Monday, February 16, 2009

Academics- Mekong Valley by Eric Parker

Nate, Kristi and Dave studying hard. Photo by Jason Cohen

Never before have I studied Algebra II while sitting in front of a Buddha shrine in Tibet. This is an experience that World Class has made a reality for me. I think I can speak for everyone when I say that classes here offer many unique learning experiences.

The past few weeks have been filled with rigorous study and exams. Fortunately we were able to take a three day break from school to go and explore Yubeng, a mountainous Tibetan village. It was an amazing experience that we will all remember for years to come. But soon following the trek to Yubeng, class was back in session.

Currently we are located in Xidong, a village on the banks of the Mekong River. Our geographical location and culture is something that Ivan Steifel, 23 has strongly absorbed into his literature and cultural studies classes. Chinese Cultural Studies is beginning a unit on Tibetan history. “I am really interested in the political and cultural backround of Tibet, and I like to get my students involved with social issues,” Ivan says. Clearly we are in the perfect environment for studying this subject. I asked senior, Dave Meyers, what he thought about Cultural Studies and he said, “Nothing is as unique as learning a subject as interesting as that of the Tibetan culture, while in cultural Tibet.”

Over the course of the trip Biology class has had and ongoing experiment. We have been focusing on water quality throughout China and Tibet. This experiment is just a small part of Biology’s study on the Three Gorges dam and how it will alter its surrounding environment. We have witnessed villages and towns that will be greatly affected due to the dams. One Yangtze riverside village in particular, Baoshan, will lose 60% of its valuable farmland. We have much more interest and first-hand knowledge of the damming and its negative affects after living there for several days. This first-hand learning is something I never would have experienced in a regular public school.

World Class’s next and final stop is the Salween. We will be taking another three-day break from school for travel. Although it is the last stop, we will have nearly a month of classes and kayaking there. School continues to be a mind-blowing experience, and unique learning opportunities continue to arise through out the course of the trip. I am excited to see what the Salween has to offer.

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