Hall High School students take 2 international trips – Shaw Local

Two international trips were taken by some students and staff at Spring Valley Hall High School in June this year.

Ten students and two chaperones went to Spain with the Spanish Department and three students and two chaperones went to Costa Rica with the Science Department.

Hall teachers on the trips shared their experiences.


The trip to Spain had been planned since May 2019 and was originally scheduled to take place in June 2021. However, due to COVID restrictions, it was postponed to June 2022. It was the culmination of over three years of planning and excitement. The students who took part in the trip were Ariana Villalobos, Sean Casey, Dilon Ziano, Denzel Sobin, Zack Bosi, Aaron Baltikauski and Ella Giachetto. The students were accompanied by Hall High School’s two Spanish teachers, Katie Lawrence and Mary Donovan.

The trip started in Madrid where the group discovered the Puerta del Sol, the Royal Palace, La Plaza Mayor and the Prado Art Museum. And, by chance, the group also came across a public appearance by King Philip VI as he got out of his limo.

students from Hall High School in Toledo, Spain;  (left to right) Mary Donovan, Aaron Baltikauski, Denzel Sobin, Ella Giachetto, Ariana Villalobos, Zack Bosi, Dilon Ziano, Sean Casey and Katie Lawrence.

Next, the group traveled to the former Spanish capital, Toledo. The King of Spain moved the capital from Toledo to Madrid in the 1600s. Since then, the city has retained much of its historic charm and architecture. Staff and students were able to take a walking tour that included Toledo’s many churches and a sword and jewelry factory.

To end the excursion, the group ziplined over the Tagus River for an exhilarating and memorable experience.

The next stop on the Spanish trip was La Mancha on the way to Granada. Staff and students were able to walk among the windmills of the novel “Don Quixote” by Miguel de Cervantes.

After arriving in Granada, the group went to a professional flamenco show and visited the Alhambra, an Islamic palace built in the 13th century. Grenada was followed by a trip to Seville for a riverboat cruise and sightseeing which included the Plaza de España. The group visited Seville Cathedral, which is the third largest cathedral in the world and houses the tomb of Christopher Columbus. The trip was punctuated by a relaxing two-day visit to the Mediterranean coast in the seaside town of Fuengirola.

Throughout the trip, the students were able to use their Spanish by communicating with the locals and experiencing things they had talked about in class before the trip.

Costa Rica

The Hall High School group at the animal sanctuary after presenting a monetary donation to (left to right) Robert Malerk, Lucas Gruber, Reid Sartain, Hope Whighstil, (back row) sanctuary workers.

Planning and promotion of the trip to Costa Rica began in September 2020. It was open to classes of 2023 and 2024. In June 2022, three students and two adults participated in the trip. The students present were Lucan Gruber, Reid Sartain and Hope Wightsil. They were accompanied by Hall High School teacher Robert Malerk and his wife, Christy Malerk.

The main purpose of the trip was to have the students travel outside of the United States and experience the culture and vast biodiversity of Costa Rica. After a long day of travel, the group arrived in San Jose where they had dinner, met the group guide, and got some well-deserved rest.

On the first day, the crew traveled to Arenal and along the way stopped at Doka State for a coffee plantation tour. The tour introduced the whole process from planting the coffee seeds to roasting the coffee beans. And, it included a taste test to try out the different types of coffees they make.

Next on the itinerary was Sarchi, an artisan town home to the world’s largest ox cart. Staff and students then toured the working factory that has been manufacturing these oxcarts and other items for almost 100 years. After the tour, the band traveled to La Fortuna and stayed there for the night.

The next day included a hike to the base of Arenal Volcano, which presented some beautiful scenery and views. Next, the group went kayaking and swimming in Lake Arenal, which offered more views of the volcano. Later, the science students were able to relax in a natural hot spring. While in La Fortuna, the group went horseback riding where they saw a waterfall, many different plants, and learned about the Maleku tribe, an indigenous people of the area. Next, staff and students traveled through the mountains of Costa Rica to the Pacific coast.

The next day the group went on a crocodile tour where they got to see and learn about crocodiles, iguanas and different types of birds. This was followed by a trip to the Santuario de Lapas, an animal sanctuary. There they learned all about the history of the Sanctuary and the many species of animals rescued. The group saw lots of animals and birds such as macaws, monkeys, jaguars, toucans, etc. and volunteered to help collect grass to feed the tapirs. In addition to this, staff and students also donated money to the shrine.

The next day, the group traveled to Manuel Antonio National Park. The excursion included a walk through the forest where we saw monkeys, sloths, snakes and iguanas before arriving at the beach. Once at the beach, the group relaxed playing in the water and relaxing in the sand before returning to the hotel for a Costa Rican dinner.

Next, the science students headed to Puntarenas to zipline through the Costa Rican forest. Before returning to San Jose, the group stopped at a local elementary school to visit.

There, the boys played football and the girls played in the park. Staff and students left a cash donation at the school to purchase supplies, then returned to the hotel and prepared for a farewell dinner at Mirador Ram Luna. Dinner included a performance by folk dancers and views of the city lights below.

The last excursion of the trip was a rafting trip on the Sarapiqui River. Along the way, the group stopped at an open fruit stand and tried some of Costa Rica’s unique fruits. Prior to the rafting, staff and students hiked where they saw iguanas, green, black and blue poison dart frogs and crossed a river on a suspension bridge. The rafting trip included a bit of rain, but that didn’t take away from the exhilarating experience.

On this trip, the students have had experiences and created memories that will last a lifetime and hopefully encourage them to continue exploring the world. After years of planning, this was truly a dream come true for everyone involved.

About Derrick Hill

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