TTS27 Spring 2016 Semester Blog

Welcome to the TTS27 Spring 2016 Semester Blog. 

Dear Traveling School family,

Sitting in our hotel in Miami, our minds are elsewhere: with our girls waking up at home, with our girls shooting through the sky, homeward bound on planes, and with our girls cherishing their last hours together (for now) in the room next door.

We are so grateful for the time we were able to spend with our group, now a family. For this, we want to say thank you.

Thank you to each and every family member and friend of each of the girls for sharing them with us. Especially after getting to know them over the last 15 weeks, we can only imagine how difficult it must have been to say goodbye and entrust us with their care. Thank you for trusting both us and your daughter and making this adventure possible!

Thank you to Jennifer, Aunge, Leah, and Price, for working so hard every day to create and maintain the incredible vision of The Traveling School, and for entrusting us to implement their vision thousands of miles away. Thank you for your dedication, encouraging words, and support from the Bozeman office. We are deeply grateful for the opportunity to help build this community that has taught us all so much.

Thank you to each individual we met along the way: from the rainforest of Ecuador to the Cordillera Real of Bolivia and everywhere in between. From the families that opened their homes to us in Agualongo to Puma’s family in Cuzco, to Yuponki in La Paz. Thank you for sharing your stories, your communities, and your yummy food!

And finally, last but not least, thank you to each of our little squirrels for bringing their sense of adventure, positivity, curiosity, and humor this semester. Thank you for having the courage to leave home for the unknown. Thank you for being so open to new experiences and challenges. We have all learned so much from each of you. Most of all, thank you for creating such a magical community and semester. Thank you for being you!

We are so grateful to have had the opportunity to be a part of it all!


Elsie, Danika, Clara, and Rachel


Academic Finale

Cruising around Lake Titicaca

Cruising around Lake Titicaca

History and Government

History and Government wrapped up our stay in Cusco by visiting Qorikancha, the sacred Inca temple that was burned by the Spanish and a seminary was built over the remaining structure. During our walking tour of the city, the students helped bring history to life through their original songs, presentations, poems, and art that depicted historical figures of South America. Julia taught us about the conquistador Francisco Pizarro’s quest for gold and glory through her song, and Kela sung a lovely version of Hallelujah about Bolivian president Evo Morales, and how politics have changed him. Through Tupac Amaru’s story, Meghan taught the class about how to start a revolution, and Carsyn poetically described the Peruvian’s president’s promises that he did not uphold. Kate’s art about Che Guevara taught the class about how there are two sides to every story, and the revolutionary leader has a darker side that is not often told. For the students’ final exam, they are creating a book that depicts illustrations and text related to essential aspects of South American history that they want to convey. It includes creative displays of everything from how Latin America’s resources have affected the development of Europe, to Indigenous movements, the Spanish conquest and subsequent hacienda system, and how imperialism has been affecting the region since the Cold War.

Advanced Spanish

Advanced Spanish has studied the subjunctive mood for our last grammar unit of the semester. The subjunctive mood is a lens through which we see the world, a way to imagine the what ifs of the past, present, and future. It communicates hope, imagination, and possibility, but also regret and longing. We began our unit by listening to the Ted Talk “Does the Subjunctive Have a Dark Side” by Phuc Tran, practiced the different tense conjugations of the subjunctive mood and then delved into the subjunctive’s different uses. Beyond the grammar world, Advanced Spanish students studied and practiced formal email writing, writing an email to an organization that works in the realm of the social issue they studied for their midterm project. We finished the semester exploring storytelling, listening to and reading stories told in Spanish. For their Final, Advanced Spanish students are writing and telling their own story to our class.

Intermediate Spanish

In recent weeks  students are learning the uses of the conditional and future tenses. We have practiced through conversations of “what would you do if…” and “what will you do this summer/ in the future.” Through listening to local songs as well as some Beyoncé and Celia Cruz in Spanish, we’ve continued to solidify the uses of these tenses.

While in Cusco, the students also had the opportunity to walk to the house of Clorinda Matto de Turner, a famous writer and activist for women’s and indigenous rights in the late 1800’s. Students then took turns presenting in Spanish rehearsed poems by other famous female Latin American poets including Alfonsini Storni, Delmira Augustini, and Gabriela Mistral.

For finals, students took an interactive test and will be presenting a song that they have written together about the semester that will combine all 8(!) verb tenses that they’ve learned!


Beginning Spanish

Beginning Spanish has been working on mastering the material the class learned after midterms, as well as learning additional grammar and vocabulary concepts to build on their increasing ability to translate more complicated sentences. We have been expanding on our verb knowledge and listening skills through translating popular Spanish songs. We learned about how Lake Titicaca got it’s name through translating a legend about the story of the region. For the final exam, the class will have a test that covers, past, present, future and present progressive verb tenses, as well as possessives and prepositions. The spoken aspect of the final consists of creating an original song as a class, and will describe each member, things that have happened this semester, are currently happening and will happen in the future. It has been a pleasure teaching this eager group of new Spanish speakers, and I hope their interest in the language continues in the coming years.

PE Class

Students have taken on the role of leading PE over the past few weeks! Their creative and fun ideas have kept their classmates active, engaged, and laughing! We also had our PE final run while in Copacabana. All students did a fantastic job in completing a 5K+ at 13,000 feet around a part of Lake Titicaca!

Julia taught the group some of her tae kwon do moves
Caroline led a run through Cusco
Carsyn and Sylvia started a soccer game in Puno
Anna and Kate led a morning run around Lake Titicaca
Emma and Clarissa led the group on a sunset hike, yoga, and meditation in Copacabana
Sophie and Grace planned a seven-story athletic scavenger hunt in our hotel in La Paz
Isabel and Melanie led the group in our 5K final!
Kela and Harley collaborated to lead a strength relay race and dance competition
Meghan led the group in a jazz dance warm up and Yana taught yoga


We are finishing up our second and final round of chifles in iLife this week. As chifle each student has taken on being the leader of the day. This includes checking in with the teachers about class and group needs, making the day’s schedule and presenting it to the group, helping to coordinate meals and shop for snacks, and well as serving as the voice of the day keeping the group moving and on time. Chifles have been doing a great job of making the days their own as well by leading activities such as a drawing class, a hair braiding class, and various group games.


Literature students have dedicated the past several weeks to the study of magical realism through an in-depth reading of The House of Spirits, analysis and discussion of poetry and short stories, and writing their own magical realism works. For each chapter of The House of Spirits students completed mini assignments including illustrating scenes with comics, creating family trees of the numerous characters, and drawing webs and connections between character relationships. In addition, as they read, Literature classes focused on topics from banned books to the historical events in Chile upon which the novel is loosely based. Currently, Literature students are working diligently on their final creative writing pieces: three 333-word vignettes inspired by their study of The House of Spirits and magical realism. Each student is writing one magical realism vignette, one vignette that addresses a historical or political event in the United States, France, Ecuador, Peru, or Bolivia, and one vignette inspired by a moment this semester. Through this assignment students are developing their descriptive skills, writing narratives full of vivid language and exceptional word choice that evoke emotion and create a memorable atmosphere. Their final assignment also will stretch their skills as a writer to clearly communicate a coherent plot in a highly imaginative and creative way with a limited number of words. Students will conclude the semester by writing “I am Here” poems, capturing their connection to their place here in South America, as responses to their introductory “I am From” poems at the beginning of the semester.

(Click into the photo album below to see The House of Spirits character webs)

Precalculus and Algebra 2

Precalculus and Algebra 2 teamed up for our final chapter on Series, Sequences, and Probability. Algebra II students took on the challenged of working out of the Precalculus book, which covered the same material, but used more sophisticated language.  In this final chapter, we studied geometric and arithmetic sequences, the Fundamental Counting Principal, permutations, combinations, and probability. Students used our surroundings to apply these concepts. For example, they calculated the possible number of different outfits they could create with the clothing in their TTS backpack. We were all quite surprised with the number of outfits we could make…most being in the hundreds. As we wrap up the semester, Precalculus students are reviewing for a cumulative final exam. Meanwhile, Algebra II is working on an applied project using concepts from the semester to analyze demographic data of Bolivia.


We have spent the last couple weeks in science diving into a whirlwind unit on Climate Change. The students created a large model of the carbon cycle out of construction paper on the floor of our hostel to explore how the carbon cycle works and how humans have influenced carbon sinks and sources. Next we explored the many ways increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is impacting the globe such as impacts on  fauna and flora, human health, communities at home, communities in South America, and global politics. In following classes, we began to break down what is being done about climate change on a global scale. We explored current and historic emission rates and grappled with how to determine responsibility of the impacts of climate change. We also discussed climate justice and the disparity between those causing the problem and those most impacted. We are wrapping up the semester and the unit with our own simulation of a Council of Parties (COP) meeting in which small student groups are representing three different possible policy options. The remaining students will represent delegates from various countries throughout the globe and will vote on which option they most support.


Global Studies

In Global Studies we have explored the question: “What is my role as an active citizen?” for the past few weeks. Also discussing questions such as: “how have others taken on roles as active citizens?” “How have others affected intentional change?” “How can I affect positive change and take agency in my community, country, and/or the world?” After delving into complicated topics such as privilege, oppression, inequality, discrimination, and studying an example of grassroots activism in Bolivia, students divided into small groups and researched and taught each other about social movements in their home countries. Anna, Yana, Sylvia, and Sophie taught the class about the Farm to Table Movement in the United States, focusing on how they and their peers could get involved with the movement at home. Carsyn, Isabel, Kela, and Emma taught the class about the movement to re-define Islam and the way people think about Muslim people in France. They used this as the jumping off point for a discussion on how “frames” for certain groups can develop.  Julia, Caroline, Harley, and Melanie taught the class about the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States, ending with a conversation about the danger of misconceptions and stereotypes as well as information about how to get involved. Kate, Grace, Meghan, and Clarissa taught the class about the No More Stolen Sisters movement in Canada, elaborating on the violence North American  indigenous women face and the steps this movement is taking to bring attention to this violence and eliminate it. It was an incredibly successful and interesting day of student-taught lessons. And served as a great practice for the girls as they finish planning the  Global Presentations they will give once they arrive home.


Click Here for more photos


A quick glimpse

It is hard not to start a count down as we approach the final weeks. TTS27 is living in the moment and absorbing everything around them. Since the last update the group wrapped up their time in Cusco, then meandered south to Lake Titicaca and explored the floating islands, held classes and then crossed into Bolivia. Even though this is an atypical high school spring semester, these ladies have made some very typical high school highlights happen over the semester, including PROM.


On one of our final days in Cusco we celebrated our new friends and experiences gained over our time in Cusco with our own TTS version of prom. Given an hour of prep time and some creativity the girls came up with quite the array of classy outfits for the occasion. We headed out into Cusco for a delicious buffet dinner featuring classic Peruvian dishes such as cuy and ceviche. At dinner we were entertained by a variety of traditional dancers that kept us quite entertained. After dinner we headed out for some dancing of our own. It was a great evening!

Floating Islands

This week we spent a couple days in Puno, Peru before entering our final country of the semester, Bolivia. Puno is located along the shore of Lake Titicaca at 12,500 feet above sea level. We spent an afternoon learning about and visiting the floating islands of the Uros people on Lake Titicaca. The Uros build islands out of dense mats of reeds on which they live. The community we visited was made up of numerous small islands each with 4 or 5 families living on it. We visited one island on which the families gave us a demonstration of how they build the islands and a general overview of what life is like. The community we visited often has tourists visit and benefit from the extra income tourism provides. Still, We all felt a little strange visiting the small island, which is home for the families we met and even going into their bedrooms to take a look (which we were invited and encouraged to do). The afternoon gave us a lot to talk about when we returned back to our hostel about the pros and cons of tourism for the Uros people.


Hello TTS27 fans~

We’re well into the semester, daring not to think about the end, while investigating the rich Incan history that brews through today’s society. In classes we have learned about Incan culture and are starting to put meaning to our studies as we venture through museums, ruins and modern cities built on ancient Incan cities. Lima set the foundation for Cusco and our time with Puma, a longtime TTS friend. Puma and his family are a keystone relationship to TTS and have led many semesters through their culture and shared the connections between past and present. Puma, a shaman, with a witty sense of humor and deep respect for his ancestors, works with his family (brothers, sisters, wives, parents and grandparents) to create magical experiential moments for TTS. This semester we toured Cusco and nearby ruins before heading to the Sacred Valley for a multi-day pilgrimage to Machupicchu. Puma showed us the connections between nature and humans and inspired us with stories of his journeys and jokes. Below, we give a glimpse of our time in Lima and Cusco, but you’ll have to wait for our return for the real stories and pictures to capture these past few weeks.

Here is a glimpse of Puma as he teaches the importance of being conscious of what we seed into our lives.

[Note this isn’t from our semester, but from another friend.]

Lima: By Kate and Harley

We started off our time in Lima by visiting a museum of Inca and Pre-Inca artifacts, which was an interesting introduction to the Incan civilization. Later, we walked by the president’s palace, where there were an abundance of elaborately dressed guards. In a nearby church, we took a tour of the catacombs. We walked through the dark, musty corridors that led to pits filled with skulls and femur bones. Our guide explained to us that everyone, regardless of their social class, was buried there, and told us about the burial process. That night we visited a colorful fountain show and we spent hours running in and out of the water. We ended our night watching a magical light show finale about Peruvian culture.

DAY 1: By Sylvia, Caroline and Sophie

Puma picked us up our first morning in Cusco to go to the ruins of Saqsaywaman. When we arrived the ruins were shrouded in mist. We began our tour only to be interrupted by first a herd of alpacas and llamas, and then by a single llama that galloped by at a break-neck speed. After these unique interruptions, Puma explained how the giant stones that made up the walls of the complex were put together without any mortar. We climbed to the top of some ruins, ventured through tunnels, and slid down a natural rock slide formed by centuries of playground enthusiasts. We were told a story about how the pope visited Saqsaywaman and placed a cross on a hill only to have the cross struck by lightning within a year.

That day we also visited three other sites. We learned about human offerings and the mummification process. We saw fountains, underground sacrificial spaces and saw locations for studying astronomy in Incan times.

It was a jam-packed day full of beuatiful sights, however, the highlight of the day was the long awaited reappearance of Elsie!

Day 2: By Melanie and Clarissa

Our day began with a filling breakfast at our colorful hostel before being whisked away by Puma and his family in their vans. The smaller of the two vans was driven by Ruben, who has an exceptional taste in English pop music. We jammed out on our way to ruins in the Sacred Valley. Our first stop of the day was Moray, an Incan terrace farming site believed to be the womb of Mother Nature. We walked around it and Puma played his flute which echoed throughout the valley.

Our second stop was lunch at Puma’s brother, Reby’s restaurant, where we ate yummy quinoa soup! Then we went to Puma’s hometown of Chinchero, where we met his wife and family at their textile workshop. They taught us how to spin and dye wool and taught us how to weave using a blackstrap loom. We hid from the rain, drank warm tea, and watched the different styles of weaving by hand.

Lastly, we went to Puma’s house where he taught us about Shamanism and showed us his altar. He and Ruben performed rituals to cleanse and protect us for our upcoming trek. We also learned the story of how Puma acquired his name and was struck by lightning at a young age. We journeyed home to the hostel reflecting on the day.

Day 3: By Grace, Emma and Anna

Our day began basking in the sun in the ruins of Pisaq listening to Puma’s legend of the condor and the hummingbird. The ruins we were visiting were shaped like a condor to represent the journal of the spirit after death. For this reason talented Incan artisans and engineers were buried in the mountainside near the ruins. We stopped for a quick snack…cuy, roasted on a spit and stuffed with herbs…before venturing to our next site. Ollantaytambo is a ruin shaped like a llama, which represents unconditional love. Everything the Incans built here and at other ruins was built with intention. From the top of the ruins we were able to see a mountain with two faces carved into it. Puma explained one was meant to personify the sun and it is believed that treasure is hidden inside of it. We ended the day in a hotel at the base of these ruins, anticipating the start of the Inca Trail!

Days 4-7: By Meghan, Carsyn, Julia and Kela

We glamped (glamorously camped) our way along 26 miles of the Inca Trail to Machupicchu. We were accompanied by 27 porters and two cooks, who carried our stuff and made us divine meals. On the first day we were surprised to find a tent complete with tables, chairs, silverware, plates, and freshly grilled trout. Along the trail we were greeted by beautiful views of the Sacred Valley and various ancient ruins. We climbed over 3 million stairs and ascended three passes. We had the privilege of walking on the floating trails made by the Incas. At 3:30 AM on the last day, we woke up to follow these trails through the Sun Gate to Machupicchu. With Puma as our guide we spent the day exploring the sacred city, and learned about the amazing and advanced Inca culture.

Day 8: By Yana and Isabel

After an hour of listening to Ruben’s CD of party jams, we arrived in the community of Ocutuan, where our friendly guide, Puma, grew up. We were warmly greeted by smiling women dressed in indigenous clothing. We arrived as they were preparing a huge earth oven for cooking the recently harvested potatoes. Soon after, we were taught how to make our own ovens which consisted of piling dirt and stones to create little igloo-like mounds. Using leaves, sticks and matches, we started little fires in them, making smoke seep out of the cracks. Everyone, including the older women and our guides were on their hands and knees, blowing into the ovens in attempts to keep our fires from going out. After 15 minutes when the ovens were hot enough, we threw potatoes into the little flames and collapsed the dirt on top of them. After covering the mounts with dirt until the smoke could no longer escape, we had to wait another 15 minutes for the potatoes to cook. In the meantime, we helped harvest more potatoes by sifting through the field, which soon became a potato war as we threw small potatoes at each other. The guides joined in without mercy and the older women (their mothers, aunts, and grandmothers) laughed on the sidelines. Afterwards, we uncovered our ovens and ate delicious potatoes, paired with homemade guacamole and homegrown choclo (corn). Later, we got to help harvest wheat with mini scythes, Puma and his family chuckled at our attempts. After a day of dirty hands and amazing food, we said goodbye to the generous families, who gave each of us a hug and sincere farewell as we made our way back to the city.

Click Here to enjoy photos from the Santa Cruz Trek, Lima, Cusco and the Sacred Valley



Academics in Motion

TTS27 is creeping into the final weeks of the semester. Throughout the past 12 weeks they held classes on the shores of jungle rivers, on the peaks of the Andes Mountains, in the turquoise waters of the Galapagos and in hostels scattered throughout the region. Through these experiences students learned they didn’t need a desk, chair or computer to grapple with complex issues. Instead, they recognized an inquisitive mind, pencil, notebook and openness to new experiences can weave education through classes and experiences. History now lapses into Literature class and Global Studies puts meaning to Natural Science conversations. The course summaries below highlight how students are putting their Traveling School experience into action.

Global Studies 

Over the past several weeks, Global Studies students have grappled with a variety of topics, zooming out to study US Foreign Aid Policy during our time in Huaraz and zooming in to explore Andean cosmovision and cultural practices in Cuzco, the Sacred Valley, and on the Inca Trail  with Puma and his family. To study Foreign Aid, students learned about the types of Foreign Aid the United States gives, analyzed several case studies, and then participated in a simulation of the Committee on Foreign Relations of the US Senate. During the simulation students took on the roles of committee members, foreign aid recipients, and four groups with different opinions on what US Foreign Aid should look like. The different groups debated their points of view, the foreign aid recipients articulated their needs, and the committee members made a final decision based on the arguments. With Puma and his family, students have explored Andean cosmovision and cultural practices of the Sacred Valley through formal lectures by Puma to more casual discussions over meals and on the trail  to the meanings of different ancient ruins and what we can still learn from them today. Looking forward, as we enter Bolivia, students will delve into the study of grassroots activism and then discuss how they can take everything they have learned home!


Literature and Composition

Now that we have finished reading Paolo Cohelo’s, The Alchemist, students have been learning about reciting and writing their own reflective spoken word poetry. Students started by giving bilingual readings, in small groups, of spoken word poetry. During the Inca Trail, students had time to reflect  and write their own poems that will be presented before the class in the upcoming week. This week, we will also be starting Isabel Allende’s classic novel, The House of the Spirits. The novel takes place in Chile during the 20th century and follows the story of three generations of the Trueba family, through the lens of magical realism. In the next weeks students will continue to explore the genre of magical realism and write their own magical realism vignettes.

History and Government

History and Government has been fully surrounded by the evidence of ancient civilizations, and have seen on a daily basis how these practices and lifestyles are evident today. In Lima, the class visited Museo Larco, a collection of over 10,000 years of art and artifacts from regions throughout Peru. The class began to imagine the thriving ancient cultures of Peru. We have since visited Inca and pre-Inca sites in and around Cusco with our effusive guide Puma.

In reflections on various aspects of Inca and pre-Inca culture, the students challenged their preconceptions of what it means to be a technologically advanced, or socially equal society. Aspects that stood out were the amazing architecture and engineering. Students were amazed by construction able withstand earthquakes without mortar. Another impressive aspect of ancient Peruvian culture was the appreciation for the  balance between the masculine and feminine, which is apparent in temples, carvings and stories.

Looking forward, the students will present on a variety of important historical figures during our walking tour of Cusco, where we will see art, simulations and songs about those that shaped the region in essential ways. Our studies of ancient cultures will culminate when the class visits Lake Titicaca, the birthplace of the Incas. We will wrap up our studies of the region through creating a class history book to depict the most important themes and sentiments that students want to share about the region.

Beginning Spanish

Beginning Conversational Spanish has been working to master creating sentences in multiple verb tenses. The class has practiced working with the past tense as well as in the present progressive and simple future. Assignments have focused on sentence translation with several tenses and the class reviews and practices through a variety of games, conversations and practical vocabulary related to the areas we visit. Journal entries require reflection of our activities and will continue through the coming weeks. The class will practice conversing with each other, our guides and in local markets. Everyone looks forward to continuing to apply our skills to the opportunities that surround us in Peru and Bolivia.

Intermediate Spanish

In the past two weeks, Intermediate Spanish students have delved into reading and discussing the Ecuadorian and Peruvian legends of La princesa nunash, Tukuma el toro de oro, and La Leyenda del imperio inca. They’ve also practiced writing their own stories through their weekly journal entries and reflecting on their experiences on the Santa Cruz trek, in Lima, and on the Inca trail. We will continue to work on mastering the past and present progressive tenses, direct and indirect object pronouns, the past and present participle tense, and the imperative tense in the next weeks, as well as have plenty of time conversing with our guides, ordering in restaurants, and having Spanish conversations over meals.

Advanced Spanish 

After completing their midterm research projects on a social issue in Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia, Advanced Spanish students are diligently working on their Spanish journals as well as reviewing various grammar topics. Each week they complete three journal entries in which they reflect on the week through various prompts. Most recently these included: (1) write a letter to someone about the Inca Trail in which you convince them to do the trek, (2) reflect on something you learned during the trek, about it’s history, our group, or yourself, and (3) have a conversation with one of the guides or porters in Spanish, describe the conversation, what did you learn? In class, students review the perfect, future and conditional tenses in preparation for our subjunctive unit. Looking forward, students will practice formal email writing to reach out to an organization that works in the realm of the social issue they studied for their midterm project.

Algebra 2

Algebra 2 students have been learning about rational expressions and radical functions in Chapter 8. We have worked on multiplying, dividing, adding, subtracting, simplifying, and solving a variety of expressions and inequalities. Additionally, students are learning how to graph functions and indenting their transformations, zeros, asymptotes, holes, domains, and ranges. This week, we will take the cumulative exam on Chapters 6 – 9 before starting our final unit on sequences, series, permutations, and probability.


Precalculus students have spent the past weeks diving into the complicated (and exciting) world of matrices and their applications. Students practiced identifying matrix orders, rows, columns, and elements through playing matrix battleship and enjoyed the challenges of coding and decoding secret messages to their classmates through matrices. We have also practiced how to solve matrices through Gaussian elimination and Gauss Jordan elimination and apply this knowledge to application problems with traffic. Students will take a test on solving matrices, finding matrix products, finding matrix inverses, and finding matrix determinants. In the next weeks we will complete our final unit on sequences, series, permutations, and probability.

Natural Science

While still in Huaraz, Natural Science students explored and presented about the biomes of Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia, drawing upon their knowledge and observations of our travels thus far. During the Santa Cruz trek and the Inca Trail, we had mini-units on geology and glaciology. At one of our campsites on the Santa Cruz trek, students observed the landscape and drew cartoons depicting the processes that created the glacial valley that we can currently see. Students also learned about sedimentary, metamorphic, and igneous rocks and took their turn at trying to identify them. On the Inca Trail, students explored plate tectonics through interpreting topography, sea floor age, earthquake, and volcanic maps to make predictions about characteristics of different types of plate interactions. Our observations this semester about the Andes came together when we learned how they were formed through subduction of the Nazca plate underneath the South America plate. In our final weeks, we are starting a unit on climate change, focusing on the science, policy, and action behind current events and issues.


Santa Cruz Trek


The group wandered through the markets to find potential backcountry meals to prepare for our 30 mile backpack trip on the Santa Cruz Trek. That evening, our hostel is covered in packs of oatmeal, peanut butter, chocolate, tents and stoves. Everyone pitches in to make certain we are well prepared for five days in the backcountry.


We met our guide, Arones, at 7am to take a bus ride to the small town of Cashapampa where we were introduced to our new donkey friends who would carry our food and tents for the trip. Our first afternoon on the trail was spent under the sun winding our way up a canyon. The students were psyched to begin this adventure and gain new skills about backcountry travel. We took our time trekking to our camp, Llamacorral, in order for everyone to adjust to the higher elevation.


We hiked eight miles to “the world’s most beautiful campsite’, Taullipampa where we could be in awe of multiple peaks above 5,000 meters. Everyone was in high spirits and felt fortunate to spend two nights in this magical campsite.


It was a day to sleep in, enjoy yoga and read ‘The Alchemist’ for literature class. Some students and teachers decided to hike to a lake and to the base camp for climbers to summit the peak, Alpamayo. It was a cloudy hike but the beauty of the lake and the good company made it worthwhile. For science class, we gazed at glaciers behind Rachel, as she taught us how glaciers formed by using snickers bars to demonstrate how they move and change a landscape.


Our big day! We hiked eight miles in consistent rain to the top of Punta Union which is at a whopping 4,750 meters. The students were excellent at encouraging one another to the top of the pass. And everyone handled the elevation well. We sang our own rendition of the popular Adele song, “Squirrels on the other side” when we made it to the top. Squirrels became our mascot during the trek. We celebrated with candy and singing. We had a rainy evening at our campsite where most of us curled into our sleeping bags at an early hour with a hot tea or cocoa.


Although our gear was still wet, we were grateful to wake up to sunshine and a clear view of the peaks. We took our time heading down the valley and relished in our last few hours on the trail. We walked through a few small villages where some locals encouraged us, telling us we were close to our bus transportation. We celebrated the end of a successful trip with a glass of Inka Cola soda (tastes like bubble gum) with our guides. We then had a magnificent 5 hour drive winding down the Andes back to our hostel in Huaraz.

Through the blisters, stomach aches and rain, TTS 27 were positively joyful to be immersed in a mountain range that made us feel small yet connected to our surroundings. During our circle to debrief the experience, the girls discussed how gratifying it was to accomplish a task that they were not confident they could do. They recognized how lucky they were to experience the Santa Cruz Trail and felt grateful for the other opportunities we will have this semester to explore South America’s great outdoors.

Click here for more photos from the trek.



Academic Update

Algebra 2

In Algebra 2 we’ve spent the past weeks learning about exponents and logarithms and functions. Students have been working on transforming piecewise, logarithmic and exponential functions, performing different operations on functions, and graphing and solving for function inverses. Students took a pre-midterm test on material from chapter 9 and will take their cumulative midterm exam after the upcoming chapter 8 on rational expressions and radical functions.


Precalculus students just finished their midterm on topics ranging from analytical trigonometry, polar graphing and vectors to systems of equations. Now in the mountains of Peru, students are learning about systems of equations with multiple variables, non-linear systems and systems of inequalities. In the coming weeks, we will dive into matrices and explore their practical applications.

Natural Science

We could not have asked for a better location for natural science class than the GALAPAGOS! This group of 13 main islands and hundreds of smaller islands, formed from hotspot volcanoes over millions of years, was the natural laboratory that provided Charles Darwin with the specimens he needed to discover the theory of evolution. Galapagos is home to unique species of plants and animals. With our instructors from Ecology Project International (EPI) we filled eight days on the islands learning about natural history, ecosystems, species and current events.

We spent two days assisting park ranger guides in El Chato reserve in their quest to study the giant tortoises. We collected speciman specific data on various tortoises and then analyzed tortoise poop samples to learn about their diet and role in seed dispersal throughout the islands.

Students used their data from tortoise monitoring  along with data from the database to create group research projects. Within their research groups, students went through the scientific process of taking observations, writing a question, making a hypothesis, looking at data, analyzing their results, writing a conclusion, and presenting their findings to the group. The presentations and posters the girls created for their science midterms were fantastic: clear, organized, detailed, and thoughtful. Caroline, Kate, Clarissa, and Grace compared recapture rates of male and female tortoises in two different locations in the highlands. Sylvia, Harley, Kela and Grace looked at the weights and lengths of male and female tortoises. Yana, Sophie, Meghan, and Melanie presented on the relationship between elevation and tortoise size. Isabel, Carsyn, Emma, and Julia explored the correlation between time of year and capture rates of male and female tortoises.

Science class will now transition to learning about biomes, plate tectonics, glaciology, and climate change in South America. What better place to start than a multi-day trek over mountain passes with glaciers all around us.

Intermediate Spanish

Intermediate Spanish students have been busy been learning and reviewing the past tense by practicing the preterito and the imperfecto. In class students have learned when to use each form and practice through speaking, writing, and reading a short Argentinian legend about the goddess of the wind, the Huirapuca.

While in Galapagos, the girls spent an afternoon with students from Santa Cruz island. Teens from the local Mola Mola Ecology club gave our students a tour of Puerto Ayora, showing us some key locations: Charles Darwin’s statue, the fish market, the piers, and a beautiful mangrove reserve. For both TTS and Mola Mola students, it was an excellent opportunity to practice Spanish and English, respectively, and learn a bit more about each others’ lives!

Coming up, we will be reading more short Latin American legends, and digging into the present progressive and past progressive tenses.


For the past few weeks our focus in literature has been writing analytical essays for The Queen of Water. We started with writing mini-essays on a variety of themes and prompts from the novel, progressing into developing thesis statements and topic sentences. We reviewed the form of an analytical essay and practiced writing “hamburger” paragraphs to organize our thoughts and back up textual evidence with analysis. Students then brainstormed their own essay ideas and began designing thesis statements and topic sentences for supporting body paragraphs. After sleuthing for textual evidence, students amended their outlines and began writing their first draft of the essay. Upon completion, we worked on peer-editing and reading each others’ work to help with grammar, content and organization. After students turn in their final essays for midterms, we will begin our next unit reading Brazilian author, Paolo Cohelo’s world-renown novel, The Alchemist. As we read, students will also think about write their own personal legends.

Physical Education

PE at TTS is always changing and often presents numerous fun and unique opportunities. We snorkeled in the Galapagos as well as enjoyed an epic day that started with an optional sunrise beach run and included several hours of biking and hiking to the top of a spectacular look-out. In Cuenca students explored parks along the river during afternoon jogs. While on the coast of Peru in Mancora and Huanchaco, we took the opportunity to go on morning beach jogs and swims as well as participate in surfing lessons. Everyone had a blast and all stood up on the board! Now in the mountains of Huaraz, we are preparing for our upcoming trek with morning circuits and yoga and a great day hike to a beautiful alpine glacial lake. When we return from the trek, the class will begin their leadership rotations, whose responsibilities also include planning and running PE classes!



Surfing In Peru

Surfing in Peru by: Yana

On Saint Patrick’s Day we went surfing on the Peruvian Coast. We got to the beach and learned that we all had our own personal teacher. There were a variety of surf instructors, men and women, including a 1 year old pro surfer girl, who we were all very jealous of! They taught us how to get up one the board, and helped us catch the waves. Most times they held onto the back of our boards while we stood up and rode the waves. Some of us got to ride a wave on our own, which was very exciting. Surfing has been a life dream for many of us, so it was a great day!

Our Final Days In Ecuador

Hiking in Cajas by: Caroline

We drove from Cuenca to Cajas National Park, and near the end of the drive we stopped and walked up lots of stairs to a view point where we could see a whole lake system. From there we drove to the trailhead, and started hiking with our guides, Alejandro and Jaime. The beginning was mellow and they showed us many interesting plants. Eventually we got to the base of the mountain, and we took a short break before starting to climb. Everyone was out of breath within a few minutes because of the steep slope and the altitude. The whole hike was gorgeous, with tons of little lakes and mountains sprawled out in every direction. After a few hours we made it to the summit (over 14,000 feet) where we ate a packed lunch, took some pictures, and dedicated the hike to Elsie and her family by leaving small rocks we hiked up with on a cairn. After that we started to walk (but more like intentionally slide on our bums), since it was kind of muddy. Julia was great at helping other people down, Isabel and Sylvia found their natural habitat in the long grass of the Páramo, Grace accomplished great feats, Melanie made us laugh, and Sophie stepped in knee deep mud. Everyone was very tired by the end but we cannot wait for the Santa Cruz trek to hike more in the Andes.

The Galapagos

Tortoise activities by: Julia

IMG_3425When we showed up at EPI’s doorstep, we weren’t quite sure what to expect. When we heard we were going to be interacting with the tortoises we couldn’t believe it. Tourists can’t go within two meters of wildlife, we we could get to touch them! Not only that, but we also got to collect data that will help the conservation effort as well as regular research. We found the tortoises very easily. Splitting up into smaller groups we approached it, staying out of it’s field of vision. We would measure the shell’s length and width, then we would gently roll it on it’s back. We scanned for a microchip in it’s let while someone measured the plaster (is this right? Hard to read.) If no chip existed someone would clean the tortoises’ skin, a guide would insert the chip, and would glue the wound shut. After this a rope was tied around the plaster and we would weigh the tortoise. Finally we would flip it back over and paint a white dot on it’s shell so it doesn’t get examined again really soon. We found 11 tortoises and documented 10 of them. This was an incredible experience that almost no one else will be able to have. It was an amazing surprise and we are all so grateful to have been a part of the conservation effort.


Bike, Ride and Hike by: Silvia

One beautiful day we went for a bike ride on Isabela island. It was only about a 5k but due to the intense heat and humidity as well as deep sand and broken bikes it was slow going. We were trying to bike up hills, unable to change gears that kept making popping noises. At first people were frustrated by these factors but as we went along we became more relaxed and cheered each other on. After considerable amounts of sweat we arrived at our destination: The Wall of Tears. Our EPI instructor Juan Carlos told us about how during the 1940s prisoners were brought from all over to Isabela and how they were forced to build this immense stone wall just because the guards wanted them to work instead of sit around. Then we climbed up a very long, very steep set of stairs, built into the large hill next to the wall.  The climb was very tiring but well worth the effort when we reached the top. The view was incredible with the bright blue ocean on one side, and the lush greenery of Isabela on the other. We ate snack, one of our favorite activities, and took a moment to reflect on being in the Galapagos. The hike down and bike back was even more fun since it was largely downhill though we did suffer many flat tires which meant lots of stopping and getting to talk with everyone. All in all very exhausting but very fun.


Town time in Galapagos by: Clarissa

group on bridgeAfter a beautiful morning spent hiking to and swimming in Las Grietas, we ate a quick lunch and went to meet some students who started an environmental club on the island. They were all from different schools around Santa Cruz but they got together on weekends to do things like pick up trash on the beach, work on recycling programs, and bring more overall environmental awareness to the island. These students worked with EPI as well to help collect data and work with various species on the island. It was so great to interact with other students and hear their stories as they gave us a tour of downtown Santa Cruz. We tested out our Spanish skills as we walked with them through the town looking at Darwin’s monument, the central plaza, beautiful tiled walls by the ocean, the fisherman’s warp, and a little swimming area where we saw a sea turtle. We also saw many sea lions who seemed to have the playful personalities of labradors as they fearlessly wiggled and flopped up to us. After visiting a beautiful mangrove park we celebrated one of the youngest student’s fourteenth birthday with a cake and some ice cream near the center of the town.


Las Grietas by: Kate

One of my highlight from the Galapagos trip was our time spent in “Las Grietas.” The Spanish name “Las Grietas” translates literally to, “The Cracks,” which is an appropriate title. At first glance, Las Grietas appears to be only a giant gap between lara rocks-a black canyon within a deserted coastal area. However, one is met with a dazzling clear turquoise water passage, which, in my eyes, was nearly impossibly beautiful. Las Grietas is a split within the lava rock ground that is filled with 25-30 feet deep of brackish (a mix of salt water from the ocean, and freshwater from the mountain) water. Our group’s primary’s plan was to snorkel through the canyon, but because of the low tide, we were only able to access a small part of it. However, we had an amazing time swimming, splashing, jumping, and relaxing in Las Grietas and got the chance to see some huge fish, such as parrotfish! I was surprised by the clearness and deepness of the water, as well as how cold it was compared to the sea. Las Grietas was one of the most magnificent things I’ve experienced that was formed entirely by nature, and I hope one day I’ll get to return.


sunsetNights on the Beach by: Anna

Imagine the sun is just setting and the stars have just begun to fill the sky. The ocean breeze swirled around making your hair fly. The sand sinks beneath your feet and the ocean waves are crashing just a few feet away. The perfect night. We got to experience this more than once in our time at the Galapagos. On this night we did not hold back. We laughter, danced and ran around in circles. We stargazed and sang with Julia leading the way-master of the ukelele. Sometimes we get caught up in the work and activities, but on nights like these it is easy ton feel so grateful that we are the lucky 16 dancing under the Galapagos stars.


Snorkeling by: Carsyn

The Galapagos is overall so special and magnificent, with they turquoise water filled with so much life. Before we went snorkeling, we boated over to an island just across the bay to observe wildlife. We saw the special Galapagos penguins along with the blue footed boobies. When we reached the island, it was filled with iguanas. They blend into the rock and dirt, so it is difficult to spot them unless they were moving. We also had the opportunity to see white tip reef sharks, which were on average seven feet long, and so peaceful as they paced back and forth in the water filled crack. We finished our walk on the island, and hopped in the boat to drive to the lagoon for snorkeling! Before we knew it, we were snorkeling in the Galapagos! The water wasn’t as clear as expected, but we still saw so many special things ranging from puffer fish the size of a football, sea stars, sea urchins, a sting ray, and even green sea turtles! We saw five sea turtles that were resting on the bottom. They seemed oblivious to the fact that all these snorkelers were peering down from above. It was very special to swim with these amazing creatures in their natural habitat. Snorkeling in the Galapagos was a tremendous experience and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

More Photos from the Galapagos: Click Here


Our time in Agualongo

We had an amazing week in the community of Agualongo. The community is about 15 minutes outside of Otavalo.

As part of Caroline’s history assignment, you can learn a bit more about what the community looked like in recent decades, and how it has changed.

“The community of Agualongo began in 1975, by a man named Manual Farinango Wasuki. Manuel is still living today, although he is no longer the president of the community. Before 1975, the only people living in the area where Agualongo is now were workers on the hacienda, so the community formed along with tangible improvements, such as a road, soccer field ,and community center.

The land that the community sits on is no longer a part of Hacienda Perugachi. The houses and the land they sit on belong to the individual families that live in them. The area up the side of the valley with large groups of cows and tracts of farm land belong to the hacienda, or wasipungo, as they call it in Agualongo. It still employs people ,who start as young as 15 years old to help plant, corn, wheat, potatoes and other agricultural products.

José Jaime, my host dad who I did this interview with, came to the community in 1980. An uncle of his was a slave on the hacienda. José Jaime lived in Quito and came to the hacienda to visit his uncle, and when he came he saw the potential of the community if it had a road to connect it to Otavalo. He moved the community to help construct the road, and has been there ever since.”

Caroline’s response… “Since my host family came to Agualongo after the end of slavery on the hacienda, the history Jose Jaime was able to tell Kela and I was significantly less personal and painful than many other families’ history. The fact that the people of Agualongo own the land they live on, and run small scale farms reflects an effective aspect of land reform. The large amount of land still associated with the functioning hacienda also demonstrates that much of the land was never redistributed.”


The following excerpts are from the students’ oral history reports will give you a glimpse into their homes, conversations, and insights. The students worked in pairs to write questions that were of interest to them, and when the time came for the conversations, the interviews took a variety of routes. Anna, Kela and Kate’s sections are from the background portion of their papers, and Harley, Melanie, and Carsyn’s sections are from the reflection portion. 


Anna, Junior, Maine –

“Our host family lives simplistically and beautifully. Our host parents, Maria Juana and her husband Ramiro were equal participants throughout the interview. They have six children. The eldest daughter is in Quito and has started her own family. The eldest son was recently married and is out of the house. Their other sons, Omar, Alex, Cesar, and little Angel are still at home. From the moment we arrived, it was evident they were a caring and hard working family. The four of them shared a main living space with a few additional rooms attached. Without fail, all of them were up early each morning. Our host dad goes to his job at an hacienda before I wake up. Ramiro has established a good relationship with his work, because in addition to his pay he receives milk for the family. Maria is also up early feeding everyone, doing laundry, dishes, and caring for the animals. The other older brother helps his mom with house work throughout the week. The youngest brothers, Cesar and Angel are off to school. It became quickly clear that as a family they valued education. There was much help given to our little brothers to complete their homework. Also the older brothers Omar and Alex may work throughout the week, but they are two out of teenagers from Agualongo that attend high school.

There was an interesting balance of roles in our home. Working heavily rested on Ramiro, but age seemed to be a factor as the elder children juggled their own jobs. Maria was primarily responsible for house work. She does everything from cooking and serving meals to taking care of the animals. Again, age is a factor in house jobs because I was the younger sons that were tasked with additional house work. Lastly, school was a large component. Despite all their jobs, our family made sure education was possible.

By the end of our stay, I felt very much at home with our family. Although they would probably be considered of lower class, they were extremely generous. They made the best of all their resources. I felt so lucky to spend time in their home and family.”


Kela, Junior, Wisconsin –

“At age 15, Jon is the youngest sibling out of ten. Along with his father and mother, Jon and his 17 year old brother are the only ones living in their small home. While he attends school on weekdays, his brother and father both work jobs in construction to support the family. Throughout our week long stay, I was able to experience what this family values as important, including laughter, their heritage and language, and each other. Jon’s true character seemed to shine through whenever he was left in charge of his two year old nephew. I witnessed more love and patience than I ever thought possible from a 15 year old boy, but those same attributes could be seen throughout the whole household.”


Kate, Junior, Montana –

“Though Dionicia Salazar is 50 years old with a story worthy enough for the big screen, it is often easy to forget that she is not one of your childhood best friends, who you would stay up giggling and playing with until the late hours of the night. Her seemingly endless energy is prominent throughout the undying glint of mischief in her eyes, and she has a playful energy that radiates out from her head to her toes – something that could perhaps be a glimpse of the child she was never able to be.

Dionicia lives now with only one of her two daughters, Janeth Sophia. Dionicia’s house is somewhat large, with two living rooms, three bedrooms, and other space upstairs, presumable for the company she hosts often. Her husband, Alberto, spends his weeks working in Quito, but returns every weekend to spend time at home in Agualongo.

Dionicia spends her days caring for her many animals – three pigs, three cats, two dogs, three ducks, 40 guinea pigs, two sheep, and many chickens – as well as working in her field and cooking in her kitchen. She’s able to support herself through this work and enjoys her calm life in Agualongo, always adding a bit of lighthearted fun in everything she does. However, to get to the position she is in today, Dionicia fought through an incredibly difficult childhood that is hidden well behind the innocence and playfulness she so well exhibits.”


Harley, Freshman, Connecticut –

“Laura and Alfredo were both honored by our interest in their past. They listened to our first questions but were not content with giving us a short answer. They thought we needed to know their whole backstory to fully comprehend their lives, which was true. I thought the interview would be structured in a typical question and answer format, but we only had to ask one question to get them to tell us a long story. Alfredo told us about his relationship with his older sister and what his childhood was like in Agualongo. His story was finished by Laura after one of the kids needed his help. He seemed confident that his wife would be able to tell their story on her own. Laura was very proud of her past and excitedly recounted it for us.

Laura told us about Agualongo and it’s history during our interview. She told us about the story of Pedro, a man with a strong character, who ended the control of the hacienda in Agualongo. She also talked about how she had twelve babies and lost two of them. At the end of the interview, Laura when through the ten of her children and proudly reported what they were good at. Laura is a very busy woman, she was awake every morning at 4:30, milking cows with her youngest daughter tied around her back. I thanked Laura for bravely sharing her story with us, but I never had time to ask her more questions about her past.

When I heard Laura’s story, I was amazed that the woman sitting in front of me had experienced all that she had. At first I was nervous because Laura was not answering all of our questions, but I realized that she had a story to tell and I needed to listen. I found myself getting annoyed because I could not understand what she was saying. It seemed disrespectful, to her, to have her stop her story and wait for someone to translate for me. Ultimately, I was amazed by Laura’s ability to confidently share her history with me, and by the happiness she has found after a childhood of hardship and struggle.”


Melanie, Sophomore, Georgia –

“Throughout conducting an oral history interview on the indigenous culture in Agualongo, I learned that all generations are proud of their culture, and the main change in their culture has been the view on education.

María speaks Kichwa unless she needs to communicate in Spanish, because Kichwa is a major part of her culture. María has grown up surrounded by the indigenous culture, and raised her children this way too. When Romel talked about how the tradition of boys’ long hair is slowly changing, he was upset because it meant some boys were not proud of their culture and background. It impacted me that even 16 year old boys wanted to preserve their culture. In the US, most 16 year old boys are not the ones preserving culture, so I think it is special that this culture is so deeply embedded in each child…

The one major change I noticed in indigenous culture was the views on education in her family. During the interview, María talked about how her mom did not want her to go to school, because her mom needed María’s help inside the house. After the interview, I wondered why María’s children go to school because every other tradition in their life has been passed down through generations. One night I asked María if it was important to her that her children get an education, and she replied yes without hesitation. This shows how education’s importance has increased in the indigenous culture, which is interesting because the importance and view of education in the US has also increased in the past 100 years…

This oral history interview experience showed me how family is valued in the indigenous community of Agualongo. It also highlighted the similarities in both of our cultures, which is interesting because we lead very different lifestyles. Getting to know the family during this interview was a great bonding experience because María’s family was open to sharing parts of their life story. This made me feel at home, and I will try to use this style of conversation in the future. At some points I wish I had pushed myself to go deeper in conversation. I will try to engage more in oral history interviews, because there is so much to learn about every person. In this interview, I only uncovered the top layer of information, but through conversations outside of the interview I managed to learn more about their lifestyle and culture.”


Carsyn, Senior, Colorado –

“My oral history interview with Dionicia reached deep into her childhood and past experiences. Dionicia became very emotional to our first question of ‘Where did you grow up?’ Dionicia shed tears as she talked about her childhood and all the events that took place. She became happier as her life went on, as she grew older. Dionicia started with one question, and branched off of it to tell her own story.

I learned more than I expected from my oral history interview. I gained an insight of how the average child lived in Agualongo. I learned that most children had a father that was a slave on the hacienda. It was also very common for young girls to move away from Agualongo to live and work for a mestizo family. It also caught me by surprise that parents could be sent to jail for adultery, and it was against the law to cheat on your spouse. With these new insights, I have gained a better understanding of how older generations grew up in Agualongo, and what challenges they faced.

I was very nervous to conduct this interview with a lady I had just met a few days earlier. I quickly learned that everyone has a story, and I am so fortunate to be able to hear Dionicia’s. The interview became slightly uncomfortable as Dionicia started to cry. I did not know how to react, but I learned that as you show sympathy, that person feels comforted and continues with their story, as Dionicia did…”


Photos from rafting the Jatun Yaku River near Tena, Ecuador: Click Here


Academic Class Update

Hi all~

We’re deep into our studies and want to share a little about each class. Hope you enjoy reading about our academics.

Global Studies

We began this semester with an introduction to the concept of critical consciousness and different philosophies of education – with a view on how we can question our assumptions and learn from the world around us throughout the semester. In Tena, we watched the documentary Crude and discussed the Ecuadorean oil industry with Luis (a friend and employee of our hotel who previously worked for an oil company), who offered another perspective to our overall understanding of oil in Ecuador. During our homestays in Agualongo, we participated in an Foreign Aid simulation and service learning discussion with Tandana staff to get us thinking about the meaning and possible implications of service as we participate in service projects ourselves. During their homestays students are doing an interdisciplinary Oral History project.  in which they conduct interviews with someone in their homestay family focusing on a particular theme, such as access to education or gender roles. Looking forward, we will begin discussing Foreign Aid and International Trade on a larger scale, but grounded in the contexts of our experiences in Ecuador so far.

PE & Independent Life Skills

We have been very busy in iLife over the past few weeks orienting ourselves to life on the move in South America. Classes have included topics such as hand washing clothing, academic and personal organization, women’s health, and purifying water as well as risk management, personal safety, and self-defense. We have also spent time in iLife reflecting on how we want our Traveling School community to look and function over the next 15 weeks. Students came together as a whole group and wrote 5 guiding principles to live by, which you can read below. They named their community standards ohana, which means family in Hawaiian.


  • We will maintain a positive attitude by sharing hugs, laughs, encouragement, and kindness. We will keep spirits high and negativity low.
  • We will encourage an environment that interests and incorporates everyone while fostering a willingness to participate.
  • We will share ourselves, our feelings, and ideas as well as get to know others by listening to and collaborating with others. We will not be afraid to talk about what’s going on and it will help to avoid conflict.
  • We will remain respectful by giving space when needed, staying empathetic, and acknowledging different perspectives. We will maintain patience and be sensitive to varying comfort levels.
  • We will love everything about each other, laugh together, trust each other, be trustworthy, provide support at any time, share the good and the bad, and make sure nobody is left behind or forgotten. We will be each other’s ohana.

In addition to their community goals, students reflected on their own personal goals for the semester and learned about the importance of setting specific and measurable goals. Each student wrote two goals to work towards, which their mentor will continue to support them in over the course of the semester. Last but not least, students have begun learning about and practicing the art of budget keeping by tracking their spending each week.

During the first weeks of Physical Education, students have been practicing and learning about the importance of aerobic and anaerobic exercises, dynamic warm ups, and stretching cool downs. In Tena, our PE classes often included morning jogs along country roads, surrounded by lush, green rainforest vegetation. On the, inevitably, rainy mornings, the group collaborated to design rotating circuits, targeting different muscle groups, and also making stations that included exercises that increased their heart rate. Other exercise highlights in Tena included swimming in the river, playing volleyball, and going on numerous hikes in the rainforest. Now in Otavalo, our PE classes have included jogs in town, running and doing obstacle and agility courses on the local track, salsa and meringue lessons, and joining morning Zumba classes in the local park.

Intermediate Spanish

Our first weeks in Ecuador have provided numerous opportunities to practice and apply what we are learning in Spanish class in our daily lives. In our first couple classes, we reviewed greetings and question words and the present tense, with a focus on talking and conversation. In Spanish immersion classes in Otavalo with local teacher, Juan, we have been reviewing the present, preterite, and imperfect tenses, while also learning new vocabulary words and verbs, with a huge emphasis on speaking. With class, we visited a local museum, learning about the history, cultures, and traditions of Otavalo (in Spanish, of course!) and practiced conversing as we hiked to visit the Parque Condor and see rescued raptors and birds from all over the Andes. Our final immersion class included visiting the huge Mercado de los Ponchos where we practiced greetings, questions, and bargaining skills with local vendors. This intensive focus on Spanish has been extremely beneficial preparation for our stays with host families in Agualongo.

Some conversation highlights over the past weeks have included:

Yana and Emma learned to play different games with their little host sisters and asked their host mom about her time working in Spain.

Grace showed her host family photos of her home and explained different places, animals, and activities in Montana.

Isabel and Meghan started up a conversation with one of our drivers in Tena, Eduardo, asking him about his children, which led into a discussion about the challenges and importance of learning new languages.

Beginning and Advanced Spanish

All classes spent the past week participating in Spanish immersion classes with local teachers from Otavalo. The classes practiced discussions, grammar and vocabulary, and worked on their skills on different outings and in the famous Otavalo textile market. This week, all the students are living in pairs with host families in the community of Agualongo, about 15 minutes outside of Otavalo. The students are speaking by far the most Spanish that they have thus far this semester, and the pairs are doing a wonderful job of interacting with their families in a variety of ways. All Spanish classes are also participating in the interdisciplinary Oral History project. This involves writing original questions for the families on topics of interest, conducting an interview in Spanish, and completing reflection assignments related to the interview experience, depending on Spanish levels. We are looking forward to continuing to build on the students’ applicable conversation skills and confidence that they have been gaining from their interactions this week.


History and Government began the semester by looking at our ideas of America from a different lens, and the implications of South America’s geographical location at the bottom of the world. We have continued with this theme in our discussion of re-discovering the meaning of colonization. We introduced how colonialism works and still affects the world today, and we have been discussing how these views can be framed from the perspective of both the colonized and the colonizers.  Isabel and Clarissa wrote about how an aspect of the colonial structure, that can be defined as ‘Growing for Europe’ in the eyes of the colonized, could be construed as ‘Expanding Relationships’ in the eyes of a colonial superpower. They described this process as  one in which ‘mutually beneficial trade relationships allow the native population to share their resources globally and establish connections with more powerful countries.’ Another aspect of colonialism involves providing raw materials to Europe, and therefore local industries were not encouraged in the colonies.  Harley, Carsyn, and Kela wrote about how in the eyes of Spain this could be construed as ‘Giving Back,’ in which the colonizer ‘takes our new resources home and uses our developed technology to manufacture products that are then available to the natives.’ We have encountered many real stories from those in Otavalo and Tena that we can have been using to inform our own opinions and observations.

This week, as part of the Oral History project, students are learning about the history of the community of Agualongo.  From host parents and siblings, we have heard about the changes in the past couple of decades that have impacted the lives of our families. Looking ahead, we will continue to explore ideas involving identity in the areas we are traveling, and how it has been shaped by the colonial legacy. We are looking forward to seeking a more complete understanding of the root causes of the big issues surrounding us.

We started off the semester in Precalculus with a review of trigonometric identities. Using some homemade hyposmeters, a device to measure angles, along with the right triangle definitions of trigonometric identities, the Law of Sines, and the Law of Cosines we measured and calculated various unknown distance around our hostel such as the height of nearby trees and the distance across a stream. After settling into math class on the go and re-familiarizing ourselves with the unit circle, we dived into our first chapter on analytical trigonometry. This included verifying trigonometric identities as well as finding exact values of trigonometric terms without a calculator. We finished up the chapter with our first test just in time for homestays. We will jump into our next chapter on polar equations when we return from homestays next week.

This semester in Algebra 2 we will be exploring a variety of functions including polynomial, logarithmic, exponential, rational, and radical functions. Functions help us describe and predict what is going on in the world around us, so we look forward to applying our knowledge in Algebra 2 to data we see and experience as we travel. We have started off Algebra 2 this semester with our first chapter on polynomials. Students have learned to graph polynomials by hand without using a calculator by identifying various function behaviors such as zeros, multiplicity, and end behavior. We wrapped up the chapter with our first test of the semester just before homestays and will dive into our next chapter on logarithmic functions next week.

Natural Science Class

Our second day at Establo de Tomas, in Tena, we took a group walk through the surrounding forest, starting the first of many experiential natural science classes in the Amazon rainforest. As we walked, students expressed their curiosity, wondering about new plants and insects and posing thoughtful questions about our new environment.

Throughout the next two weeks, we explored the questions of “how do we make observations?”, “what makes a tropical rainforest?”, “what is the structure of a tropical rainforest?”, “what is diversity and why is the Amazon so biodiverse?”, “what are the climate influences on the rainforest biome?”, and “what complex species relationships are found within the rainforest?”. Students drew concept maps, wrote and illustrated their first field journals, read articles from Adrian Forsyth’s “Tropical Nature”, characterized different species relationships they encountered, and hiked and talked with local guides. In the field, we watched trails of army ants, seeing how “soldier” ants kept their fellows in line. We observed trees covered in epiphytes, bromeliads, and vines, wondering about symbiotic relationships between different species. We visited an animal rehabilitation center, seeing rainforest mammals and birds up close, and thinking critically about conservation. We also learned from our guides different medicinal uses of rainforest plants and some of us got to paint our faces with red berries and try eating ants that taste like lemon. On our drive out of the rainforest, we also had the opportunity to learn about the cloud forest ecosystem and about threats of deforestation and cattle grazing that it is facing.

While still in Tena, we were able to talk with Luis, one of the hostel managers, who told us of his time working for an oil company in the Amazon. We watched the documentary Crude and thought about different perspectives surrounding oil extraction, and asked him questions about the nature of the work and the pros and cons of working for an oil company. As we end our unit on the rainforest and biodiversity, we will continue to think about the nuances surrounding human-environmental interactions with the rainforest.

Literature & Composition

“Now I see that sometimes the person you thought was your enemy was really your teacher, or even, in an odd way, your savior.  I see that wishes come true, in roundabout ways.  I see that if you try to fit someone in a box, she might slip through the seams like water and become her own river.” (p. 342) – The Queen of Water, Laura Reseau and Maria Virginia Farinango

Over the past three weeks, we have been reading and discussing the novel, The Queen Water, based on the life of Maria Virginia, a woman from Otavalo who narrates the story of her childhood. Prior to starting the novel, we explored what is literature and what perspectives we will be approaching it from, reading and discussing poems, “The Nobodies” and “In Defense of the Word”, by Eduardo Galleano. Students wrote reflective essays, explaining their goals for the course, how they hope to approach literature, and how they hope to use their voices this semester.

We continued thinking about our perspectives, writing “I am From” poems based on Mary Pipher’s original “I am From” poem from Poetry to Change the World. In class, we did a poetry reading, sharing with the group more about our origins and identities. It was incredible to listen to the talent and articulateness of our young poets and for all to have the opportunity to appreciate the wide variety of perspectives and experiences within our group.

Conversations about where we are from and what makes us who we are flowed into our discussions of the Queen of Water. Students grappled with complex themes of identity, beauty, privilege, and identity, having in class discussions and writing short reflections. In addition to more analytical assignments, students had the opportunity to chose favorite quotes from each part of the novel and illustrate them. The results were stunning and the girls chose to gift some of them to Maria Virginia when she came to speak with the group. Her visit was a highlight of the week, as students all had the opportunity to see photos of Maria Virginia’s childhood and characters from the story, as well as ask questions about the book and her life after the book ends.

In the next weeks, students will delve into reading poetry by female Latin American poets (and writing some of their own!), as well as writing analytical essays about themes in The Queen of Water. Even as we finish our “Queen of Water” unit, the story and conversations with Maria Virginia will stick with us. At the end of her presentation, Maria Virginia reminded the students that they ultimately have the power over their own lives and that querer es poder (to want is to be able to).


Welcome to the Jungle!

Last Tuesday we returned “home” to Tena from our trip into the jungle. To share our four days of jungle hikes, river floats, and endless laughs and lessons with our guides, the girls each wrote about a part of the journey to share with you…

First, a little about our guides, Jerson and Nixon, from Kate:

“For the duration of our jungle journey, two amazing guides led us on multiple beautiful hikes and taught us countless facts about their land and its plants, animals and people. Though many of us relied on our teachers’ translating skills to understand them, we won’t forget the things they taught and showed us, or the jokes we shared. Our group has taken up Nixon’s infamous joke “oh my gato” (literally: “oh my cat,” instead of saying “oh my god”) and now uses it all of the time. One of the most memorable nights of the jungle was the dinner we spent with Jerson and Nixon. Through our broken Spanish, we managed to have some amazing conversations about their past and present lives. Though our group only spent 4 days with Jerson and Nixon, the memories and bonds we made with them were unforgettable, and they are not only two amazing guides but two wonderful, fascinating people.”

DAY ONE: Waterfalls, Monkeys, Rivers, Oh my!

Our journey starts with Grace:

“We set out from Establo de Tomas with our day packs and borrowed rain boots. We were all very excited for the jungle trip and as much as we like Establo de Tomas we were ready to get out and explore more of the area. We drove in a couple of vans until we reached our destination where we went on an hour long hike to a waterfall that is sacred to the Quichua people. We split into two groups and met Jerson and Nixon. The hike to the waterfall went part way along a river and through the jungle and it was very beautiful. We learned about many different plants from our guides. When we got to the waterfall we were very warm and sweaty so many of us ducked under the waterfall to cool down. It was a beautiful, amazing experience and a great start to our jungle adventure.” 

Caroline tells the next adventure:

“Still soggy from the waterfall hike, we got to the port on the Napo River to head to Sacha Sisa Lodge, which would be our home for the next few days. But before we could leave we went to see the monkeys that live on the beach. At first we couldn’t find them and Nixon said that he thought they were further in the forest because of the rain. But, we kept walking down the beach until we saw an adorable monkey perched on a restaurant balcony. Other tourists kept feeding it grapes which it would bite, eat the insides and then spit out the skin. There was a collection of 20 or so peels on the ground. We also saw a baby monkey on another building’s porch!”

Melanie describes our main mode of transportation, canoes:

“To get from the mainland to our jungle lodge we had to travel on the Napo River. All of the boats we used were long wooden canoes that were painted and had tarp-like covers. They were powered by motor at the rear and could travel quickly downstream. When traveling along the river we got to see a lot of the jungle and because this is the main way of transportation along the Napo River we got to see how different groups decorated their boats and experience how they travel.”

When we arrived to Sacha Sisa, our jungle lodge, Rachel took advantage of the opportunity to do the swim test with girls who did not have time in Miami. Sophie describes the experience from her perspective:

“I swim a lot, but it’s usually in and out: cliff jumping into a river and scurrying back up onto the rocks. I’m a good swimmer, but I don’t do it often. When I heard we would be swimming for 5 minutes then treading water for our swim test, I got a little nervous. When we got to Sacha Sisa, our jungle lodge, we quickly changed into swim suits and headed out to the Napo River. To swim upstream! It was very tiring, but we talked and laughed and goofed around all the while. What made it even more fun was that Rachel swam with us. The next day I shared it as one of my highlights of the week!”

Tired after the swimming in the river, we had dinner and gathered to relax together before bed. Julia writes:

“Since we still have still only been together for two weeks, every time we come together as a family, it brings about strong emotions. Our first night in the Amazon we had a small bonfire encircled by hammocks and benches. It was a relatively small space but all 20 of us packed in together. I brought my ukulele along just in case people were interested and they certainly were. A lot of people knew and sang along to the first few songs. Having the whole group come together to sing and enjoy each other’s company was incredible and foreshadowed the bond that we will hopefully have by the end of the semester. You could feel the sense of community, family, and togetherness. The fire died down after awhile, leaving us in almost complete darkness, besides my headlamp which illuminated my song book, but we all stayed together to make the time at the bonfire last just a bit longer.”

DAY TWO: Chocolate & Chicha, Panning for Gold & a Night Hike

Sylvia introduces our second day’s activities in the jungle:

“Early in the day we got the treat of making chocolate in the jungle. We arrived at a small hut, built on tall stilts to avoid flooding. The stilts were probably ten feet tall because the flood water can be 8 or 9 feet deep. First we got to sample a couple different kinds of fruit that were very unfamiliar but tasted good, including the cacao plant! After that our guide showed us roasted cocoa beans used for chocolate and had us help peel them. After peeling, and sampling a little, a few girls took turns grinding the beans into a paste that was cooked with water and brown sugar to make a sort of chocolate fondue. The fondue was still a little bitter but we enjoyed eating it with bananas. After learning how to make chocolate, the señora whose house we were visiting, showed us how to make chicha, a traditional Quichua drink, using the yuca root we had pulled up from the fields earlier. We all got to try some that had been made a few days before.”

Harley continues:

“That afternoon, we left the Sacha Sisa Lodge and crossed the Napo River to an island where the majority of our activities had been taking place. The first half of our adventure was bush whacking, looking for jungle birds. We eventually found a flock and observed them as Nixon, our guide, explained that they are good food for anacondas (!). After watching the birds, we returned back to the beach and piled our belongings into the canoes. In our bathing suits, we impatiently watched as Jerson and Nixon piled sand into a wooden bowl. They carried the bowl over to the water and we excitedly watched as they spilled water over the bowl, explaining the water would carry away the sand but leave pieces of heavy gold. At the bottom of the bowl we had a few little specks, the size of sand, of gold!”

Isabel recounts what happened next:

“Boarding our canoes after panning for gold, we began to prepare for our leap into the Napo. Wearing our chalecos (life jackets), we partnered up with a buddy for the swim. Nixon counted tres, dos, uno and I pushed off from the small, paint chipped bench, jumping into the river. The water was warmer than the swim test day, and I surfaced with a smile. We all shrieked with surprise and excitement. I joined Yana, Kate, and Clarissa to float down the winding Napo in a loose circle with Nixon at our sides. Using our rough Spanish, we asked him why he was not covered with bug bites like our legs and arms and he told us the bugs preferred “fresh meat.” Swimming and laughing together, we floated down the river.”

That night, we broke into two groups to experience the jungle at night, Carsyn says:

“The critters were chirping, the frogs were croaking, and the night was full of life. We ventured outside and went on a hike! We strapped our headlamps on our heads with excitement to go see the rainforest’s true beauty at night. We encountered a spider that was latched on to a tree, bigger than my hand! It was slightly terrifying, but we all had a rush of excitement. Our guide Jerson told us to turn off our headlamps and appreciate the night sky growing darker and the sounds of the jungle. We also encountered a green frog with orange specks and a brown frog, both relaxing on leaves. You really had to search for the frogs as they were blended in with the leaves and were hidden by bushes. Jerson also pointed out glowing plants. Along with the dark sky, the stars beamed out from above the layers of the trees and gave us a twinkle when we looked up. The rainforest is so alive at night and gave us a sense of life we don’t see.”

DAY THREE: Rainy Monday

After a good night sleep, we awoke to a rainy Monday, Kela reports:

“Rain” forest can accurately sum up a good portion of our weather we experienced that week, and this ample amount of rain also played a big part in our planning and decisions. One morning we started out nice and early with a four hour hike planned. But about 30 minutes in we were slipping on mud and tree roots as a torrential down pour made us retreat back to our lodge. Luckily our guides and teachers have plenty of tricks up their sleeves and provided a backup plan which seemed even better than the first. Once the rain let up we traveled down the river to a new hiking location. After plenty of uphill trail, information on medicinal plants, and a zip line chair, we made it to the top and got to see an amazing view of the Napo River and the area we have been exploring.”

While waiting out the rain storm, we had Global Studies class! In class, we participated in an activity called “Two Tribes,” a simulation in which two “tribes” with very different, specific characteristics have to meet and attempt to begin a trading relationship. Students divided into two groups, were assigned different characteristics such as talkative and touchy or soft-spoken and protective of their journals. The groups then met to “negotiate.”)

Anna, in the louder and hug-loving group, reflects on this experience:

“All we had to do was act friendly, greet the other tribe, and establish a trading connection with them. Simple enough…but then we met. Communication quickly became a barrier. Our greatest success was trading a watch. The notebooks they protected were left a mystery and an obstacle that stood in the way of a good relationship. So many lessons learned. Later we would learn they were just trying to protect something sacred to their culture. They would learn we were not there to attack but to share resources. Sometimes communication will not always go smoothly. Keep an open mind.”

This day ended with a special visit from a Shaman, a traditional healer. Clarissa describes the evening:

“On our final night at Sacha Sisa Lodge, we all gathered around the campfire and were introduced to Jaime, a traditional healer known as a Shaman. He spoke to us in mumble-y Spanish, translated by Clara, about his childhood, how he became a Shaman and why. He said that all the men in generations before him in his family had been shamans and he was his father’s only son and became a Shaman by age 14. He told us how he healed people both mentally and physically by using the spirits he took away the bad energy in his patient’s bodies. Before becoming a Shaman, he had to spend a year on a very strict diet while he learned from the spirits of plants, water, animals, and land in the rainforest. As we sat around the glow of the fire listening to him, he filled us with knowledge and stories of his lifestyle. He also performed a healing for our group. It was such a magical experience. Even as he stood up, sparks from the fire flew into the air and he began singing to us in Quicha and using strong smelling jungle plants to pull the bad energy away from our bodies. Although it may sound strange, many of us felt lighter when he was finished.”

DAY FOUR: AmaZooníca & Carnaval

The last day, we loaded our belongings into one canoe, and then boarded two others to visit a few final sites in the jungle. Meghan describes our fun visit to AmaZooníca, reflecting on the organization’s mission with a critical eye:

“The last day we disembarked to a color wooden sign, reading in big letters: AmaZooníca. After meeting our tour guide one of the first things she told us with enthusiasm was, “here at AmaZooníca we are able to release one third of the animals back into the wild.” Her positive tone made this seem like a very high success rate, but for a rescue center, one third seems really low. We saw exciting, exotic, and very cute animals, but reflecting on our tour at lunch we began to question the true purpose of Amazooníca. Another reoccurring theme was reproduction and babies born in captivity that would never be able to be introduced into the wild.”

Yana recounts the final event of the day:

“On the way home from the jungle we stopped in a little town where there were carnival festivities going on. There was lots of food being cooked and sold and loud music being played. We bought a few cans that spray foam, a tradition for carnival. We proceeded to have foam wars with both our guides and the kids at the festival. By the end we were all covered in foam but it was worth it!!”


Now, as we prepare to leave both the jungle and Tena behind, Emma reflects on the experience so far and looks forward to the future:

“During these intense and unique first two weeks in the jungle, we have experienced sun and rain, gone from cloudy days to sunburns, learned about Quichua culture, trees, insects, animals, and each other. We are all more aware of what and who we are surrounded by and how our actions can affect others. We are moving on to other adventures in the Andes that will be as exciting and enriching as our first two weeks together.”



Tena has provided a space to peel back the layers and question why things are the way they are. Are we supposed to think one way because someone else teaches us? Can an issue be black or white? Is there one right answer? What about education – how should we be taught? Furthermore, how can (or should) we be responsible for our own education?  TTS27 now has many different perspectives on these questions.

Global Studies broached this subject by asking the class:
1. What should be the purpose of education?
2. What kind of education do I want to engage in at TTS?

Here is a glimpse of the responses:

Isabel: “I think education has many purposes and forms. It can be used to instill knowledge of specific subjects like chemistry, math or writing. It can be used to enlighten people and bring them to inspiration and realization…I believe the true purpose is to be universally accepting and generous, for education is about sharing, giving and receiving. … At TTS, I want to not only hear and read about subjects, I want to touch, draw, taste and live them.”

Grace: “ I think we should be educated with essential and basic knowledge to prepare us for a job, but I also think we should be educated on our actions and how they affect the world….I want to learn to be a part of the world. This type of education is both teacher and learner based and I want to be more engaged.

Caroline: “I think learning should inspire curiosity and ignite passions to discover things and continue to learn well after formal school ends…I want this education to feel relevant and somehow important to my life. I want to try to discover things on my own but still have outside direction. I want to be curious and come to independent conclusions.”

Sophie: “Like James Adams once said, we should be able to go to school to learn to live and how to live. At TTS, I would like to hear less of a book’s opinion and more of my classmates’ thoughts… I would like to delve into parts of my existence, knowledge and opinions I don’t even know yet exist…I want education that makes me realize and discover new things gearing towards how to live a substantial life.”

Carsyn: “Education is the foundation, yet it builds your whole life. The purpose should teach each student to love learning and want to learn more… I want to read a textbook, discuss it, hear others’ thoughts and make a connection to our world.”

Kate: “The purpose of education should be to broaden one’s understanding of the world, the people inside it, and their ideas. It should give people the knowledge required to convey their own ideas and thoughts to others and doing what interests them…I want to learn from my classmates and my teachers. I want to engage in group conversations where we all work together to figure something out.”

Clarissa: “It is important to have a base of knowledge and learn the essentials as well as some of the classics. I also believe that education should be a source of joy and that students should be able to pursue their own passions and experiences.”

Melanie: “I think the purpose of education is to prepare people for the future… I want to learn from the knowledge the teachers have but I also want to observe my surroundings and figure out things on my own.”

Kela: “To me, the purpose of education should be growth. This can be in a variety of areas like knowledge, life skills and even personal growth…My ideal view of education is progress…to break free and explore.”

Sylvia: “At TTS I would like to move away from the learning “how to make a living” and more towards the “how to live.” Experiential learning will hopefully connect me more with the real world so I can better understand why I learn what I do.”

Meghan: “To educate is to show and to share. But education becomes valuable when the knowledge shared is valuable, applicable and useful…At The Traveling School I seek to discover. I hope to move beyond the “imposed ignorance” of school and personally be able to invest in knowledge with value.”

Julia: “What we need to know is how to analyze, interpret, think, inquire, understand and discuss…I want to learn about real things and experience them, not just memorize them and move on. I want to understand, not know.”

Yana: I think the purpose of education should be that everyone feels fulfilled in their lives…it shouldn’t just be for kids, everyone should be learning something new all the time. At TTS I want my education to be different from back home, different even than every other TTS girl’s education. I want my education here to be a widened view of the world and a widened concept of education, learning and seeing the whole world as my classroom.”

Anna: “The purpose of education is about making connections. It should be about learning how to ask questions…At TTS I hope education can be applied to daily life. I would like to become a more critical thinker. I hope it is a place where mistakes are truly opportunities to learn (unlike public school).”

Emma: “Education makes systems evolve and make new discoveries… At TTS I want a different education than I have ever experienced that will change the way I see, think and experience. I want to understand my surroundings with their possibilities and opportunities.”

Harley: “I think the purpose of education is to share knowledge that has been collected through thousands of years. Teaching history so history does not repeat itself…I hope to experience a hands-on education and develop a deeper understanding by being in the countries we study. I hope to gain knowledge outside the traditional classroom from locals, peers, personal experiences and nature.”

Global Studies will help students see the potential to learn in each setting. They will see the WHAT move to the SO WHAT and then grapple with the NOW WHAT of their experiences. A school-wide discussion course, this is an arena to bring learning to life and develop a community of 20 critical thinkers willing to engage in digging under the surface of an area to question and understand how things have developed into their current state throughout Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia.

If you are curious, read Nacerima to get a taste of how this class challenges students to take a second look. Can you figure out what culture the article is about?



Hello vicarious TTSers~

I’m sure you’re anxiously awaiting your call time. If you cannot connect during your time you can expect a call from Ecuador on Friday while the group is in town.
Jennifer will deliver mail (with some caveats) to TTS27 in early March. Here is  your chance to practice the nearly extinct art of letter writing. So grab a pen and paper and start jotting down some thoughts – let your traveler know life goes on while she is away. Though your life may seem same old, same old, these ladies love a little news from the trenches. The nasty winter weatherFamily Pep RallySiblings Pick up Extra Chores; local news stories; are just a few suggested topics to get your creative juices flowing.

Submission details:

We invite those of you unable to join the Campus Visit to send letters to our office for hand delivery with a smile. If you (or friends and family) would like to send letters or photos to the ladies they need to be in our office by Friday, February 26th.  Jennifer will fly to Quito early the following week.

As this is a hand delivery system, we can only deliver up to 10 cards or letters to each TTS27er. Please collect letters or cards from yourself, friends and/or family and mail them to the TTS PO Box 7058, Bozeman, MT 59771 (they must arrive no later than Friday, February 26th), we will get them to Ecuador.
Please don’t send packages; send nothing bigger than regular letter sized envelopes. Letters are quite important, as are personal packing needs. In the spirit of packing light and meeting luggage weight requirements, your letters, cards, photos,  or newspaper clippings will mean much more than sweets, shirts or other consumable goods.
Just to re-iterate, our trained office dogs will sniff for chocolate, caramels, and other goodies and may re-direct them to the “afternoon delight” goodie dish in the office. The same dogs may also alert us to all other extraneous goods that stretch the boundaries of an office sized envelope.

Fine Print:

For folks able to join the Campus Visit we ask you adhere to the same guidelines. Hugs, letters and photos are the best gifts you can bring overseas and return home with for each person. More details to follow on this note, but please promise your daughter your company only and not a new wardrobe or candy store. 

Food for thought:

A little goes a long way! These ladies have learned the power of a backpack and its contents. They know how to stash a treat or wear an outfit differently to strut their stuff. They also know there are stores and markets to buy things they really need. Everyone loves  mail – it is something that can be re-read and appreciated time and again. It also holds meaning long after its’ delivery. While this isn’t an assignment, I encourage you to send at least one hello to your traveler so she has something to open in that anticipated ‘Mail Delivery’ moment.

Happy writing,



Update from the Rainforest

Five days into TTS27 and we are already absorbed in the rhythm of the semester and losing track of the days. Since our meeting in Miami, complete with a slide show and pizza, we have traveled up and over the northern Andes and into the edge of the Oriente to our quaint jungle hostel outside Tena, Ecuador. We’re split into 2’s, 3’s and 4’s in three main cabins. Each night we go to bed as if we were queens, tucking our draped mosquito nets around the corners of our beds and appreciating the new night sounds of the jungle. We awake to the sound of the macaws, crawl out of bed and make our way to the common area for a delicious breakfast of fresh squeezed juice, coffee, hot chocolate, warm rolls and eggs.

The days have been filled with orientation activities and classes, whizzing by faster than we imagined possible. Here’s a glimpse at what’s happening . . .

birthdayWide Eyed Wednesday was filled with getting to know you activities and investigating the question, “Why are you here?” and “What do you want from this semester?” Students discussed The Traveling School’s mission and shared what brought them to South America this semester . . . to seek new ways to learn, desire to live my education, to meet new people, step out of my bubble, find a new sense of confidence, and become excited about learning again. Oh, and we had our first birthday for Sylvia (Feb 2nd); what a memorable place to celebrate!

Thrilling Thursday gave everyone a taste of classes. In Global Studies, beginning with glasses of water as a metaphor for filling cups of knowledge, the girls began to imagine education differently and think about all the resources in the people and places around them. History continued to shift perspectives flipping northern and southern hemispheres to see the world in new ways. Spanish classes scattered across campus to dig into language practice and conversation. Precalculus and Algebra 2 students reviewed books and established processes to come together from different schools and move forward together. In Science, students prepped for the upcoming jungle excursion with a short rainforest walk. Here, they witnessed army ants charging down the path with soldiers keeping them in line, leaf cutter ants busy at work, and enormous wasp nests hanging menacingly from the canopy. Needless to say there is some excitement in the air. As well, teachers launched our semester-long practice of 1½-hour study hall and reflection after dinner.

carnavalFurious Friday commenced with risk management and personal safety workshops. We discussed how each student must be an active participant in keeping the group’s safety in the forefront of all we do. Later that day, we took our first trip into town for the Carnaval parade. Dancers from numerous indigenous groups , intricate floats and lots of foam sprayed into the crowds left quite the impression.



Then, we climbed up to a mirador overlook for a change of perspective. From the top we watched kayaker a surfing a Napo River wave, families swimming and picnicking, all surrounded by the edge of the Amazon. Back at our home away from home, students got a taste of the weekly awards ceremony and witnessed the first of many silly skits their creative teachers will magically pull together.

bootsNow, bags are packed and we’re off to the jungle. For the next four days we will float in canoes, hike through the Selva in our borrowed rubber boots, visit families making chocolate or practicing native trapping techniques. More next week!

Hugs from your girls and from us,

Aunge, Elsie, Danika, Clara & Rachel



Some photos from Miami

Let me know if I put a name with the wrong face – trying my best from passport photos.


Check out the orientation slideshow here! 


So Your Daughter is Spending a Semester with TTS . . .

Words of Advice from A TTS22 Mom

By Debby Green

When my daughter Juliana left for SW Africa with The Traveling School it was a big step for our family.  The months leading up to her send off were filled with anticipation and excitement coupled with apprehension and worry. There was the constant search for the “right” gear and supplies, checking her passport and airline ticket, setting up communication and banking information, getting medicine and shots, last minute indecision about the warmth of her sleeping bag and her jacket, learning to use her water purifier and take her malaria medication, writing down phone numbers and addresses, health insurance information, medical history and more.  Lists were made and remade, the bag was packed, unpacked and repacked and then finally it was time for her to go.

At the airport I wanted to imprint her face and the feel of her hug in my memory to last for over 3 months.  Not one for dramatics, Juliana wanted to get the hugs over with and be on her way.  And before I knew it she was gone.  I got home that summer morning, sat on the back porch with a cup of coffee and breathed a huge sigh of relief.  We had done it.  She was off.  For a day or two I relished the quiet and calm and then I started missing her –a lot.

We were prepared for no communication from our daughter for the first two weeks as TTS explained it helps the girls assimilate.  But it drove me crazy.  I  wondered what my daughter was doing?  Did she get along with the other girls?  Is the sleeping bag we chose warm enough?  Is she sick?  Is she homesick?  Eventually I learned to let go of the worry and trust or I wouldn’t sleep for 3+ months.

Near the end of the second week we got an email from TTS telling us to expect the first phone call sometime soon and that the call may be teary because the girls hadn’t heard our voices in awhile.  Not knowing when to expect the phone call I took my phone with me everywhere — showers happened with the shower door open to hear the ring.  I panicked on my commute to work when I was without cell phone coverage for 30 minutes.  I didn’t want to miss that first call.  The phone rang on a Thursday morning with this long, unfamiliar number and I answered, “Hi sweetie,” as I barely held back tears.  But Juliana wasn’t teary at all.  Her voice was clear and strong and it was impossible for me to cry because she sounded so great.1467231_10201816939523530_805967988_n

My husband compares sending your daughter to The Traveling School with sending her to the moon.  Like most parents cell phones give us immediate connection to our kids but with TTS that is gone.  Don’t get me wrong — I’m not
complaining — it’s just a strange experience.  For over 3 months I lived for trip blog updates, photos of my daughter, mentor reports from the teachers, academic reports, the elusive phone call, letters delivered via a TTS teacher (so cool), Facebook messages and any tidbits the office staff could share with me.  I felt like I had sent a fledging bird out of the nest with this incredible leap of faith and I had to track her progress in some way without being able to text or call her.  When it seemed like an achingly long time had gone by without communication, I would even stalk my daughter’s checking account.

Throughout Juliana’s entire TTS experience I kept my phone with me constantly.  I felt a little strange but it was a lifeline to my daughter and I wanted to be there if she needed me.  I missed a call about 6 weeks in but my daughter called my husband instead and they had a great conversation all to themselves.

Three and a half months is a long time and there were moments when it just seemed like enough already it’s time for her to be home but that clearly wasn’t an option.  The photographs really helped pull us through.  Our daughter is not the most smiley kid — but the smiles she had in almost every TTS photo lit up her entire face.  Those smiles pushed away any fear and reassured us she was having the time of her life –which she did.  Of course, not every moment was great and we did have some emotional phone calls.  It is difficult to comfort a kid so far away and to not over-react but we knew that although this was a moment where she was struggling most of the time she was doing very well.

Keeping in touch with Juliana’s friends and having them over also helped me cope.  They communicated with her via Facebook so we got to hear the stories she shared with them.  Also I knew a few parents who already sent daughters to TTS and they offered a ton of advice — like some kids don’t call home a lot (our daughter).  We also sent photos and updates to a long email list of relatives and friends and all their feedback and encouragement was a huge support.  I also had a friend who lived in Tanzania for many years and walks and talks with her were priceless.  Just keeping a good support system of people who love you and your daughter and ask about her because it is so fun to share what the girls are going through with people who care and it helped me feel like my daughter wasn’t so far away.

I also enjoyed connecting to other parents with daughters on Juliana’s actual trip.  Every girl shares different things so hearing other perspectives was interesting as was commiserating with someone who really understood .  We didn’t go on the parent trip so it was nice having a parent who was going on the trip to send things for Juliana and also connecting with another parent who wasn’t going so we didn’t feel so alone staying behind.

Overall I tried to remember my daughter was doing great (and if she wasn’t TTS would let us know).  She had the experience of a lifetime and though it was hard to let her go for so long and so far away we felt proud to give her the independence.  Juliana’s life was changed forever because of TTS and, really, it’s hard to express how much this trip has meant to her.  She has returned more mature, thoughtful, engaged and open.

table topIn December,  Juliana gave a presentation about the SW Africa TTS trip and someone asked if there were any girls she really connected with and Juliana said, “Well of course there were some girls I connected with more than others but I can also say I consider every one of the girls on my trip my best friend.”

So TTS27 parents enjoy the experience.  It is amazing.

By | 2017-10-19T12:53:40-07:00 January 22nd, 2016|Latin America, South America, Trip Reports|Comments Off on TTS27 Spring 2016 Semester Blog