Tigers learn of foreign lands
The spring break trip of a lifetime began for 15 Glen Rose High School students on March 4, and they returned eight days later with plenty to tell family and friends.
Kivett Gresham, the AP Social Studies teacher who organized the trip for sophomores and juniors, shared the details of their travels that included four days in Ireland (three in Dublin, one in Belfast) and three in Edinburgh, Scotland. The flight to Ireland was eight hours from DFW Airport with a stop in Newark, N.J., while the trip home from Scotland required 11 hours.
"We were the only part of our tour group that actually made all of our flights to Dublin," Gresham said. "Our first day was derailed a little bit because we had to wait on other groups, and everyone finally arrived the afternoon of the second day. Our Glen Rose group made up 21 of the 49 people.
"There were groups from Florida, Mississippi and Minnesota as well. We were able to go into Dublin the first day, but we didn't have our tour guide yet."
Glen Rose students on the trip included Katy Davis, Molly Burns, Devan Elliott, Kelsey Elliott, Jadon Morris, Weston Gosdin, J.T. Laramore, Jonathan Hang, Garet Vaughn, Joel Sims, Zac Simpson, Jarren Noe, Matt Willis, Kaley Shaw and Mallory Daniels. Adults in addition to Gresham were Laura Willis, Jeffery Laramore, Charlotte Laramore, Mike Shaw and Robert Daniels.
Students would soon learn just how different Ireland and Scotland are.
"Ireland is part of the European Union, not the United Kingdom, so they have their own government," Gresham said. "Ireland is a dual-language country with English and Gaelic, so they teach both in schools and all signs have both languages. In Scotland, they all speak English.
"Dublin is on the east coast of Ireland, which is pretty flat, so it was very easy to walk around. Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, is a fortified city that was built on cliffs overlooking the river that is their port. It has much more incline and decline because you're walking on streets that are part of walls - the street above you is looking down on you."
Once the subgroups from other states arrived, the Glen Rose group "really got going" with a guided bus tour of Dublin.
"A native Dubliner gave us the tour, as opposed to our (travel company) tour guide," Gresham said. "This guy grew up giving tours of Dublin, and he gave us the really good info. We got to see St. Patrick's Cathedral and Phoenix Park among many sites, so I think that tour was the highlight of Dublin for a lot of us.
"In Edinburgh, going to Edinburgh Castle was the highlight for a lot of students. We spent an entire morning going through it.
"It was so big, and surrounded by buildings in town, that it was hard to get a great distance photo of the entire thing. We got to see the crown jewels, the military war memorial and even the cells where prisoners were held."
Gresham was pleased with his students for many reasons, one of which being their open-minded approach toward food.
"The kids ate every (local cuisine) meal, which is one thing I was pleasantly surprised about," he said. "Our tour guide commented that our group had more kids try haggis (in Scotland) than he'd seen try it in a long time. Most of the ones who ordered it liked it, or at least said it was edible.
"Of course, their favorite night was the night we went to a pizza place. But they were all very open to trying new things."
When in a foreign country, it seems there's no better teacher than a native citizen.
"I think the half-day guided bus tours in Dublin and Edinburgh, where we had the local guides, were the best educational activities we did," Gresham said. "You had people who'd spent their whole life in the city giving you the real nitty-gritty. Not just huge events that happened, but small things we might not ever cover in our class.
"There's a historical connection that can be drawn from King James I, who has born in Edinburgh, to the Pilgrims heading to America, and the students learned all about it. There were some pretty good conversations, and it was neat to watch them learn as we went."
The day in Belfast proved to be a valuable venture.
"I don't think the students knew much about Belfast history, relative to Dublin and Edinburgh, and how the city for a long time was divided," Gresham said. "They learned of all the tension and violence that had gone on there between Irish Catholics and British Protestants."
Even as they soaked up new knowledge daily, the students impressed with what they did know.
"This was an awesome group of kids," Gresham said. "I couldn't ask for a better group to go with. Even the tour director commented that, as a group, we had the smartest kids he'd ever led. He also said they were very funny."
As he looks toward next year's trip to London and Paris, Gresham is so encouraged by this experience.
"This was a great trip," he said. "The parents who went with us were great. I was so proud of the kids for being where they were supposed to be, being respectful and engaged. They represented Glen Rose well."