We are rapidly approaching one of my favorite things about my job: the Extended Studies Program, or ESP. ESP is our school’s “week without walls,” when students and teachers leave the comforts of classrooms and campus and travel to different parts of Tanzania to learn about and experience the people and ecology in those locations.
Each year, students in grades 6 through 11 spend a week in one of an awesomely diverse locations around Tanzania:
- 6th graders go to Zanzibar for an exploration of art and architecture, reef and mangrove ecology, and a history of the east African slave trade.
- 7th graders spend a week in the Uluguru Mountains on a service learning trip with the Waluguru, the only matrilineal ethnic group in Tanzania.
- 8th graders venture to Amani Nature Reserve, where they experience the differences between managed and natural forests, as well as night hikes searching for rare species of chameleons and frogs (my personal favorite).
- 9th and 10th graders have several options for their ESP trips:
- Mountain biking in the Usambara Mountains
- Service trips in Arusha or in a Maasai boma
- Hiking in Lushoto district
- Trekking across the Ngorogoro Crater Highlands
- Ecological monitoring at the Makatube Island Marine Reserve
- Service work on the Chem-Chem school project
- Morogoro photography
- IB1 students in grade 11 engage in a field course for biology and geography
In my opinion, these kinds of trips provide the most engaging educational experiences our students will get during the school year. There are no worksheets, no essays, no problems to solve, no presentations to make. Students push themselves, and teachers push them, in ways that are generally not possible during lessons. The interconnectedness of different fields of study becomes evident while out of the classroom – the impact of climate on agriculture, which in turn influences economics, culture and family structure, which then have further knock-on effects on music, literature, and politics.
ESPs are wonderful because of their ‘big picture-ness’.