|Check out the fog down the slope|
A perk of teaching in some international schools is being able to offer the students a means by which to go on a study trip to a foreign country. If you've been following us, you have read about my trips to Korea and Prague/Budapest, and Jamie's trips to Kenya and Bali. Basically, we sponsor a trip, plan the details with a student travel agent (or Habitat for Humanity), and sign kids up. The students pay their costs as well as our costs, so we essentially get a free trip. However, we are completely responsible for these students for 7 or 8 days. It is mostly a win/win, but some trips are more successful than others. Fortunately, all of our trips have been very successful and enjoyable.
Last week, I was able to take a group of 13 students to Switzerland for a skiing and science study trip. We stayed in Veriber at the Les Elfes camp. They have been in business for over 25 years operating ski camps and summer camps for students from ages 8 - 18. It was a great place because the students would be able to learn how to ski from certified instructors as well as have a variety of different other activities in the evening.
We left on the evening of February 28 and arrived in Switzerland on March 1. The students skied for the first 3 days and we took excursions for the last 3 days. Most of the students had never been on skis before, so they were placed in the beginner class with an instructor. If students knew how to ski, they were given a more advanced level and an instructor led them through the lifts and pistes (slopes/runs).
Once we arrived, the other trip sponsor and myself had few responsibilities. During the day, the students skied, so we could ski or just hang out at the hotel. I chose to ski all day and one of those days, the resort manager gave us private lessons and a wonderful lunch on top of the mountain. After 3 days of skiing, the students were pretty tired. This worked out well because we had schedule 3 days of touring to wrap up the trip.
Each afternoon, the students had some optional activity time. They could choose to go into town and shop, go swimming, or stay for games and other activities. After dinner, there were also group events like ice skating, music video making, music trivia, movie night, clubs, and a final prize giving awards show.
First, we went to the Cailler chocolate factory. The kids learned about the history of chocolate by following a guided tour of animation and design. It was quite interesting. They were citing facts as we were leaving the building. The next part of the tour disappointed me a bit as they just had us walk through the factory part without really explaining anything. Then came the tasting room, where you get to sample as much as you want from their many different varieties. The kids were in heaven! Finally, they were able to buy up half of the gift shop and some left with several pounds of chocolate.
Next, we were able to do a small tour of the CERN facility. For those that don't know, this is where scientists from many different countries work with atomic particles. In what is the most advanced technology on earth, they use a 27 km long, -270 celcius electromagnetic tube to speed up the protons of atoms to nearly the speed of light (350 millions mph) and smash them into one another. This recreated the conditions to a millionth of a millionth of a second just after the Big Bang essentially creating new matter and energy that last for a few minutes. You can read more about it HERE and HERE.
We were able to see the actual Hadron collider because it takes 3 months reservation and only if it is not operating that day to see it. The globe across the street that has an amazing Imax type video was also closed. We were able to go through their museum that had interactive displays and quite a bit of information concerning what they do at CERN.
The next day, we went to see a hydroelectric power plant and learn a little about Switzerland's extensive hydroelectric power grid. It was s decent tour but the guide's English was limited, and he mostly spoke with one our our instructors. The kids learned some and the tour itself wasn't bad, but it could have been better. After our tour, we had lunch and went to the Le Bains de Levay hot springs spa. It was wonderful sitting the hot pools of water and staring out at the snow capped mountains.
Our last day was spent on the mountain again but not skiing. The fitted us with snowboard boots and took us up the top of the mountain using several ski lifts. Because it was so crowded with long lines, it took nearly 2.5 hours to reach the highest peak on the mountain at 3300 meters. Beautiful view from the top where we could see some of the highest peaks in all of Europe, including Mt. Blanc which is over 4800 meters.
After lunch, we had some avalanche training where the students learned how to use beacons, probes, and transceivers to find a body that had been buried by an avalanche. The kids were getting tired and not really into it, but it was informative for them. When we said a person had died just 2 weeks ago on the back side of the mountain and 18 people in Europe this year, they seemed to understand the importance.
Overall, an excellent trip with some amazing students. I was not going to sponsor a study trip next year, but I am seriously considering doing the exact same trip next year. We will see.