Global and local lessons
VAIL ” At first glance, it has the look and feel of many other summer camps: smiling faces, early morning bus rides, dodgeball, ice cream and field trips.
However, SummerQuest at Vail Mountain School is not a typical summer camp” in between all this excitement, students go to math, language and other classes taught by current and former students and teachers.
“SummerQuest students are learning the value of being part of a community and the importance of giving back,” said Jeff Summerhill, a member of the SummerQuest faculty who also teaches Latin and humanities at Vail Mountain School. “These special kids are on a quest to improve their learning skills, experience the great outdoors, and serve their community in an environment that fosters awareness, compassion, and respect for others.”
SummerQuest, a free program, was founded 11 years ago by the private school’s headmaster, Peter Abuisi, and Upper School English Teacher Michael Morris. Most of the students speak Spanish.
A day at SummerQuest begins at the early hour of 7:15 a.m., when the students are picked up by their teachers and brought to Vail Mountain School in East Vail.
Two hour-long classes, separated by a half hour of recess, are followed by an elective period in which the students choose between photography, cooking, arts and crafts, and outdoor education.
As for field trips, sixth graders went to the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center, seventh graders went rock climbing at Camp Hale, and eighth graders toured the University of Colorado’s Boulder campus.
The theme for this summer was “Around the World in 30 Days.” All of the kids are given passports, and their goal is to “travel” around the world by learning about aspects of various cultures.
In math class, for instance, students learn how to budget a vacation through the Americas and convert American dollars to Peruvian nuevo sols.
In language arts, they read excerpts from European classics like “The Little Prince” and “Don Quixote.”
In cooking class, they make dishes like guacamole and sushi. In outdoor education, they learn about latitudes and longitudes and how to find their way in any part of the world.
“The goal is to have the students examine cultures from all over the world, including their own, and notice the similarities and differences,” says SummerQuest Program Director Kristen Brock, who is also an Upper School math and science teacher.
On this year’s first-ever SummerQuest Community Service Day, the seventh and eighth graders worked with the Youth Conservation Corps fixing up the Tigiwon Lodge in the Holy Cross Wilderness. The sixth graders participated in “Project Puppy,” making treats and toys to donate to the Eagle Valley Humane Society.
“The students got pretty excited about the day and were proud of their work,” says Brock. “I hope that it will become a new SummerQuest tradition that the kids can look forward to each year.”
Vail Daily, Vail, Colorado