Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Granada with National Geographic Expert Tino Soriano

Hola todos,

In the time since our last post we have been busy doing un monton of interesting things. Our time with Tino was jam packed with lessons and photographic moments. Tino is an incredibly warm and kind person, and it shows in his photos. He spent time sharing his technical knowledge of the art and relating innumerable stories of his interesting travels and experiences, but perhaps the most important lesson he gave us was that photography must have a story to tell, and in order to tell it accurately and fairly, the photographer has to establish an open relationship with his or her subject. Tino’s ability to interact on a personal level makes him a master at that, and the students saw this and learned from it.

On our first day with Tino we spent time exploring the old silk market near the cathedral and the Albaiycin, which is the old Arab and Jewish quarter that is characterized by its steep, narrow, and winding streets and its spectacular views overlooking the Alhambra from the Mirador San Nicolas. Tino mixed this in with a number of different lessons on specific photographic concepts.

On the following day we visited the Parque de las Ciencias, which is a modern day science museum that is characterized both by its exhibits as well as its modern architectural style. It was a day that yielded a number of photo opportunities and gave the students a brief background on the history of Al-Andalus, the Muslim caliphate that gave Andalucia its name and which is omnipresent in the architecture and culture of Granada and the south of Spain.

Our time with Tino was spent learning about photography and then implementing those lessons, whether it was in a private flamenco studio that has produced some of the most famous flamenco dancers in Spain or exploring the city itself. It was an amazing time, but it also seemed to pass too quickly, and before we knew it, Thursday came around and it was time for Tino to leave. The students and teachers both were sad to see him leave, and it was touching to see the emotion on the faces of both Tino and the group when they said their goodbyes.

There wasn’t a lot of time to reminisce, however, because the following day we were all fortunate to be able to participate in a once in a lifetime activity. We were allowed to visit a Toro Bravo ranch and watch while one of the most famous matadors in Spain, Salvador Vega, and a couple of fellow toreros tested out the fierce nature of six different young cows in order to determine whether or not they were of useful breeding stock. It was an unforgettable experience.

We followed that up with a trip to the Arab baths (which everyone loved!) and On Assignment work in Granada and the surrounding area. We are integrating ourselves in the rhythm and culture of life here in Granada, and it will be strange to leave when we do. We leave tomorrow for the Alpujarras and the small villages within. Until next time, un abrazo.

Hasta pronto,

Davin, Megan, and National Geographic Student Expeditions Spain

Monday, June 22, 2009

¡Hola de Espana!

Things have been busy here during our first week in Spain, to the point where we could barely find time to use an internet café during business hours! We are now in Granada, where our hostel has wireless internet, so we have finally found a few spare moments to update you on our progress.

To back track a bit, we (Megan and Davin) met the group on Wednesday on a pleasantly overcast day (which disguised just how hot and sunny Spain can be during the summer). We immediately set about getting the group oriented to Madrid, and for the next two days we explored as much of it as we could. We visited the Parque de Buen Retiro, where we had a fun and fruitful orientation in the midst of a screaming pack of schoolchildren playing a Spanish version of Red Rover and another group engaged in a waterfight that we were secretly envious of! Later that day we checked out the Museo de Reina Sofia, where we saw some of the masters of modern art like Dali and Picasso, and where everyone the chance to see one of the world’s great artistic masterpieces, La Guernica.

Afterwards the students got to practice their night photography skills in the nearby square and at the Atocha train station. Many of them were able to get some pretty amazing photos of the lights of the traffic in front of the fountain at the center of the roundabout. It was a full first full day!

Since then, we have had the opportunity to see the Museo del Prado -- one of the world’s great art museums-- with our wonderful guide Ana, who was able to share the hidden marvels of various artistic masterpieces and the techniques that artists used to show depth and point of view. She even showed us how to look at Velazquez’s Las Meninas through a mirror in order to see how the artist viewed the painting during its creation. Afterwards we split into groups, and some of us visited the royal palace while others checked out one of soccer’s sacred grounds, el Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, home of Real Madrid, the self-proclaimed greatest team of the 20th Century! Still others took in a photo exhibit of Dorothea Lange and Annie Leibowitz.

After our first days in Madrid we took a day trip to Toledo and then headed off via train to southern Spain (AndalucĂ­a) and the city of Granada, where we are now. Yesterday, we met up with Tino Soriano, the National Geographic photographer and expert who will be with us for much of our stay in Granada. After we introduced ourselves to Tino, we started right in on our photography lessons.

That's all for now!

Hasta pronto,

Davin, Megan, and NGSE Spain Memorial High

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The group has arrived

We've received word from the expedition leaders that the group has arrived in Madrid.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Meet the Expedition Leaders

2009 Spain Expedition Leaders: Megan McLaulin and Davin Dearth

Davin Dearth. University of Denver, B.A.; University of Wyoming, M.A. Davin graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Denver, where he majored in Spanish and English Literature. He was a Martin Luther King Jr. Scholar, a member of the University of Denver Soccer team, and as a senior received highest departmental honors for his honor's thesis, Postmodern Spanish Cinema: The Films of Julio Medem. Davin spent his junior year in Salamanca, focusing on Spanish art and film. While in Spain he completed the four hundred fifty-mile Camino de Santiago on foot and participated in the running of the bulls in Pamplona. In addition to Spain, his travels have taken him to Ireland, Mexico, the Czech Republic, France, Scotland, and Costa Rica. Davin led a Putney Student Travel language learning program in Spain and a Putney community service program in Costa Rica. He worked as a Spanish teacher in Fort Collins, Colorado, and recently earned his Master's in Writing and Literature at the University of Wyoming. Davin led the National Geographic Student Expedition to Spain in 2008. His interests include travel, skiing, soccer, climbing, fishing, and film. He is fluent in Spanish.

Megan McLaulin. The College of William and Mary, B.A.; Rutgers University, M.Ed. candidate. Megan graduated cum laude from William and Mary, where she majored in English Literature and minored in Spanish. She spent a summer studying at the University of Salamanca. She taught English and Spanish at two high schools in Virginia, coached girls’ volleyball and collegiate men’s crew, and served as a volunteer English as a Second Language educator for Salvadoran and Guatemalan immigrants. Megan spent two years living in Talavera de la Reina, Spain; she traveled to fifteen out of Spain’s seventeen autonomous communities, cycled the historic Camino de Santiago, and hiked throughout the Sierra de Gredos mountains. She was selected by the Spanish Ministry of Education and Sciences to serve as an English language conversation assistant, and collaborated with the faculty of the a primary school in Talavera de la Reina to implement a newly designed bilingual/bicultural curriculum. She is currently pursuing her master’s in Language Education at Rutgers, where she is an academic coach at the Rutger’s Learning Centers. Megan’s interests include hiking, camping, rowing, and triathlons. She is fluent in Spanish.


Welcome family and friends of Memorial High School and National Geographic Student Expeditions!

We have created this blog in order to keep you updated on the progress of your child’s National Geographic Student Expedition this summer. We hope that occasional updates throughout the expedition will help keep you informed about the activities, projects and successes of the program.

The expedition leaders will post entries approximately once per week during the program. The leaders’ first priority is the students and the program. If updates are infrequent, it is likely due to the group’s very busy schedule and inconsistent internet access. Please know that any important issues that arise during the program will be discussed and resolved with leaders and parents by phone, not through the blog.

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Best wishes from us all at National Geographic Student Expeditions