Update from our Dean - Las Palmas
By kevin | Dec 16, 2019 |
Dear A+ Family and Friends, Greetings from gorgeous Las Palmas, Spain. We arrived in Las Palmas on a calm December 5th afternoon and anchored for one night as we could only go alongside the next day. December 6th brought us alongside on an academic day. Students were busy with classes but those who were ‘idle hands’ were able to help with mooring procedures. The excitement of a new adventure was electrifying despite the weather reports of a few rainy days. Keeping everyone focused on school was a challenging task for teachers!
Everyone got their phones back after school and communication with parents and friends was on! Students got a short shore leave – enough to get a taste of the capital city of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. It was a holiday weekend here and lots of locals were out. Some students learned the valuable lesson that in restaurants time and service concepts in Spain are not the same as in the home countries.
December 7th started with the students taking SAT exams leaving for the American School of Las Palmas very early in the morning accompanied by a teacher. Some students with diving certifications went diving in the early morning as well and reported having a brilliant day! Students got shore leave at 0930 and it didn’t take them long to scatter all around the city with their exploration hats on! Playa de la Canteras is the main beach within walking distance and many students savored the sun and sand. All the prayers for “no rain” and the “sun dance” helped with the weather….we didn’t get the predicted rain.
December 8th started out as a cloudy day with a teacher birthday celebration…copious amounts of salt water was thrown on Social Studies teacher Kyla. We left for the hike to the Bandama Caldera at 1000 with the guide informing us that it is safer to hike it in cloudy weather than on a sweltering sunny day. The crater was formed five thousand million years ago along with the ancient volcano Pico de Bandama and is 216 meters deep, 574 meters high and 1,000 meters wide. The focus of the hike was geology and evolution of species. The students went down the giant crater enthusiastically. The return pace was considerably slower with many students reaching the top huffing and puffing! It was so good to be out in nature getting our exercise. We went to the Maspaloma Sand Dunes next and it was marvelous seeing the students spread out with joy onto the pristine sand dunes, amid sunshine and cool breeze, leaving their footprints everywhere. For many it was the first time they had set sights on and experienced sand dunes.
Our debrief for the day was student led – the Environmental students went to each watch and led meaningful discussions – a task that allowed them to show great leadership skills.
December 9th started with another birthday celebration – Chatrine was serenaded with birthday songs and dunked with lots of water!
It was our Service Learning day and Oceans4Life and the Norwegian non-governmental organization ‘In-the-Same-Boat’ came aboard to share their vision and goals for saving our oceans. Students were challenged to create new inventions from old diving suits and they were brilliant. They came up with bottle warmers, bags to store things, gloves, tea warmers, a new way to keep our classroom whiteboards clean many more! They then took giant sacks and gloves and cleaned and sorted the beach trash.
When I wrote to Oceans4Life to thank them for their support they wrote back:
“Thank you so much. We had an amazing morning too. Your crew of students are a credit to their parents and their teachers. You should be very proud of them all. They showed such lovely community spirit and are great ambassadors for the future.” Oceans4Life
We are indeed so proud of our students! Students enjoyed their well-deserved shore leave in the afternoon.
December 10th was a sunny day and our provisions arrived in a giant truck with a crane. With everyone lending a hand the massive task was accomplished by 0945 and students enjoyed a full day of shore leave – surfing, snorkeling, shopping, eating and sunbathing were the highlights.
Back to the world of academics on December 11th. Our Chemistry and Physics students headed off to the American School of Las Palmas while the others went to a public library to do research, complete STAR assessments and do other assigned school work despite some internet challenges. Tiana, Alex, Anders and Hannah presented their perspectives of ship life and school to the 100 high school students in the American school and did a wonderful job. They then attended their labs and completed STAR assessments. The school graciously invited us to lunch and our students mingled with the other students and had interesting conversations ending the visit with some quick games on the sports field. Returning to the ship at 1500 everyone got ready for their shore leave which they enjoyed until 2100.
The next day, December 12th, we had our second field experience – a visit to the famous local Botanical Gardens and a walk in the historic old town of Vegueta. The Botanical Gardens house 600 unique plants that make the island one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots. There was everything (including some light rain) from lakes full of fish to forests, cliff paths, ponds, a cactus garden and lots of Gran Canaria dragon trees as well as dozens of different viper’s bugloss flowers. Our guide focused on endemism and regaled us with some historic pirate and war stories. After a short lunch break the debrief of the activity was a scavenger hunt which everyone participated in very, very enthusiastically!
Soon we were whisked off by our buses to the historic old town of Vegueta. The quiet cobbled streets and old stone quarters gives this oldest part of Las Palmas its unique flavor. The colonial architecture is absolutely stunning…lots of narrow streets and plazas with churches, statues and orange trees. Students got a chance to do some shopping on a long pedestrian street that had beautiful Christmas decorations. Some stayed and enjoyed their shore leave in Vegueta and others came back to the ship before enjoying their last shore leave of Las Palmas. Some students also went for a tour of Christian Radich moored next to us and got another perspective on life aboard a bigger tall ship.
December 13th started with a birthday celebration with our traditional water dunk on Camilla and a birthday song! At 0900 we were back in school…academic day 1. We will bid farewell to this beautiful island and depart at 1400.
Student reflections and thoughts about the port stay will be coming soon.
Until next time, we send you our love and warm hugs,
Ms Gurjit Gill
Dean of Students