Over spring break, NMH students immersed themselves in service-learning and cultural exchanges and experiences in Costa Rica and Brazil during school-sponsored travel programs. In addition, students on the alpine ski team spent their break traveling in Italy to ski and experience Italian history, culture, and food. And dancers on the NMH Senior Dance Company traveled to the 2023 National High School Dance Festival in Pittsburgh after being selected to perform a piece from their fall NMH concert, titled “Stuck.”
For Sasha ’23 and Kitty ’24, the chance to conduct dolphin conservation research was a highlight of their experience on the eight-day Costa Rica Wildlife and Environmental Conservation travel program.
“We identified the dolphin we tracked, mapped the trail the dolphin traveled, and input our other data regarding the environmental conditions and behavior of the animal,” they reported.
Students also explored Costa Rican mangroves and learned about the vital habitat that they provide, as well as the significant threat that climate change poses to both the mangroves and the many species that depend on the trees to survive. They went sea kayaking, hiking, and swimming and learned about various forms of conservation and reforestation at three ecolodges in different climate zones.
The trip was “an incredible journey of exploring and learning about Costa Rica’s rich environment,” Kitty and Sasha shared.
In Brazil, a group of 10th-graders spent two weeks learning about the country’s complex forces of race, class, natural resource management, and urbanization by visiting four distinct regions: the coastal town of Praia do Forte; the northern town of Salvador da Bahia, the small island community of Itaparica; and the urban center of Rio de Janeiro.
The Brazil Sophomore Enrichment Program is based on the Humanities II: World History and World Religions courses. Students visited Afro-Brazilian community organizations, connected with local students and engaged with 20 guest lecturers as they learned about the country’s colonial history, candomblé, samba, regional foods and traditions. They also learned about the historical legacy of slavery and the socio-economic challenges that remain a part of Brazil’s national landscape.
“Our days were packed with adventure and learning, as there was a wealth of history and culture for the students to explore every day,” said Martha Neubert, history teacher and trip leader. “It was a privilege and joy to witness our students absorb and navigate this beautiful country and connect with the incredible people we met along the way.”
Cultural exchanges, academic opportunities, and service learning are integral to NMH travel programs and in keeping with the school’s mission and values of inclusivity, learning for life, and service, said Andrea Sell, assistant dean of faculty and a trip leader in Costa Rica.
“We avoid tourism-heavy trips where students are passive observers,” she said.
NMH ski coach Greg Leeds said help from the families of three NMH skiers who are from Italy enriched the team’s trip to Sestriere, an Alpine resort near the French border, and Naples, where students visited historic sites and the mayor’s office to meet with the city’s councilor for youth policies.
“A highlight was skiing the Italian Alps into France, ending the day with a stunningly beautiful mountain top dinner followed by a torchlight descent,” Leeds reported.
For Cassidy ’23, the trip to Italy was an experience she will cherish forever. “It had three of my favorite things: skiing, food, and ancient ruins. I think it’ll be hard to forget the Alps — it was incredible to be skiing and look up and see mountains as far as I could see. I also loved Naples, with its tall buildings and narrow streets, learning about the city’s history, both ancient and modern, and exploring the Spanish Quarter. I’m so glad I came on this trip.”
NMH dance teacher Gretel Schatz said it was a privilege for the Senior Dance Company to perform at the National Dance Festival. “The festival had 1,000 submissions and accepted about a third of them,” Schatz said.
In addition to the performance, the dancers took part in master classes and benefited from being among other high school dancers from around the country as well as professional dancers.
Carolyn ’23 called the trip “a wonderful bonding experience.”
“The NMH Dance Company has always been extremely connected, for we all share a true passion for dance and enjoy creating with each other every day,” she said. “This experience allowed us to develop an even stronger bond, as we had so much fun exploring downtown Pittsburgh and performing onstage together.”