Steamboat Mountain School program takes students to three countries

Teresa Ristow
A student on the Global Immersion Studies' Greece trip kayaks through the sea.

— Steamboat Mountain School students were hesitant but willing this spring when asked to try grilled guinea pig, tree larva, salty goat’s milk tea and other treats from around the world.

The students weren’t doing their tastings from inside the classroom, however, but from homestay sites, nomadic residences and village celebrations in Greece, Ecuador and Mongolia as part of the school’s Global Immersion Studies program.

“It’s so interesting to me,” said tenth-grader Nicole Zedeck, who tasted her first “tough-skinned” guinea pig during a visit to Ecuador. “It’s so weird for me since guinea pig in the United States is a house pet.”

Students divided into three groups and spent just less a month in one of the locations this spring, sharing their adventures with their families and the public Thursday during presentations at Bud Werner Memorial Library.

Depending on the trip, students were immersed in the culture either through adventurous outdoor activities, life staying at the home of local resident or, in Mongolia, experiencing the day-to-day activities of nomads.

The program builds off the values of Steamboat Mountain School’s founder, Lowell Whiteman.

“He wanted to take students into the outdoors so that they could find experiences that would challenge them,” said Meg Morse, head of school.

Students spent months before the trips meeting with teachers to discuss the cultural customs of the countries and what to expect on their travels before setting off.

Freshmen and sophomores traveled to Greece, where they went canyoneering, hiking and took brisk swims, ate Greek salads and Tzatziki and visited historic monasteries. Students also celebrated Easter in a Greek village.

“It was just incredible to see,” said ninth-grader Silas Boatwright. “We were in a small village and it looked like the whole village was gathered together. It really me gave me the greatest sense of community I had ever felt.”

The students spent five days kayaking around an island in northern Greece.

“All of these beaches were only accessibly by water and were very isolated,” said Tanner Richard, who said it was a new experience for him to say goodbye to all of the distractions of modern life. “The experience I had led me to know each person in the group a little better.”

In Ecuador, some sophomores and juniors traveled through numerous biomes in the country and grew to appreciate the conservation efforts happening in the region.

“I’m so grateful that I got to see all these different types of ecosystems,” tenth-grader Eloise Borden said.

Students spent several days with the Tsachila people, learning cultural customs and hearing pieces of the group’s history.

In Mongolia, juniors and seniors helped care for dozens of baby goats owned by a nomadic family, and they observed as an adult goat was skinned and eaten for dinner.

They were also there to help the nomadic family move their home and all their possessions using only a truck.

“I started to feel at home with our nomadic families,” senior Perri Meeks said. “They were very independent and self-sufficient people. … The trust they have in each other is what makes the community so peaceful.”

The trips provided an opportunity for students to learn about other cultures while also growing personally, said Margi Missling-Root, director of experiential education at Steamboat Mountain School.

“(The students) learned things about themselves they didn’t know before,” she said.

More information about the students’ experiences can be found in blogs that were updated throughout the trips on

To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow

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