ICGL announces study tours in various regions of the continental United States including the Rocky Mountains, the Southwest, West Texas and the Southeast. Photo: Meghna Singha

The COVID-19 pandemic stole many Pace traditions, such as live theater productions, the senior parade, dances and more. However, the Isdell Center for Global Leadership (ICGL) has worked to preserve their beloved study tours by planning domestic trips that fit pandemic protocols while also being enjoyable and educational.

“We wanted to take this opportunity to help our kids appreciate the beauty in our own country,” said ICGL Director Trish Anderson. “There is so much to see and experience within America and we think that our students can get a lot out of it.”

Each of the trips focuses on one region of the U.S., such as the Northeast, the Southwest, the Rocky Mountains and more. Each trip also has a central theme such as social entrepreneurship, science and technology, and environmental sustainability.

To ensure the safety and enjoyment of every student traveling, Pace partnered with Envoys, a youth travel company devoted to expanding the boundaries of possibility for global education programming. Envoys provides a second layer of risk management, handling all of the hotels and checking for virus protocols.

The ICGL is offering four study tours during spring break. ICGL Associate Director Ted Ward will be leading one to California and Arizona over spring break. This trip will examine the reality of immigration within the United States and encourage students to seek the truths outside of their bubbles in Atlanta. Students will participate in a mile-long walk through the desert to get a partial sense of the experience of refugees.

They will also visit a border station and engage in a Q&A session with an immigration lawyer. “The border has been an issue since I was in high school, and we still haven’t fixed the problem,” said Mr. Ward. “We hope this study tour encourages students to be activated around political issues and learn how to incorporate human rights into political policies.”

Also over spring break, upper school science teacher Kevin Ballard will lead a study tour to Big Bend National Park in West Texas. Mr. Ballard has led this trip to the most remote national park in the continental United States about eight times, he says. Students will spend their days hiking and exploring the various landscapes of the park, including mountain ranges, canyons and desert. “There’s a lot to learn,” said Mr. Ballard. “Everybody has something to learn on the trips and it is different for everyone. I want students to appreciate the place and the nature and the people.”

Upper school science teacher Kaylan Haizlip will lead a study tour to Denver, Colorado to study the food scene of the city. This trip combines the previous ICGL themes of food and waste. Students will study food equity and the relationship between food access and socioeconomic status.

They will work with GrowHaus, a Denver based indoor farm to learn about farming and its importance in society. The study tour also focuses on Denver’s current urbanization against the backdrop of the Rocky Mountains, relating it to the differences between rural and urban food systems.

The last spring break study tour has yet to be fully planned because Pace and Envoys are not collaborating on it. They have decided that it will center around camping and hiking. Odds are that Class of 2022 Dean Ben Ewing and computer science teacher Charlie Bryant will lead students on the trip. 

As the pandemic spreads and uncertainty lingers, these study tours and their content are subject to change as COVID-19 cases either continue to spike or are brought under control. “We just want to have a plan in place as long as COVID allows,” said Ms. Anderson. As the semester progresses, the ICGL will also release more information about summer 2021 study tours.

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