Hudson School Students “scale heights” in Peru

I thought this was a nice story for some kids here in Hoboken who recently visited Peru during a school trip. What struck me – was there were no cell phones visible in the photos!

Hudson School kids from Hoboken NJ visit Peru

It is not often that you hear the words “magical” and “transformative” associated with a school trip, but Spanish teacher Margarita Dominguez described The Hudson School’s recent visit to Peru in those glowing terms.

During the recent spring vacation Ms. Dominguez led a group of nineteen students and fifteen adults, including four Hudson School teachers, on an inspiring journey, not only to a different country but, as history teacher Jeffrey Gould indicated, “to a different time.” Many of the students who traveled to Peru are studying Spanish at The Hudson School and were eager to practice the language, while others in the group had come because of their interest in the history and geography of the country. Since there are at least three distinct languages spoken in the areas where they traveled, knowledge of Spanish was not the primary requirement for participation. An openness to new cultures and new experiences and a willingness to deal with the challenge of traveling without all the comforts of home were the tools that held this group together and allowed the magic to take place.

As Ms. Dominguez movingly recalled the rain clouds parting over Machu Picchu, steadily washing the site in sunshine, her words did not seem overwrought. “The morning that we went to Machu Picchu it rained very hard, but while we were there the clouds gradually receded. They rose up a little at a time with wisps hanging below the height of the ruins. Then they all disappeared. The light became bright and brilliant. There were many moments that we were all just silent. We stood in awe on so many levels: of nature and of the remnants of man-made culture and of the spirituality of the place. Then the clouds rolled back into the area to create an overcast atmosphere. It felt as if the sky was playing with us every minute.” It may not be so surprising that an adult would have such a profound experience but the children independently recorded similar impressions. Eighth graders Mason Preuninger and Sophia Fischer shared their insights. For Mason the experience of seeing Peru for the first time was “an amazing once-in-a-lifetime thing.” Sophia agreed, recalling sitting on a cliff at Machu Picchu absorbed in the moment and in nature, “It was an experience that changed my perspective of beauty and it was a moment that I will never forget.”

Hoboken school kids visit peru

Parent chaperone Alicia Weinstein noted that for her, visiting ancient cultures and sacred places with the students enhanced her experience because “seeing these places and people through the eyes of the young people was inspiring.”

While the students also recalled the challenges of the trip: not enough sleep, long bus rides, altitude problems and not being able to drink the local water, they universally agreed that what they learned from their experiences far exceeded the difficulties. Seventh grader Corrin Motyka mentioned that “adapting to different cultures and languages was a challenge, but also very rewarding.” The children were animated and awed when speaking about the Uros people who live their lives on floating islands built entirely out of reeds in Lake Titicaca. They noted that the only source of plant nourishment in the Uros diet is the roots of those same reeds and their primary protein source is the small fish they catch in the lake where their homes are built. Seventh grader Nicole Smith voiced her amazement at their practical difficulties: “Imagine living in a place where you have to row away from your house for five minutes to go to the bathroom!”

Several other seventh grade students empathized with the Peruvian people whose physical circumstances are so different from their own. The children were touched by little things such as purchasing gifts for small amounts of money from the people who spent long hours making them by hand, and the fact that there was a true dialog between them and many of the people they met. They were impressed that the indigenous people were interested in them. The students enjoyed sharing stories of home while learning about a different way of life. Aidan Gaul was moved by seeing “the kids who live in the rural areas and how they survive in the world without having very much.” Julia Datria Falcao noted that on this trip they learned “about academic things like religion and culture and migration” but they also learned about the practicalities of traveling in a “different type of environment where the living standards are not what we are used to.”

The entire student group, including the youngest traveler and only sixth grader, Rachel Stern, concluded that Seana Chambers hit the nail on the head when she expressed a thought that resonated with all of them: “We learned that living with simplicity can also mean living with contentment.” Lessons like these make school trips more than worthwhile. The teachers and parents who participated reported great joy in making this magical trip to Peru possible for The Hudson School students. Instructing young people on how to travel so that the world becomes their classroom is truly a transformative experience and a lifetime gift.

About the Hudson School

The Hudson School, a small, independent school for grades 5-12 accredited by Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, was founded in 1978 by Suellen Newman. A community of scholars, it offers academically motivated and creative children a rigorous and broad college preparatory curriculum with strong emphasis on foreign language, the arts and community service.

The school’s need-blind admissions policy assures that its doors remain open to the families of every qualified child regardless of the family’s ability to pay. For information about the admissions process, please contact Mrs. Newman, founder and director, at 201.659.8335, ext. 107, or visit www.thehudsonschool.org. All media inquiries for The Hudson School should be directed to Jahna Balk, THS Communications and Development Director, at 201.659.8335 or via email at jbalk@thehudsonschool.org.