Where I spent Spring Break: France!

by Lauren Anderson '17

Over spring break, I had the incredible opportunity to make my first trip abroad with Mrs. Burg, Ms. Pigou, and ten of my peers. Saying this year’s French exchange trip was “great” would be quite the understatement. The trip broadened my horizons in ways I had not experienced before - I was completely immersed in a new lifestyle, acquainted with a host family I had never met, expected to use a second language, and the best part, brought to places I’d never thought I’d see. We visited London for the first couple of days and then took a train (my first train!) to Brittany, France where we stayed with host families for a week. I would be remiss if I didn’t admit how nervous I was at first. I questioned whether I would be able to communicate completely in French and pondered whether my correspondent and I would get along. My worries quickly subsided when I was greeted with kisses and hugs and quickly brought home for dinner. My host family took me in as their own - just like that. In addition, I was pleasantly surprised when I was able to go the entire night without speaking a word of English. The language immersion built my confidence and proved to me that after five years of studying it I am more than capable of speaking French. My conversations with my host family helped me become acquainted with French culture as well as challenged me to look at global dilemmas from a different perspective.

In Brittany, the group explored the mysterious stones at Carnac, took in the beauty of the Côte Sauvage, went “sand yachting” as French naval pilots soared over the beach, and took a baking class. I also visited stunning villages along the coast such as Rochefort-en-Terre and Concarneau with my host family. Sidenote: the food I had with them was hands down the best I’ve ever had! These are just a few of the experiences. One night, a few Sem students and their correspondents participated in a spirited, very competitive game of laser tag. We called our match the “Troisième Guerre Mondiale” or the “Third World War.” The French team won, but we won’t publicly admit that! I couldn’t help but admire how quickly friendships had formed. By the time the end of our stay rolled around, I found it very difficult to say goodbye, especially to my host family.

The following day, the thirteen of us visited the Mont Saint-Michel which is without a doubt one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen. The group explored the historic abbey that rests on the top of the island and made certain to stop at a cafe for sweet treats - we always made time for food! That night, we spent the night in Caen which was a key region for freeing France from German control following D-Day. For the remaining time in Normandy, we visited the D-Day Memorials - something every American should do if given the chance. The group learned of the courage, valor, and sacrifice of the men and women who gave everything for the freedoms we enjoy today. Standing on Omaha Beach will remain one of my most emotional experiences. Visiting these sites also taught me of a lasting admiration the French have for the American forces that helped liberate the country from German control. Omaha and Utah Beaches, Pointe du Hoc, and the American Cemetery were declared American soil by the French in the sixties.

For the remaining two days, we visited and toured Paris. From our visit to Montmartre, the highest point in the city and a historic art center, to climbing to the top of the Arc de Triomphe, I couldn’t help but to marvel at everything with child-like enthusiasm. It was incredible to see all of the world-renowned symbols in person. On the final night, we all enjoyed a beautiful French meal and walked to see the Eiffel Tower in the dark of night. The sight was unreal. As we watched the tower glow, a full moon floated next to it as a gentleman played Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” on the accordion - a typical Parisian evening as shown in the movies! I could not have thought of a better way to conclude such an incredible experience.

Posted by Patty DeViva on Friday March 17
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Trial Run of New Upper School Schedule

The much-anticipated trial run of the proposed block schedule for the 2017-18 school year seems to have gone smoothly and the preliminary feedback is that it is being well-received by students and faculty. For those not familiar with the concept, the block schedule gives both students and faculty more free time during the day for study, club meetings, conferencing, and just regular down time. Instead of eight bells of equal length that meet every day, the bells vary in length, there is break time, and not all classes meet every day. 

Administrators are gathering feedback from faculty and students that will help next year's launch to be a seamless transition.

Science teacher Ellen Hughes said, "I love the new schedule. It allows more prep time for classes."

Librarian Ivy Miller noticed more traffic in the library. "Even though the students have an hour for lunch, they eat quickly and then come over to meet in the library. When the weather gets warmer I'm sure the students will spend more time outside."

Math teacher Kathy Rickrode loves the lunch bell. "Instead of a crowded lunch bell, where you only have 30 minutes to wait in line, eat and then rush back to class, the new schedule gives everyone one whole hour for lunch. Lunch hasn’t seemed as crowded even though we all share the same hour. I have found time to eat my lunch and also meet with students for the remaining 20-30 minutes. It’s great."

Hear what the students have to say:


See the schedule below: 

Questions? E-mail Patty DeViva at

Posted by Patty DeViva on Tuesday January 31
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Students gave up their phones for the weekend - and LIVED!

Seriously - would you give up your phone - for not one, but five days? That question was posed by Upper School English teacher Ms. Erin Griffin to her fourth bell 19th Century Lit class. Currently the class is studying transcendentalism and the Walden Pond social experiment of Henry David Thoreau. Griffin thought the best way to teach the students about the concept was to invite them to participate in a mini-experiment by giving up their phones for a few days. Of the 23 students, 10 brave souls offered up their coveted devices. 

"In order to put the theory into practice," Griffin said, "we can’t live in a cabin in the woods, but we can give up necessities that aren’t really necessary - our phones. And in solidarity, I do it too. Every year I'm amazed at how happy the kids are when they do it. It's liberating."

How did they fare? Watch this short video to find out!


Posted by Patty DeViva on Friday January 20 at 08:52PM
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