Teens to embark on adventure

Europe: Undeterred by post-Sept. 11 safety concerns, a group of eighth-graders at GreenMount School leave today for a school trip to the Netherlands.

February 09, 2002|By Linda Linley | Linda Linley,SUN STAFF

At a time when most school districts and private schools in the Baltimore area have canceled foreign travel and even some domestic trips because of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, pupils at GreenMount School are packed and ready to experience life in the Netherlands.

The school's eighth-graders - all nine of them - are scheduled to leave tonight and will spend a week in the northern European country as part of GreenMount's independent cultural study program. Teen-agers and parents are excited about the trip and don't seem apprehensive about travel abroad.

"I have no reservations about my son going on the trip," said Mary Crocker, mother of eighth-grader Jonathan Zwaig, 13. "He is ecstatic about going. He is even learning some of the Dutch language from one of the parents here at the school."

GreenMount, a private school in Baltimore's Remington neighborhood, has 72 pupils in grades one through eight. Founded in 1992, it is a cooperative in which parents help with classroom and other duties.

"Most of the trip, they will be seeing things they haven't seen before," said Deborah Briggs, the school's development consultant and parent of an eighth-grader. "It will be an enlightening experience for them, without their parents. It's a rite of passage."

The eighth-graders will be leaving from Baltimore-Washington International Airport. After a stopover in Reykjavik, Iceland, they will head for Amsterdam, and then to Buitenpost, a small town in a northern province, where they will stay for several days with host families. They will attend school with local pupils, take part in extracurricular activities and live the life of a Dutch teen-ager.

The trip was planned last spring, and the original destination was France, said Michael M. Chalupa, GreenMount's executive director. However, some parents were concerned about the possibility of terrorist attacks there after Sept. 11. Pupils spent time researching other locations and decided on the Netherlands after a class vote.

Nadja Martens, 13, thinks the Netherlands will be a wonderful place to visit because of the art and architecture.

Maya Agger, also 13, is looking forward to the tour of the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam.

The pupils are taking gifts to their host families, including U.S. coins, an American flag, pictures of Baltimore and New York City, a cookbook, a Beanie Baby and the quintessential Baltimore spice, Old Bay.

The pupils also said they want to be good ambassadors for the United States, trying to erase a stereotype of Americans by showing they are not all the same.

The cost of the trip - about $1,350 per pupil - was covered by student fund-raisers and contributions from parents and corporations. "We guaranteed that every eighth-grader would go," Chalupa said.

Chalupa, who started the program at GreenMount last year with a trip to Iceland, and teacher Elaine Doyle-Gillespie will be chaperones.

The teens are expected to keep journals while abroad and complete reports when they return.

In addition to Amsterdam, the students will be touring Maastricht in the south and taking a side trip to Aachen, Germany, before returning home Feb. 16.

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