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Beyond the Gate

I Know Where You Went Last Summer

This summer found Woodward students traveling to the icy fjords of Norway, the geothermal wonders of Iceland, and the lush jungles and beaches of Costa Rica as part of the school's international programs. Here's a roundup of their unforgettable experiences.


Global Integrated Science Study to Iceland

Program leaders and teachers: Mark Carrington and Maria Mays

The Global Integrated Science Study is a new Upper School summer science course (earning 0.5 credit) in which students gain practical, hands-on experience in a new cultural setting while exploring a specific science topic or issue in depth. This course combines classroom learning with immersive field experiences. Through a combination of lectures, group discussions, and individual research, students develop a deeper understanding of how global forces may vary dramatically from one region of the world to another.

For the first immersive field experience, students went to Iceland to examine how its geology and geographical positioning on Earth allow the island nation to creatively use its surroundings as a world leader in sustainability practices. The eight-day program included excursions to national parks, glaciers, geysers, volcanos, and waterfalls. Students also examined Iceland’s production of energy from geothermal and hydroelectric facilities as well as sustainable practices in operating a greenhouse responsible for producing nearly 50% of the island nation's tomatoes.


WA Cross Country - Norway Culture and Running

Program leaders and coaches: Nick Widener and Leslie Widener

The Woodward Cross Country team traveled to Norway over the summer to run on the streets of Oslo, in the hills of Bergen, and through the mountains of Stryn. During the trip, the team stayed on an organic farm harvesting produce, pulling weeds, packaging vegetables, and volunteering their time in the majestic shadow of a glacier. The team also saw Edvard Munch’s iconic painting, “The Scream,” the historic fish market in Bryggen, and rode one of the steepest cable cars in the world to the top of Mt. Hoven to admire the cool, blue of Nordfjord below. Coaches Nicholas Widener '09 and Leslie Widener led the team on the trip, alongside Associate Athletic Director David Widener and Middle School Administrative Assistant Beth Widener. The team's motto for the trip was "Runs end. Running is forever."

Upon arriving in Oslo, the team took a sleeper train across the country to Bergen. From there, it was a five-hour drive to the farm in Stryn. The roads were winding, with 4 km of tunnels through mountains, but the vistas were spectacular. The culinary selections were some of the best of the trip, especially all of the hotel breakfast spreads. Some of the runners tried whale for the first (and likely last) time, reindeer, moose, brown cheese, and smoked BBQ.

The cool glacier lakes were the ideal respite for both easy and tough runs through the Stryn region. Standing in the icy water, at the foot of Briksdal Glacier after a tough uphill run, is a memory the team said they will think back on many miles from now.


Tropical Ecology Field Study in Costa Rica

Program leaders and teachers: Elaine Carroll and Chery Gibson Cobb

For years the Upper School Science Department has offered the Tropical Ecology Field Study in Costa Rica summer course, which is an opportunity for students to study and work hands-on in the forests, fields, and communities of Costa Rica. This past summer, 10 students traveled for 11 days throughout Costa Rica examining some of the richest ecosystems on Earth: lowland Caribbean rainforest, highland cloud forest, coastal Pacific rainforest, mangroves, and even caves.

In addition to the academic requirements, the course had a service learning component as the students worked alongside Victorino Molina Rojas, a naturalist in Costa Rica and one of the founders of the Bellbird Biological Corridor Project. Together they planted approximately 300 trees. The purpose of this project was to help provide a wind-break along a ridge as well as expand the wildlife corridor near the Children’s Eternal Rainforest. Students learned the importance of a wildlife corridor for migratory animals.

When asked about their experience, Nathan Terrio ’25 said, “Reading about a topic in a textbook is so different from seeing and interacting with it in real life. The Tropical Ecology course has shown me that every small detail in nature has a huge effect on its surroundings.” 

Added Meglan Welch ’24: “Traveling to Costa Rica was an experience full of education and friendships. Taking a journey to Costa Rica for 11 days allowed me to immerse myself in its biodiversity. Observing and admiring the ecological systems was not only fascinating but inspiring. After finishing the trip, I am left with a passionate curiosity and hunger for more. I am grateful for the opportunity.”


Costa Rica Language Learning and Eco-Tourism

Faculty leader: Lori Beth Wiseman

This past June, 38 Upper School students traveled with six enthusiastic World Languages teachers to explore the captivating country of Costa Rica. The program started with a service project that allowed students to explore mangroves, the unsung heroes of the Costa Rican ecosystem. Over two days, the group picked "propágulos" (mangrove seeds) and planted them in soda bottles repurposed as sapling pots. Students then took around 200 12-week-old saplings and planted them where the mangrove had eroded away, and celebrated a job well done at beautiful Manuel Antonio Beach that afternoon.

Following this enriching learning experience, students traveled to Monteverde, where they experienced the Cloud Forest, ziplining, and an optional night tour with all the creepy crawly things you can imagine, including tarantulas, green vipers, luminescent scorpions, and a 15-member family of boa constrictors (junior and senior members included). In the town of La Fortuna, close to the famous Arenal volcano, students experienced the beautiful Baldi Hot Springs and a chocolate and pineapple tour where both guides led with unmatched charisma and humor.

The adventure closed with a dinner folklore show, where all students were bursting to get out on the dance floor! On the last day, the group took one last drive to the Volcano Poas which had been closed to visitors for some time where they enjoyed seeing the beautiful limestone pool at the top of the crater. 

  • global
  • global connections
  • upper school

Explore Further

Your child’s education is a unique journey of growth, enlightenment, and exploration as they find their way into the world. At Woodward, we provide the compass for that journey.