Fletcher Maynard Visits Puerto Rico

Fletcher Maynard Visits Puerto Rico
Posted on 05/08/2015

Too early on the morning Thursday, April 16 about fifty staff, parents and scholars from the Fletcher Maynard Academy boarded a plane en route to San Juan, Puerto Rico. This was the Fletcher Maynard’s largest travel group yet. In previous years the school has traveled to England, Costa Rica, Mexico, China, Italy and Senegal. This year we decided to stay closer to home and visit a location that is part of the heritage of many of our students, families, and neighbors. Moreover the trip would provide an opportunity for our students to practice their Spanish language—a core focus of the Fletcher Maynard education.

We began our trip in San Juan. After a long flight we dined on local cuisine that reminded many of us of the delicacies served at our local eating-space, Izzy’s. Afterwards we relaxed briefly at a local beach about five minutes from our hotel, before heading back to prepare for an action-packed second day.

The next day we traveled to El Yunque, rainforest—the only tropical rainforest on US soil. After a tour of the visitors center we hiked a trail through the jungle, with a brief stop at a marvelous waterfall situated in the middle of the trail. The hike was amazing! We could hear birds and the famous “Coqui” frogs chirping away around us as we trekked through the dense forest. Although the forest canopy was so dense that we could barely see the sky we could hear the “tap, tap” of light rain as is drenched the protective upper leaves of the canopy that kept us dry.

After the jungle expedition we caravanned to Luquillo beach—a local beach with sands peppered with fallen coconuts. The bluest waters most of us had ever seen bordered the beach on one side; A line of “kioskos” serving delicious local food stood watch on the other side of the beach. We had a fabulous time lounging on the beach, enjoying the local cuisine and occasionally sipping fresh coconut water from coconut shells. It was definitely different than going to Revere or other local Boston area beaches. Coconuts!!!

On our third day we ventured back out into San Juan and visited the old part of the city—Viejo San Juan. We started our visit with a trip to “El Morro”— formally known as “Castillo de San Felipe del Morro”. At El Morro we explored, photographed and learned about the history of the citadel and its role in the Puerto Rico’s history. We even ran into students giving away free hugs as part of the international “Free hugs campaign”. We finished the afternoon by breaking into smaller groups for lunch and further exploration of “Viejo San Juan”. We saw the Children’s Museum, the San Juan Cathedral, La Fortaleza, El Paseo de la Princesa and many other sites. The trip to Old San Juan was a fabulous and memorable experience for our students. Indeed many of them detailed their explorations in their daily journals and some even volunteered to share out their recounting at our daily evening journaling sessions. Please ask our scholars to share some of their experiences with you!

The next day we caravanned to our next major destination—Ponce—about an hour and a half from San Juan. We made two stops on the way. The first at Cidra, to have lunch and meet the grand parents of one of our FMA scholars. Lunch was delicious as usual, and we used some of the break in traveling to do additional journaling about the trip. Later, outside of Ponce we stopped at the Tibes Indian Ceremonial Center to learn about the first inhabitants of the area—the Igneris from South America, and later the Tainos. The preserved Ceremonial Park was used by the Tainos to celebrate important events. We ended the day with a visit to “La Guancha” boardwalk in Ponce for dinner and relaxing. Fortunately for us the boardwalk was having a “family day” that evening so traffic was closed to automobiles and the streets were overflowing with children and families cavorting and laughing. La Guancha was a perfect ending to a perfect day.

On our last full day we toured Ponce and visited the unique red-and-black Parque de Bombas (fire station) at the center of town. We also had an opportunity to do some souvenir shopping (did we bring you back something?) and further exploration of the city. To mix things up we had Mexican food for dinner! Then to bed early so we could be fresh for our long drive back to San Juan, the airport, and then Boston.

This year’s trip to Puerto Rico was a rich and foundational experience for our FMA scholars. Not only did they get to hear and practice Spanish, they also got to experience the journey with their families, teachers and classmates. This mix of people and experiences provided the students with an opportunity to connect typically separate parts of their lives—families, school, social, academics, enrichment—into one tightly bound whole in which the various pieces complement, supplement, and strengthen each other. Academics is more relevant because it’s tied to social, and to family. Social is more educational because it’s tied to academics and families. And so on and so forth. The FMA is believes strongly in this holistic approach to education and applies it inside as well as outside the school building. It’s core to our culture, to our family, our success. We look forward to introducing out scholars and families to India next year!