History Trip: Germany & Poland

This spring break, some of our Grade 11 and 12 students are visiting Germany and Poland. The aim of this excursion is to support student learning of the history of modern Europe. Read the trip updates below:

Kathryn, Gr. 11
After three long flights, we finally landed in Berlin! We first stopped at the hotel to check in our bags, then left to sightsee for the day. We saw lots of famous buildings that were incredibly beautiful. Next, we went to the German History Museum and a huge chocolate store. Lastly, we climbed 267 steps to the top of a cathedral and saw an amazing citywide view. Overall, we had a great but busy, first day in Berlin!

Megan, Gr. 11
The first thing we did in the morning was eat breakfast at the hotel. We had an awesome view over Berlin and the food was delicious! After breakfast, we visited the Holocaust memorial site which was such an incredibly powerful site with amazing architectural choices. The Holocaust memorial museum was full of personal stories and history. We got to read letters of families, reflect on the war, and our personal lives. We had a chance to get lunch after visiting the museum at a small cafe close to the Berlin wall.

After lunch, we walked to the Berlin wall and our teacher taught us a little bit more of the history behind it and how it would have affected our lives depending on which side of the wall we lived. Following the Berlin wall, we walked to Checkpoint Charlie and down to the train station to take a train to the Stasi Museum. There, we got to see the actual headquarters with a guided tour. They taught us about their technology and methods of spying. Our last stop of the day was the Bundestag, which is the German Parliament. We had a wonderful guided tour of the entire building, including where they do the actual voting. At the end of the tour, we went up to the garden rooftop which had a breathtaking view over the city. Finally, we got back on the train and picked up dinner at the train station and went back to the hotel.

Julianne, Gr. 12
Good morning! We woke up still in Berlin and headed off to the Pergamon Museum, where we saw elegant antiquities, beautiful Islamic art, and fascinating historical objects from the Middle East. After that, we had a quick (but yummy) lunch near the train station and boarded at around 2:30 pm for our ride to Poznan. It was a very relaxing few hours on board the train, and most of us were able to catch up on a few hours of sleep or stayed awake to socialize or play games.

Once we arrived in Poland, we were introduced to Conrad, Chris, and Veronica (who will help us on our visits to the children later in the week) and were welcomed to Poznan with a warm dinner and a leisurely stroll through the magical town. After checking into our new hotel, we finished off the day by splitting off into two groups according to the children we would be visiting the next day, and wrapped their presents.

Jadyn, Gr. 11
After waking up early in Poznań, Poland, we split into two groups taking our luggage and presents with us to visit the kids. Our group visited Damian, Rafał, and Martyna, and we had a lot of fun playing games, getting to know each other, and drawing. We ate dinner pizza for dinner and celebrated Talia’s 17th birthday with cake in Bydgoszcz after wrapping presents.

Saphren, Gr. 11
After long car rides filled with scenic views from our window, we spent an excellent day visiting children and delivering presents. Although we had enjoyed our time with all three kids, we had an especially fun time with a 16-year-old boy, where we got to tour around his small town. After visiting the beautiful lake, which was just a five-minute walk from his home, we then walked to their local school, where we met many of his friends and other community members. At the school, the Yorkies spent over an hour playing in a fairly competitive, but incredibly fun match of volleyball against a few of their students. At the end of the day, we met up with the other group of girls who were visiting another group of children to have a tasty pizza dinner. We then settled at our local hotel in Gdansk, Poland and got ready for the next day.

Taylor T., Gr. 12
Today we are in Gdansk and Malbork. We had breakfast in the hotel and headed out to Malbork Castle. This fortified monastery is a UNESCO world heritage site and the largest castle surviving castle in the world, used by the Teutonic Knights. Following this, we went to Westerplatte, the peninsula site of the first battle in the Polish invasion during WWII. After, we went to the Museum of the Second World War, where we were given a thorough and in-depth examination of WWII from its beginnings to its conclusion, and lasting its impacts. After this, we went to dinner which was attended by one of the wish children and her family who we had visited the day before and really connected with. Then we went for a brief walk in the dark around the Gdansk Old Town area and went back to the hotel to wrap presents for the next day’s visits.

Hannah, Gr. 11
Today we began our day in Gdansk and drove to three different children’s homes, making our way to Warsaw. Each of these children have varying terminal illnesses, making visiting them both emotional and rewarding. The first young boy was very shy at first, but was extremely excited by the gifts and warmed up by playing games with us. The next little girl constantly had a smile on her face. She gasped each time she opened a present and was overjoyed to solve a puzzle with us after. Finally, the last little boy we visited was a checkers champ and beat Mr. Cropley in a hard-fought game. All of these visits were so unique and really immersed me into the Polish culture. We have now arrived in Warsaw and are excited for the days ahead!

Taylor S., Gr. 11
We all slept in a bit today which was nice, and our first stop was a military cemetery. While we were there we learned a bit about the Katyn Massacre and details about the people that were buried at this cemetery. Next, we went to the Warsaw Uprising Museum where there was a guided tour. The museum was really nice and there were a lot of authentic props that helped our learning. For lunch, we went to a big mall and also got a bit of free-time to shop as well. Our final destination was this Invisible Exhibition where it was pitch black, and we had to use our listening skills along with our sense of touch to move around which was an incredible experience. Our guide was also blind, so we experienced (almost) the same thing as her. For dinner, we went to a really fancy Italian restaurant where there was a lot of pizza and pasta, then went back to the hotel for an early night.

Talia, Gr.12
We woke up and ate an incredible breakfast at the Radisson Blu Hotel. We then went for a nice morning walk down through the Jewish quarter of Krakow to the old synagogue where we explored the gothic architecture of an old Jewish worshipping sight. A guide then took us on a tour of old Krakow where we learned of the Nazis use of the old castle as well as the prevention of the destruction of the ancient city. We then broke off into groups for some individual exploration and lunch. We visited the beautiful church in the centre of the old town square which was extravagantly decorated with colourful stained glass and gold. We ended the day with a warm dinner together and retired to our rooms after a long day of walking.

Matteya, Gr. 11
We woke up early to pack our suitcases and depart from the hotel, but not before a wonderful breakfast. We’d booked a coach bus for our long drives to Auschwitz and Wieliczka, which we loaded our luggage into before boarding. We drove for about two hours and arrived at the Auschwitz Concentration Camp. There, we walked through the camp with an English-speaking tour guide. This was very emotional and every one of us learned much about the suffering of the prisoners, all of it shocking and terribly impactful. I dare say it is something we will never forget. From there, we drove to another section of the camp, much of which had been destroyed, before a quick lunch at a nearby restaurant. We drove to Wieliczka, where we went on an underground tour through some incredible salt mines, something very important to Poland’s heritage and full of interesting tales and information. The Salt Mines are on the UNESCO World Heritage list. From there, we turned back into the city and had some free time in a mall connected to the train station for some shopping, rest, and bonding time. It was there we boarded a sleeper train with six to a room, which while a bit cramped, once sorted, became cozy and a fun experience.  


Following Her Passions for Politics: Jasmine, Gr. 12

Jasmine, Gr. 12, with the Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould

Jasmine (Grade 12) has always had a keen interest in politics. Just this past year, she started looking for a way to give back to her community that would satisfy her political curiosity; a place where the values resonated with her own.

She began researching ways to get involved, when she learned of an opportunity that would allow her to work with one of her political idols, the Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, Member of Parliament for Vancouver Granville, Minister of Justice and the Attorney General of Canada. One of the key initiatives she focused on was organizing a volunteer fair where she helped match 50 young people with different community organizations. Following this experience, she sought an internship position that would allow her to continue her work with Minister Wilson-Raybould’s Constituency Office.

During her internship, Jasmine was responsible for preparing responses to MP correspondence which would require her to read policy and interpret how it applies to a particular question someone may have. Learning on the job, she was also working on putting together the newsletters, and web posts for the Constituency Office while supporting the Case Manager and the Constituency Office Manager. Putting her research and writing skills into action, she even had the opportunity to write about the current Vancouver housing crisis for a recent Ten Percenter (a mailer sent to 10% of the constituency population), among other issues.

At the end of the summer, Jasmine asked for an opportunity to again continue her work with the office, and was offered the position of “Junior Assistant”. Jasmine was well-aware that she didn’t have the university degree or experience that some applicants might have but she wanted to take a risk, and put herself out there. She believed that she had proven herself in the role so far and she wanted to keep learning. Now Jasmine attends classes at York House one day where she has six full classes and on the alternate days and weekends she works in the Constituency Office where she manages communications, correspondence, and supports youth outreach.

Commenting on the new role, Jasmine says, “Every day has been a genuine surprise, and there isn’t a day that goes by where I haven’t learned something new. It has been an incredible experience so far. I’ve been navigating how to apply my technical knowledge when dealing with everyday Canadians who are affected by proposed policy. It has been especially challenging to learn how to communicate in a respectful and sincere manner, when the issue at hand is emotionally charged. Learning how to respond to someone when the answer you have isn’t what they want to hear is most definitely an ongoing process and I am humbled to have the opportunity to continue to grow in this field.” Her experience so far has definitely helped her to put political life into perspective. She feels grateful for the opportunity to work with Minister Wilson-Raybould, who she admires for her sincerity, intelligence, and way with people, even those who have a different ideological perspective. The others she works with have been equally supportive.

In terms of what is next for Jasmine, she hasn’t chosen which university she will be going to yet, but she plans to stay in Canada and is considering taking a gap year to take a position on the Hill. In fact, she will be going to Ottawa in December for three weeks of combined work and training as part of her role with the Constituency Office.

Once she does get to university, it should be no surprise that she plans to study communications and political science. It may surprise you that she is also considering exploring a minor in neuroscience as she believes that studying connections in the predisposition of our biological functions and how people think about issues is fascinating and can be applied to make for a better political future for all Canadians.  

Speaking on the benefits of the work experience she has gained so far, Jasmine says, “It can often be frustrating to gain technical knowledge but have nowhere to apply it. Having real-world experience is invaluable.”

When asked about the negative perceptions that people often have about political life, Jasmine says, “I find that the negativity surrounding politics often and unfortunately surrounds competition created by hyper-partisanship, and the divisiveness this can bring to a country. It is my belief that values must be better emphasized in our political system, as values have a greater capacity for uniting our country. One day, I hope to be in a position to bring people together through clear and effective communications and policy. My experience in politics thus far has shown me that everyone in this field is passionate about what they do, which is working with everyday Canadians so our Government can help individuals and the greater community through positive change.”

Jasmine is still figuring it all out as she goes, but it is clear that she has a head start and that she is not afraid to explore exciting opportunities that speak to her passions.