European trip planned for Marietta students

Marietta City Schools students will have the chance to travel across the pond to immerse themselves in European culture when the district takes a group to France and England in the summer of 2015.

The trip is for students and families of students currently enrolled in eighth through 11th grade.

Spearheaded by Putnam Elementary Principal Jona Hall, the 10-day excursion is currently open for sign-up and will take place in late June 2015.

The trip is organized under Education First tours, where travelers will begin in Paris to tour the city, move to Normandy to learn more about D-Day and World War II history, and then end in London with sightseeing.

“There’s something very powerful about taking kids away from what they know and giving them an opportunity to see the world,” Hall said.

Hall previously taught as a social studies teacher at Marietta Middle School, and upon becoming an administrator decided she wanted to create a resurgence in the district’s international travel opportunities.

“It is truly a fast-paced trip and geared toward student travel,” she said. “It’s to give you a snapshot of an area internationally that you might want to visit again.”

The Education First company plans the itineraries in package form and gives schools the opportunity to sign up for their own individual excursion. The full trip can include up to 50 people, and even if Marietta does not reach the capacity, the company combines the trip with other schools to fill the space and keep the price the same.

Hall is organizing the trip along with Marietta Middle School Principal Will Hampton and other teachers after successfully taking 23 students to Italy and Greece in summer 2013.

Hampton said he hopes to expand not only the availability of these trips, but the district’s foreign exchange student program as well.

“It’s something we all need to be aware of. These are opportunities for students to learn about new cultures and ourselves,” he said. “There are so many things beyond where we are that we’re not even aware of unless we go see them.”

Hampton’s daughter Erin, 17 and now a junior, took the trip last summer to Italy and Greece, an experience that has now led to her becoming a foreign exchange student this summer.

“The culture, the food, the architecture, that all really sparked an interest that made me realize not everywhere is Marietta, Ohio,” Erin said. “If it hadn’t been for that trip I probably would not be doing this exchange.”

Upon going on the 2013 trip, Erin had never traveled abroad before, and said she now strongly urges students to take the opportunity.

“At first, I wasn’t super excited to go because it didn’t seem real,” she said. “But when we got to Rome, I automatically became ecstatic. I didn’t expect it to be so different.”

After announcing the trip

in January, families have 18 months to plan and budget for the trip. The deadline to sign up is Oct. 31. Currently, Hall is gearing up to send regular emails as reminders and travel tips to help students prepare.

“You learn the best when you can visit the location where something actually occurred,” said Gwynette Hammond, a language arts teacher at Marietta High School who will be on the trip. “It’s always better if you can get the students there so they can really understand what you’re trying to get across to them.”

Hammond said it is helpful to be able to apply what she learns on the trips in her classroom.

“Having done this once before, I want students to know that it’s not as frightening or daunting as it might seem,” she said. “I really want to encourage them to go as much as possible.”

The total cost of the trip is currently $3,520, which includes the entire program, hotel, meals, a full-time tour guide and entrance into every attraction.

Parents can participate in a monthly payment plan for the trip. Currently, signing up for the trip during the month of March can save parents $100.

Hall said the district will not be doing fundraising for the trip, and that planning so far in advance allows families time to budget money accordingly, a strategy she said worked well for the last trip.

For more information about the trip or to sign up, parents can contact Jona Hall at ma_jshall@seovec.org or Will Hampton at ma_whampton@seovec.org.