future. It was there that we engaged in a cultural exchange, learning languages, playing soccer, cooking a meal together, but in its essence we were, in one of our student’s words, “building connections with people who don’t speak your same language…we realized how to observe and how to follow another culture…how to have fun with people from half way around the world. We learned that we have lots of similarities, no matter our background, we were all just teenagers that like to laugh and tease each other”.