Early in the 2018-19 school year, students expressed interest in a journey to the Azores, an isolated Portuguese island group in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Students and teachers spent much of the first semester planning the trip and learning about the Azores. During the early part of the second semester, the group worked on finalizing the trip plans. They decided to spend the entire trip on the largest island, inter-island travel was too costly for such a large group. The students also had a many topics of interest, so a trip with a variety of experiences was planned. On March 25th, the 11 students and 3 adults embarked on their 4.5 hour flight from Boston to the city of Ponta Delgada. The group spent a total of 11 days on the island of San Miguel. They spent each night in their AirBnB in the town of Algarvia, a town of roughly 300 in the rural northeast corner of the island. The group spent their days in their trusty rental cars, navigating the narrow island roads on their adventures.
One of the group’s first adventures was a visit to Maria, a local woman who led a tour of her garden and then taught a cooking lesson on how to prepare Cozido. Cozido is an Azorean dish where sausage, chicken, beef, and pork are combined in a large pot with cabbage, carrots, sweet potatoes, and potatoes and then cooked slowly underground using volcanic heat in the town of Furnas. While students waited for their meal to cook, they hiked around a lake and took a dip in some hot springs. There was so much Cozido that the group never got all the way through the leftovers despite preparing it on one of the first days. Students also had an experience volunteering in the orchard adjacent to the fumaroles in Furnas. Students spent the first part of that day learning about endemic plants, invasive plants, and then about the nonnative plants that can be cultivated on the island. Then, the students enjoyed another volcanic meal, this time with fish, onions, tomatoes, and olives all cooked volcanically. In the afternoon, the students went to work planting, preparing beds, and making friends with our Azorean hosts.
The Furnas visits were near the top of everyone’s list, but there were many other experiences of note. The students also enjoyed their two visits to Ponta Delgada. While in the city, the group visited the military museum, toured a lava tube 50 meters below ground, a pineapple plantation, a mall, a farmer’s market, as well as numerous shops and windy, narrow city streets. Students loved being able to compare Azorean Mcdonald’s and American Mcdonald’s. The group toured a tobacco museum in Maia, cleaned a beach in Ribeira Grande (we also cleaned Parson’s beach when we returned), explored black sand beaches, and partook in many hikes. Some of the most beautiful hikes were in and around Sete Cidades, a town inside a caldera in the northwest corner of the island. One day, the group split, where a portion went snorkelling around the island off of Villa Franca do Campo and the other group explored an abandoned hydroelectric plant.
The group returned home to reflect on their learning about volcanic activity, agriculture, history, culture, communication, teamwork, and adventure. Each student was expected to produce a portfolio reflecting on their learning and experiences during the trip and write a three page research paper on an Azores topic of their choice.