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Teachers accompany students across the world

Courtney Brown, staff writer

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Traveling for some people can be seen as a once in a lifetime opportunity. However, Blue Valley is fortunate to host tours multiple times a year that travel across the world from places like Europe to South America. The tours are organized by Education First (EF).

“Teachers work through EF representatives to organize tours, price them and get itineraries set in place,” social studies teacher Kimberly Thompson said. “They help us with recruitment materials and give information to advertise throughout the school. They’re not associated with the school.”

Social studies teacher Molly Cowan-Johnson will take a group of students to Japan this summer.

“When we go to Japan, we’re going to the Hiroshima Peace [Memorial] Museum,” Cowan-Johnson said. “We’re also doing things like cultural lessons with Japanese students and something with sumo. There’s a range.”

Thompson took a group of students to Italy on Spring Break of 2017 and also spent a lot of time focusing on the history.

“Italy has a lot of Renaissance art, and we were able to see a lot of that,” Thompson said. “There was a lot of interaction with the community through purchasing with the local street vendors as well.”

Cowan-Johnson said if students want to go on a trip, they should first talk to the teacher in charge.

“We don’t want to limit kids,” Cowan-Johnson said. “I have students going to Japan that I haven’t had in class before. If they come talk to me, I try and get to know them a little bit. If you’re super excited and you really want to go, we’ll work it out.”

Thompson said she also looks for students who would be fun to explore new places with.

“We always want to take students that are interested in traveling,” Thompson said. “We want kids that are laid back and eager to see the world. We want to really immerse ourselves in where we’re going for the few days that we have together.”

There are a lot of benefits to going on these trips, Cowan-Johnson said.

“You’re getting out of your comfort zone — quickly,” she said. “There are different languages, alphabets [and] food. You experience a lot of things that are different.”

Thompson said traveling has made her more open-minded.

“Going to Costa Rica recently forced me to see what it’s like to be a human in the world,” Thompson said. “I didn’t speak the language, and I couldn’t read the menu. These are the kinds of struggles of people who live down the street from you that aren’t originally from here. I finally got to empathize with that a little bit. It’s a great way to give me a view on what it’s like to be a global community.”

Thompson said her favorite part of the EF tours is watching students challenge their original perspectives.

“I love seeing the students overcome some of the obstacles with trepidation and talking to the locals,” Thompson said. “The students stay clustered in their big groups at first, and then throughout the trip, you see them branch out, wander and explore. It’s interesting to see how people fit themselves in the narratives of different countries.”

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