New Harkness Travel Programs

News  /  by Anika Bagaria '20 and Ally Kim '19  /  October 06, 2017

Courtesy of The Lawrenceville School

The Lawrenceville School’s Experiential Learning Department launched the Harkness Travel Program this year, whose mission is to “[use] creative and holistic approaches to experiential learning in order to promote the development of responsible leadership, global citizenship, self-efficacy, and interdisciplinary knowledge in [its] student travelers,” according to the School’s website.

This year, the Harkness Travel Program will offer a total of 15 trips over the course of spring and summer break, five of which are new this year.

Director of Experiential Learning John Hughes said he hopes that through this program student travelers learn to become “more confident in their abilities to navigate the challenges and ambiguities” that come with exploring a different place.

He added, “Some learning just can’t happen the same way in a Harkness classroom, but if we bring the table to those locations, there are more layers of experience—the essence of experiential learning.”

The following programs are new additions to the Harkness Travel Program 2017-2018:


Brazil: Exploring the Past, Envisioning the Future

Faculty: History Master David Figueroa-Ortiz P’18, Spanish Master Norman Kim-Senior, and History Master Orelia Jonathan

Lawrentians will travel to Brazil to explore the history, culture, and architecture of the country. In Salvador, students will explore the colonial heritage of the country. The program will take students to the restored colonial center of Pelourinho, craft markets, and colonial era churches. They will also visit with a local NGO dedicated to addressing civil rights and race issues. In Brasilia, students will witness the several buildings and boulevards planned by Lucio Costa and designed by architect Oscar Niemeyer. The trip will end with a visit to Curitiba, the “greenest” city in Latin America according to the Siemens Green City Index.

This program will also allow students to learn about sustainability and “how it plays into the economy, architecture, and politics,” Hughes said.

Prior to the trip, students will be required to review the country’s background and set learning goals.

Ghana’s Gold Coast: History and the Arts

Faculty: Assistant Director of International Programs Michael Hanewald ’90, Mathematics Master Charise Hall, and Art Master Brian Daniell H’06 ’89

Lawrentians will explore various areas of Ghana, primarily Accra, the capital, and the village of Kopeyia. For the first half of the program, students will focus on the study of the Ghanaian arts and their evolution through time. To do so, they will learn at the Dagbe Cultural Center, absorbing the local traditions of drumming, dancing, and making crafts. Students will engage themselves with all three of the broad categories of art: music, performing arts, and visual arts.

During the second half, students will shift their focus to historic and modern slavery. They will travel to the castles of Elmina and Cape Coast, and they will attend a lecture about human trafficking at the University of Accra. The conclusion of the program will involve working with Challenging Heights in Winneba, Ghana, a group that deals with human trafficking.

Assistant Director of International Programs and Ghana Trip Advisor Michael Hanewald said of the trip, “Two weeks—is it an immersion? No. But hopefully, it’s a really great appetizer of engaging with the world.”

Nepal: Himalayan Explorations

Faculty: Philosophy Master Jason VonWachenfeldt, John Hughes, and French Master Stella Leach

As a result of his time in Nepal seven years ago, VonWachenfeldt was inspired to coordinate with Hughes to create a trip to Nepal. This trip aims to immerse students in the country’s culture and religion by visiting UNESCO Cultural Heritage sites.

VonWachenfeldt said he is interested in showing students Buddhism and Hinduism in a way that is “more tangible and real, and a little different than what they see in class.”

Students will also hike the Nagarjun Hill and backpack across the Annapurna Mountain Range in the Western Himalayas.

VonWachenfeldt said he hopes students will “look at the cultural diversity and religious interactions” through the visits to cultural and religious sites, while he will help students to “push each other and themselves” during the backpacking portion.

Prior to the trip, students will be required to complete homework and attend meetings during Winter Term for mandatory training.


London/Scotland & the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Faculty: Performing Arts Master Matthew Campbell, Technical Director of the Kirby Arts Center and Drama Master James Cuthrell, and Assistant Director of Athletics Karla Guido

At the end of the summer, 13 students will perform at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the world’s largest performing arts festival in the world. The American High School Theatre Festival (AHSTF) invited Lawrenceville and 50 other high schools to take part in the festival.

The principal component of the trip is to stage a play that Lawrenceville actors and technicians will perform four times. Students will meet during the Winter Term to run rehearsals. Later during the summer, they will pick up the performance a few days before their departure, refining the play as needed. Lawrenceville artists will not only have the chance to showcase their skills at Edinburgh but also spend time over the trip learning from workshops led by well-regarded troupes like Baby Wants Candy.

Additionally, they will view other performances and delve into the culture of Edinburgh, Scotland.

Speaking of the relationship between the arts and experiential learning, Performing Arts Master Matthew Campbell said, “In experiencing the love that this city experiences for the performing arts, I hope students realize both the impact that performing arts can have on people’s lives and the diversity there is.”

Guatemala: God’s Child Service Project

Faculty: Rachel Cantlay Director of Community Service Rachel Cantlay, Associate Director of Community Service Elizabeth Ferguson, and Science Master Greg Hansen

During this trip, which was last conducted five years ago, students will have the chance to admire the culture and nature of Antigua, Guatemala, and participate in community service.

The main focus of the trip is to participate in community service by working with God’s Child Project, a multi-service organization and long time in-country partner to Lawrenceville. Students will live in pairs with local families during their stay. The first six days will comprise of community service work, including serving meals in a homeless shelter; entertaining, educating, and caring for children; and building a new house for a local family. Students will also have the chance to view the scenery by taking a half-day hike to a nearby volcano and visiting Lake Atitlan and Chichicastenango. They will also visit Tikal, ancient Mayan ruins.

Through this trip, Ferguson said, students will learn the “value of community and a simple life.”