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Students reach out to Bahia de Los Angeles

ENCINITAS — Twice a year, students at The Grauer School embark on weeklong expeditions to international and national destinations.

The fall round of expeditions took place during the last week of September with the international destination of Bahia de Los Angeles in Baja California, Mexico.

The Grauer School has traveled to Bahia de Los Angeles, a tiny fishing village far south of the border, on several occasions as part of the school’s Expeditionary Learning program.

Students and alumni both participate in the trips.

Alumna Rian Alworth joined the first trip in 1992. This year, her son Nino (class of 2017) made the same journey back to Bahia de Los Angeles to immerse himself in the protected coastal reserve. Alworth said, “I was excited for Nino to be able to go on this expedition. The memories I made and lessons I learned on this trip were ones I have taken with me throughout my life. I was hoping it would affect Nino in this same way.”

Just as his mom had done 21 years earlier, Nino visited local students and participated in a beach clean-up. “In Bahia, we did so many amazing things,” Nino said. “Every day… we spearfished, swam with whale sharks, saw dolphins up close and even caught a glimpse of a finback whale. We also hiked up steep cliffs with amazing views.”

The inspiration for these trips began in 1992, when Grauer students visiting a local college course in marine biology met a couple from Bahia de Los Angeles who conducted turtle research for the Mexican government, tracking migration patterns and population degeneration. The students were invited to help with the research.

While the sea turtle research facility is no longer in operation, The Grauer School now visits the Glendale Community College research station and continues in the same spirit that they began with back in 1992.

“Although we didn’t think much of it back then, we were about to create our own meaning for a term that’s come a long way since then: service learning,” Head of School Stuart Grauer said. I’m not sure we went [in 1992] with a complete sense of service, as we do today. We went back then because we needed a blank slate, a getaway. We were leaving our hang-ups behind, and the artificial confinement of standard education. Wonderfully, once we actually got there, it was easy for our students to ‘invent’ service learning and to discover some big things about life. ”

Nearly every expedition finds a way to integrate service with local schools, often in the form of spending days with local students, engaged in the universal languages of art, music, or sport.