Twenty five educators recently returned from an eight day study visit to the Dominican Republic. This experiential professional development program was truly transformative. The program started with an orientation in March where participants met each other, learned a bit about the Dominican Republic and were given pointers for traveling internationally. The real journey started on July 21 when we boarded our plane to Santo Domingo. After three days visiting schools and historical sites in the capital, we ventured to the mountains where we stayed in a women’s cooperative in Jarabacoa. We learned how the women of a small village are working to better their community through sustainable development projects. To end our study visit we continued north and stayed two nights on the northern coastal city of Puerto Plata, with visits to schools in Cabarete.
The study visit provided a diversity of experiences by exploring both human-made and natural beauty in a short period of time. In addition to learning about the history of the Colonial Americas and public and private education systems, we explored issues of race, slave trade, women’s empowerment and the legacy of colonial America on a very diverse population. There were many “firsts” on this study visit. We had a first time flyer, many first time international travelers, first time hikers, first time yoga participants and much more, including friendships that will last a lifetime!
Words and phrases used to describe the study visit include “inspired,” “grateful,” “wealth of knowledge gained,” “memorable” and “life changing.” Over the course of the journey we were challenged physically and mentally and grew to a better understanding of a culture different from our own. In September we will reunite to work together to bridge our experience to the classroom.