The Family Edition Prize has Been Claimed!

Posted April 21, 2015 by explorationsacademy
Categories: Uncategorized

Greetings Sleuths, Seekers, Thinkers, and Finders!

We are excited to report that the Family Edition Prize has been claimed!! With great excitement, the team Two Herlocks and Their Holmsies solved the riddles, tricks, and twists, and received the week one prize: four admission passes to Mindport. A huge thanks to Mindport for your generous donation!


Remember, everyone is still in the running to solve the Great Mystery culminating prize. Solve week one, and continue the hard work–or is it play?–in solving the upcoming weeks. Week Two clues go into the mail tomorrow, Wednesday. Keep your eyes peeled on your mailboxes, and good luck in the second round.

The Great Mystery Rides Again!

Posted April 21, 2015 by explorationsacademy
Categories: Bellingham, Mysteries, Puzzles


Aficionados of Intrigue, Pursuers of Paradoxes, Cherishers of Challenge, and Also Allies of Alliteration!  The Newest Edition of The Great Mystery has hit the streets of Bellingham!  Clues have been Carefully Placed in Obscure Locations in and around our Lovely Town, Beckoning to the Curious, the Creative, and the Collaborative!  Yes, we’re talking about You!

2012 Mystery LogoAlthough the Mystery has begun, it is not at all Too Late to get in on the Action.  Registrations are still being Accepted, Prizes are still Waiting to be Won, and the Spigots of Fun will be Fully Flowing for Weeks to Come!  It’s only Sixty Smackers for Four Weeks of Team-Based, Problem-Solving, Fun and Adventures… with Numerous Awesome Prizes just waiting to be Won!  So Hesitate ye Not, and sign up your Team (if you haven’t already) with the form available here.

mallard-ice-creamWeek One of this Enchanting Adventure is Currently Underway!  We have a Week One Winner for the Super Sleuth category, meaning that Team Assessmo was the first one in today with the correct Super Sleuth Answer, which netted them some Awesome Mallard Ice Cream Gift Certificates!  (Thanks, Mallard!)

Most Curiously, the Family Edition prize for Week One remains unclaimed as of this writing.  The Utter Simplicity of the Family Edition puzzle seems to be eluding the Razor-Sharp Wits of our Hardworking Family Edition Teams.  It’s only a matter of time, though, and some Lucky — nay, Stalwart — Team shall soon Prevail.  Stay Tuned!FullSizeRender[9]

The Global Student Program Pilot Begins!

Posted April 13, 2015 by explorationsacademy
Categories: Global Student Program

Tags: , , , ,

We are very excited to announce that our Global Student Program pilot is up and running!  Three wonderful students from China have arrived, been welcomed, and are in Explorations classrooms!  Last evening we had a very successful welcoming ceremony, attended by all of our Chinese visitors, Explorations staff, and each of the host families, with food provided by Sarah Lane.  Brief talks were given by Esther Ren Yan, the Director of the Beijing Academy Charter School, by Daniel Kirkpatrick, Explorations Academy director, and by Kiira Heymann, core faculty at Explorations.  For the next three weeks we will have the Chinese students involved in classroom and field experiences at our school, to the enrichment of all!

FullSizeRenderAnni Kamola, who has worked very hard to coordinate this program, offers the following reflection:

I have had the privilege of working with our Explorations Academy team and Robin Jacobs, our newly hired homestay coordinator, to help build this program. While working on it, I’ve been ruminating on what it will bring to our school.

As I was out walking yesterday, I stumbled on a piece of clarity. I was thinking about how the hills here in Whatcom Country remind me of southern Norway, and these thought meanderings led me down a memory trail of people I met while on my own global travels in these past four years. From swapping travel stories, sharing a few hilarious bicycle rides, and succeeding in challenging mountain climbs, to falling in love over breakfast, standing up for my own safety, and being helped out by the perfect stranger, I was able to transform into a more responsible, aware, and harmonious person.

It is this potential for transformation that is the core of Explorations’ mission and the purpose for the Global Student Program. Our school’s mission is to ignite a passion for learning that inspires participants to collaborate effectively and take responsibility for positive global change. Explorations’ curriculum already focuses on global education, with areas of study such as ‘Arab Spring,’ ‘Geopolitics,’ and ‘Comparative Religion.’ In addition, every year Explorations students travel to countries as diverse as Thailand, Cuba, Kenya, India, Peru, Indonesia, and Guatemala to study the language, history, literature, natural history, and to do service work. These offer students in-depth learning opportunities. The school has also hosted individual students from countries such as Germany, Indonesia, Slovakia, Colombia, and the Czech Republic, which brings an in-person global influence into our classrooms.

FullSizeRender[3]Our goal at Explorations Academy is to provide continually improving mission-appropriate experiences for our students. The Global Student Program will do just this. For the past 18 months, we have been working with Wayne Chu, director of the Blue Sea Academy, laying the groundwork for this program. Wayne is an energetic man from China who now lives in Bellingham. His goal is to network as many Chinese and American educational communities together to provide an opportunity for cultural exchange. Wayne has helped connect Explorations Academy with the Beijing Academy Charter School, a small, private school in Beijing with apedagogical approach similar to that of Explorations.

The pilot for this program will welcome three Chinese students into our school for three weeks. They will be a placed in the “Food” cluster, taking part in classes about the food system, working in our school garden, and helping to make a community meal. In addition, the students will join our Chinese class, bringing a wealth of knowledge in regards to pronunciation, vocabulary, and cultural knowledge. Finally, the students will take part in a weeklong field outing in the San Juan Islands, camping for the first time and working with our students on service projects. These three weeks will be a rich experience for everyone involved, and will help our administration to make necessary adjustments for the official launch of the Global Student Program in September. This pilot program and the upcoming Global Student Program will bring people together, offering a new context for personal transformation into more responsible, aware, and harmonious citizens.

FullSizeRender[1]Our world is rapidly developing, and it is important to remember that below the growing pains is a core of humanity. We are all humans with the potential to be effective collaborators for our future. I believe that Explorations Academy, and especially the Global Student Program, will provide opportunities for our students to open their minds and hearts to new people. I hope that with this sense of connection our students will go forward into the world—not with trepidation, but with the deep knowledge that there are friends worldwide working toward a common goal of positive global change.


Safe Return from South America

Posted February 12, 2015 by explorationsacademy
Categories: Colombia

Tags: , ,

d262ac1ff9268901ce34c38be49482b2I don’t know about you, but I grew up in an era when Paddington Bear was a literary hero, and that endearing character was a feature of my imaginal world for many years.  Paddington, if you aren’t familiar, was a lovable creature from “Darkest Peru,” trying to make his way in urban London with little to go on but his innocence and charm.  I confess that my earliest images of South America date back to those days, and having never set foot on that continent myself, I can only look longingly at the images our students and teachers brought back with them in the way Paddington might eye a jar of marmalade.



Jack shows his affection for the Colombian delicacy of hormigas culonas, or Fried Ants…

In any case, our intrepid group of adventurous, if weary, travelers made it home safely the other day, and we’re delighted to have them back.  Various products of their expedition will be available in the near term, including three public presentations.  I’d like to invite you to attend one of these events if you are able.

• Friday, February 13th, our Term End Event will feature presentations by each of our three Winter Term clusters, including the Theatre and You’re On Your Own (YOYO) cluster as well as the Colombia cluster.  This event begins at 5:30 in our Lower Level Theatre with an appetizer potluck.

• Monday, March 2nd, as part of our Outreach Week, a presentation featuring just the Colombia expedition will take place at 7pm in our Lower Level Theatre.  This will be a slightly expanded version of what is presented at the 2/13 Term End Event.

• Thursday March 19th, at the Whatcom Museum Rotunda room, as part of the City of Bellingham’s travelogue series, students and staff will once again present their slide show of images and stories.


A page from Sonya’s field notebook…

Once again, I would like to extend my most heartfelt and sincere gratitude to everyone who has followed or in some way been part of the students’ journey in Colombia.  We know that these expeditions represent a huge undertaking, for families, faculty, donors, and students.  We undertake them because we know the profound impact they have upon students’ lives and perspectives.  This is a key way we prepare students to be effective global citizens, but we cannot do it without your support.  We are very grateful for everyone who — in whatever way — made this trip possible.  Thank you!

Colombia Update #7: Salento

Posted February 4, 2015 by explorationsacademy
Categories: Colombia, Student Activities

Tags: , , ,

photo[16]The expedition is nearing its conclusion!  Our group of Explorations students and teachers has headed  from Medellin up to the mountain town of Salento, where they are staying at a coffee plantation, studying the process of coffee growing and processing, and learning about the ecosystems in which coffee is grown.  Kiira writes:

Our group arrived in Salento after a windy bus ride through the coffee plantations at the heart of the Zona Cafetera. By this point in the trip, students have become accustomed to the loud radio music that nearly all Colombian bus drivers prefer, and the weaving and passing of other buses, motos, trucks, bikes, and whatever else is on the road as we make our way to our next destination. Empanadas, bananas, and mangoes made for good travel food along the way.


photo[3]Salento is a small mountain town whose primary export is coffee, but more recently the town has become a hot spot for travelers due to its proximity to the Parque de Los Nevados and the Valle de Cocora. On our first day here we woke up to cups of hot coffee made from beans  grown and roasted at our hostel, after which we headed down to the plaza to catch a jeep ride up the valley for a day of hiking.


photo[2]We hiked from Salento up through pasturelands full of friendly cows before entering the jungle on our way to Acaime nature reserve. After making our way across small suspension bridges and following a small creek to a pass, we made it to La Casa de Los Calibris – the hummingbird house. The couple who run the reserve greeted us with cold drinks, and watched as our eyes widened to the buzzing air around us. Nine species of hummingbirds were zooming between numerous bowls of sugar water, and all we had to do was sit back and watch with awe! Interpretive signs in Spanish gave us a deeper appreciation for the biodiversity of the region.


photo[8]After we had our calibri fix, we hiked up and over into the next valley, the Valle de Cocora. En route we stopped at a mountain top finca for a lunch of hot chocolate and fresh cheese, which we ate as clouds and thunder rolled in overhead.


photo[4]The wax palm is the national tree of Colombia, and we had the chance to see them towering high over us as we walked down through cow pastures and farms back to town. Once endangered due to overharvesting for their flammable wax, this reserve, as well as others in the area, have been created to honor them.  Our group had a fun time admiring their grandeur as we hiked.


photo[14]Our second full day in Salento was equally exciting. That morning we visited another nature reserve, getting a tour from our guide Nicholas, who helped to establish part of the jungle outside of town as a preserve. His local knowledge about plants and about the conservation movement in Colombia added depth and context to our tropical ecology readings. Walking through the dense green foliage was the high point of the day for many students.


We made it back into town for our daily bandeja, the local dish that includes enough food for a working man on a finca in the mountains and includes rice, beans, a fried egg, avocado, sausage, bacon, and a fried plantain. We have been eating well!  Top things off with frozen jugo con leche (think fruit milkshake) and most of us were ready for a siesta. Alas, that was not in the cards – we headed out next to tour the coffee farm that also happens to be where we’ve been staying during our time in Salento.


photo[10]Tim, the charismatic owner of the farm, covered everything about coffee production — from growing conditions, to grading and selling the beans, to roasting and drinking the coffee. It was a treat to tour the farm and then roast our own beans before freshly grinding and brewing cups for us all.


photo[11]After another bandeja it was time for bed, and all was quiet at the hostel. Tomorrow we will travel over and into the Andes to our final stop on the journey, Bogota.


photoEveryone is in good spirits and the students are ready to start processing all the amazing experiences that this trip has thrown their way!

Colombia Update #6: Cartagena to Medellin

Posted February 2, 2015 by explorationsacademy
Categories: Colombia, Student Activities

Tags: , , , ,
photo[8]Our group of intrepid travelers has headed inland, leaving behind the Caribbean coastline and heading back up into the Colombian highlands.  Kiira writes:
On Thursday morning we rose early to pack up and get ready for our move back into the mountains. After doing a deep clean of the Alex Rocha Center and making sure all of our knives and liquids were tucked into our checked luggage, we hopped on the bus to the airport.  Alex and his family joined us on this final bus ride in Cartagena for an extended goodbye.  After a closing circle led by Alex, and many hugs and good wishes, we were through security and boarding our Avianca flight to Medellin.
photo[5]Our shift from the Colombian Caribbean to a valley in the Andes was quite stark. In addition to all of a sudden finding ourselves in the second largest city in Colombia, the cooler mountain air and the difference in city culture came as a big (yet welcome) change from Cartagena. From the airport our bus wound down switch-backed roads lined with brick houses on steep hills, and into the valley to where our hostel is in the center of Medellin.
photo[4]Our group was happy to arrive at our hostel in the Candelaria district of the city, where we are centrally located to all sorts of city attractions. Hot showers and beds made the group feel at home after a week of what was essentially indoor camping at the youth center.
photo[9]Yesterday we hopped on the metro and saw the city from a local perspective. Their elevated trains and trams run high above the city, putting all it has to offer on display for our group. We rode one tram to the top of the valley, passing over stacked suburbs of brick houses with brightly painted doors and steep winding roads.
photo[3]At the top of the tram line we had arrived in Parque Arvi, a natural preserve far above the city, where we took a guided hike through the trail system. Plants and vegetation look very different here from the last time we were in the woods (actually better described as jungle!) near Santa Marta, and students noted the similarities and differences, both natural or cultural, that we’ve seen in the various regions of Colombia we have visited. After lunch, we headed back to town in our little gondolas, watching lightning storms roll in over the city and experiencing the first rain we have seen since our first days in Barichara. Students danced in the rain on the patio of the hostel once we were back, celebrating the change in weather and this final leg of our trip.
photo[7]Today we woke to a breakfast of mangoes, bananas, and rolls from a local panaderia, and headed to the Museo de Antioquia at the Plaza Botero. We perused the art museum, whose collection is primarily composed of works made or donated by Fernando Botero, a sculptor native to Medellin and whose work appears in big cities around the world. He is known for playing with the volume of his subjects, and his round depictions of bodies have been a notable feature in many of the Colombian cities we have visited on this trip.

Touching the butt of a Botero is encouraged!

After our wander through the museum, we headed to the city center’s public market for another local experience.  While our group was in awe of the hustle and bustle of the marketplace and all of the meat, fish, produce, and other goods available around us, the sight of 14 gringos was even more exciting for vendors and marketgoers — everyone commented on how out of place we looked! But the students prevailed, collecting fruits and veggies enough to create a meal for our final night in Medellin this evening.
photo[8]Students are currently holding a discussion on Marquez, and preparing readings for the next leg of our trip. Tomorrow we take the bus to Salento in the coffee growing region of Colombia, where we will continue to explore and enjoy our time together, while also making time for needed reflection before heading back home at the end of the week.
photo[10]Reports from all our staff reflect the positive ways in which the students have been working together and savoring their diverse experiences.  Spirits have been high, intestinal bugs have been few, and the level of inquiry the students are bringing to their travels is notable.  The group has worked well together, with shared leadership and efforts made by individual students — often with no adult guidance — to draw in anyone who is not feeling included.  All this, while absorbing copious amounts of Spanish vocabulary, meeting and bonding with numerous Colombians, and studying regularly, using their thick readings book and faculty leadership to maximize their learning.
In short, as the expedition winds into its final few days, it is clear that this is one of our most successful overseas expeditions, and we remain profoundly grateful to the parents, donors, and other supporters that have worked to make it possible for these fortunate students.  Thank you!

Colombia Update #5: Service in Cartagena

Posted January 30, 2015 by explorationsacademy
Categories: Colombia, Student Activities, Student Reports

Tags: , ,

Alex provides a tour of Cartagena

Kiira writes:
We have been in Cartagena since Saturday working with Alex Rocha and his students in the barrio San Francisco, a neighborhood about a 20 minute collectivo ride from the old colonial city. Life in this barrio looks much different from places we have visited so far on this trip — being away from the tourist center of town, we have had the opportunity to live and work in a real Colombian community.
Our days have been fairly regular with service work and excursions to explore the history of Cartagena.  In the process, we have gained an appreciation for “Colombian time,” in which meetings and schedules are often bent less around the clock than around what matters in life. Waking up with empanadas, mangoes, and coffee for breakfast easily spills into time playing soccer and dancing on the street outside the center before school.
photo[1]After time for our own Explorations classes and a siesta in the heat of the day, we have enjoyed teaching after-school English classes at the center. On two occasions we ventured into the old city to explore the cobbled streets and Bougainvillea-lined balconies, sip on tropical fruit palettas, and take a dip in the Caribbean. Today we held class atop the old city wall and talked about Gabriel Garcia Marquez, having just toured the sites he writes about in town. We are in heaven. Students continue to enjoy patacones (fried plantains) and coconut rice as staples of all meals.
photo[7]Sonya writes about playing with the Colombian students:
Children’s screams of “gringo, gringo” cut through thick air ablaze with scents and sounds. They run down the narrow street with impressions of small feet and laughter, overjoyed at our return. Little hands reach up with a clear message and purpose: “Pick me up, let’s play!” With one child on my shoulders and one in my arms we walk to the new Alex Rocha center. I put them down and am instantly surrounded by pleading eyes and sharp voices saying, “Hombros por favor” in the most pathetic voice they can muster. I lift one over my head and onto my shoulders. As I run chasing their friends I can hear the glee in their voices and giggles. With aching shoulders I try to put the child down, but she clings to me with surprising strength.
Our group left Cartagena with a fond goodbye, made difficult because so much bonding took place in so little time.  In departing, the Explorations students, so moved by the people of the barrio and by Alex Rocha, pooled a significant amount of their spending money to leave a group donation to support the continued work of the Alex Rocha Center.  They then departed for the airport and caught their flight to Medellin.  Our next report will reflect their Medellin activities.
Once again — though it may not be news at this point — the experiences of this trip are proving to be very powerful and truly moving for our students!
photophoto[5] photo[6]


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