Friday, March 4, 2016

Steamboat Mountain School students: Greece, Mongolia and Tanzania

While most students were staring at chalkboards last spring, Steamboat Mountain School students were sea kayaking in Greece, riding horses with Mongolian nomads and hunting with Hadzabe tribesmen in Tanzania. It’s all part of the school’s Global Immersion Studies program, which each year takes students abroad to broaden their cultural understanding.

“It fosters an enlightened perspective and enhances personal growth,” says program director Margi Missling Root, adding the school has visited 55 countries so far. “It encourages students to become active citizens of the world.”

Students prepare by participating in the school’s outdoor program, which includes climbing 14ers, paddling trips, mountain biking, hut trips and more. “The school’s founder, Lowell Whiteman, considered ‘wholesome adventure’ important to assert the values of personal growth, responsibility, tough-mindedness, appreciation of nature and cooperation,” says Missling Root, adding that service projects and youth exchanges are also important components of each trip. The students also adhere to responsible adventure travel principles, from Leave No Trace ethics to supporting local businesses, volunteering and more.


#Let’s see...26 days exploring Greece, or sitting at a school desk? For SMS students last spring, it was the former, with a side of falafel.

#First the group spent six days camping amidst Meteora’s sandstone peaks, exploring the UNESCO World Heritage Site’s six Orthodox monasteries. They also rock climbed, rafted the Pineios River and explored Theotetra Cave. Next, they trained to the Pelion Peninsula to “coasteer” along the Aegean Sea, involving climbing, scrambling and swimming. They also donned wetsuits to rappel and water slide down a canyon to reach the beach of Milopotamos, before ferrying to Skopelos Island for a clean-up project. This was followed by a five-day sea kayak/marine biology tour through Alonnisos and Northern Sporades national parks.

#Then it was back to Agios Konstantenos to study the ruins of Delphi before ending their excursion back in Athens with a final lamb souvlaki.


#SMS students learned there’s more to Mongolia than mutton on their 20-day trip to the Land of the Blue Sky last April.

#Focusing on home stays and community service, the trip started in Ulaanbaatar before the group flew to the westernmost aimag of Bayan Olgii. There the community work began, teaching English to Khazakh secondary school children while staying with nomadic families in their gers (yurts), tending their flocks and learning the art of Mongolian horseback riding. Next came a visit to the Tuvan throat singers, a service project at Altai Tavan Bodg National Park, and bird watching and horseback riding at Gun Galuut National Reserve, all the while learning such customs as walking left around stoves; not burping or touching people’s heads; not touching horses without explicit permission; and honoring guests by serving them a boiled sheep's head on a plate.

#A final tour of Karakorum — Mongolia’s ancient capital, founded by Genghis Khan — and its world-famous cashmere factory completed the excursion.


#Not many classrooms let you take a bow and arrow lesson and then tag along on a hunt with an African bush tribe. That’s what SMS students experienced last spring, spending 20 days in Tanzania teaching English, studying local culture, learning how to make arrow heads and more. And then came the hunting with the Hadzade tribe. The trip included a youth-to-youth exchange program along Lake Victoria, before exploring the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater looking for the Big Five. After a two-day game drive, the group hiked in the Rift Valley, climbed Oldoinyo Lengai Volcano, met with members of the Masaai tribe and swam in the Engaresero River. They ended the trip with a bike ride to Lake Manyara before learning survival and hunting skills from the Hadzabe, one of the last truly nomadic tribes of Africa.


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