Sunday, January 31, 2016

Behind the Seeds

When organizing our trip to Florida there were so many more options than time we had available.  Trying to figure out what to do and what to skip was the most daunting task.  Anything we cut came with a great sigh of disappointment - the options were limitless.

On our third day of the trip we were set to spend our day at EPCOT - Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow.  Walt Disney original vision was a park that explored what the world could be.  It is made up of two parts - one part Future World - investigating the sciences - and the other part World Showcase - an investigation into 11 of the world's cultures.  There were so many options we can choose from to enrich our time at EPCOT, but we decided to go with the "Behind the Seeds" tour - a behind the scenes tour looking at the "Living on the Land" attraction - an indoor greenhouse using cutting edge technologies to grow fruit and vegetables with less space and waste. The approaches they have taken are vast, and the food from this one small greenhouses is used daily at EPCOT in some of the restaurants.

I wasn't sure how the kids would enjoy it - I mean agriculture and plants are not always the biggest hit with the 15-17 year old crowd - and yet students were fully engaged.  They talked about genetics, bacteria, grafting, and genomics in the lab - looking at the techniques and equipment used.  We went through a research lab focused on chemical free pest management approaches - which is what Disney uses - the biggest being the use of small bugs to prevent bacteria or fungal infections in plants, and eliminating the need for pesticides.  A lot of the behind the seeds tour takes you through working laboratories and shows you what kind of jobs you could get and research you could do with a degree in Biology.  This real life application of Science 10 and Biology 11 topics of botany and conservation was rich and meaningful - and just the beginning.

Inside the greenhouse itself there was vertical growing, hydroponics, the use of fish to filter water and plants, circular rotation growing, top down growth, self-watering beds and more.  If there was a way enhance the sustainability of a crop by resource and space management - Disney was trying it.

And this ties into their name - EXPERIMENTAL prototype community of TOMORROW.  Or maybe it should really be TODAY.  In a changing landscape and with growing populations, the need for more food, on less space, is essential.  Seeing the approaches and rational behind what can be done with so little resource is encouraging.  Scientists are working today to ensure we can have a happy, healthy (and well fed) future.

Along with our lesson in agriculture, we also got to see their fish farms, baby alligators, a 9 lb lemon, mickey mouse shaped cucumbers, and do a spices smell test.  It is amazing what they have behind the scenes (or SEEDS, as the title of the tour suggests).  Students were engaged beginning to end.

So if you are in the EPCOT area, and at all interested, it is worth the few extra dollars for this tour.  They sell tickets in the Land Pavillion, downstairs next to "Soarin'".  Enjoy it - we did!


I had always been amazed by Europe, specifically the history that came from it. When the chance to travel to there came up, I sprang on it. As my life went on, and the trip became ever closer. I started to learn about the culture of Europe, the art, the people, my eleventh grade of school prepared me more than anything for this trip.

Our first stop was Amsterdam, which is is my favourite city we saw. I love the charm of Amsterdam and the Dutch. There’s more bikes than people, Willy Wonka looking staircases,  friendly locals, and canals everywhere. Oh, I can’t leave out the coffee! Ironically Amsterdam was the only place to french press the coffee, which is my favourite way to have it, but nowhere in France did they french press. The Dutch coffee was the best coffee I have ever had, but we’ll see if that doesn’t change after Italy.

Next was the small town of Ipres, which was completely destroyed after WW1, however now looks medieval. I’m sure someone who actually knew what medieval towns look like wouldn't say that, but at least that’s what I thought. Nonetheless the town was stunning, I had the chance to go for a run with Mr. Becker on our first night, and I couldn’t take my eyes of the buildings. Ipres holds the Menin Gate, which was incomprehensibly annoying. The fact that all these names were people, and each of their lives was cut short for a war, for power, for lines on paper, for pride. One thing I really learnt from this trip, which I couldn’t have learnt in Canada, is how costly the price tag of war is.

After Ipres was Normandy and The Farm. In Normandy we stayed on a farm, which I thought was hilarious. The Wifi didn’t work, the showers were almost broken, the blankets were scratchy, and I absolutely loved it. We had baguettes and only baguettes for breakfast, which led to Mr. Dewinetz and I having a baguette sword fight. I lost of course. While in Normandy we went to Juno Beach, we saw the tunnels and fortifications our Canadian soldiers faced. My favourite place and thing we did on this trip was visiting the Bény-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery. I cautiously say that, because this was not a fun experience, simply an incredible one. The cemetery has 2,000 graves, each one engraved with an epitaph. They’re written by the family of the fallen soldier, and are the most beautiful things I have ever read. Each one is  full of love, each one holds a bond between son and family. I can’t explain the feelings it gave me, but I can say that it is indescribably humbling and the most mind numbing thing I have ever experienced.

Lastly is Paris. Just seeing Paris was one of my favourite parts of the trip. We drove from Normandy that morning. Understandably we were dead to the world. Headphones in, eyes closed, and minds off. We were driving through a tunnel, and none of us knew how close or far away we were from the City of Lights. The tunnel ended in the edge of a hill, just large enough to view the sea of concrete called Paris. As one everyone slowly raised from our comfortable resting positions to be awed. It truly was one of the most stunning things I’ve ever seen.

I am so glad I was given the opportunity to travel with everyone on this trip. New bonds were made, and old ones strengthened. Reflecting on it only seems to make me more excited for the next. 


People often say that there is a first for everything: the first word, the first day of school, first car, first job, etc. I went on my first school trip when I was in the tenth grade, when I went with student council for a leadership retreat at Disneyland; my first experience of travelling with Mrs. Becker and all of my peers, which was an experience I will never forget. The second time I went on a school trip was when I went on a science retreat to Florida the year after; another unforgettable moment I have spent learning and soaking in all of the experiences.

Despite all the fun experiences I had, there too has to be a last for everything, in which our recent trip to Europe would be the last school trip I will go on, being in my senior year and all. Despite this realization of my coming of age, that did not stop me from enjoying this trip to the fullest, and to this day, one month after the day we returned, I still hold it as one of my cherished memories.

Coming from my daily life, everything seemed rather ordinary, especially after following the same routine everyday: wake up, go to school, do homework, go on the computer, go to bed, sleep, repeat. It was the same old, same old for me. To be honest, it was so monotonous that I did not expect much from any experiences I may have in this trip. Turns out, I was dead wrong...

As soon as the plane landed at Schiphol, it soon dawned upon me that I was far, far away from my hometown and therefore, the life I had always expected to live. My first impression of Amsterdam was a good one, having seen the colourful atmosphere, the streets bustling with bicyclists, even the subtle cultural differences I noted between there and Canada. I was astonished. Never before had I seen a sight this intriguing and spectacular. Needless to say, for me, this was culture shock to a new level.

Of course, I too had my apprehensions, especially due to the language difference. Not even knowing an iota of Dutch, there I stood in the streets of Amsterdam, trying to find my way around. In fact, I started getting concerned as our plane was landing when I saw a giant billboard written in, as you may probably guess, Dutch. In the end, I had to use English as the lingua franca most of the time. Though it didn’t take that much of the experience away, I still believe that I could have been more culturally enriched had I learned more Dutch à l’avance.

Même si je n’ai pas pu parler le néerlandais, je me suis amusé aux Pays-Bas. Even though I could not speak Dutch, I had fun in the Netherlands, but for me, I found our stay in Paris much more incroyable… incredible! For one thing, having previous knowledge with the French language, I was able to immerse myself more in Parisian culture than the culture of Amsterdam. While I could speak and ask questions to real French people in lieu of English, at the same time, I could still participate in the norms of the French, like sitting for hours enjoying my meal, people watching in the parks, eating all sorts of French cuisine, walking around the city in all times of day, etcetera.

Of course, being the tourist I obviously was, I could not resist containing my excitement when visiting each and every sight we would see in Paris (which would have actually been uncharacteristic of me considering my rather monotonous daily life). Before, I had not thought that I would enjoy strolling around the art museums, contemplating on the displays, but when I visited the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay, I was stunned at everything around me. I had so much fun taking pictures and revelling in the view on the Arc de Triomphe and la Tour Eiffel. I even had fun dying because of the prices à la Galerie Lafayette! (I still cannot fathom how one can possibly buy a two-hundred-fifty-thousand euro ring!)

Of course, as the last school trip I’d ever go on ended, I faced the reality that not only do I have to return to school, but that I’ll never have the opportunity to do something like this in my high school life ever again. As we grow up, there are things we have to see come and go, and all the fun experiences have to end at some point. However, that does not mean that I didn’t have fun, as in fact, the opposite is a hundred times, a thousand times true! I believe that this is one of the most memorable trips I have ever been on to date!

This being my last year at Sullivan and all, I would just like to express my sincerest gratitude to Mr. and Mrs. Becker, Ms. Kenkel, Mr. Dewinetz and any of the teachers that helped make these kinds of trips possible, for without them, I would not have had these little moments of adventure, of magic, and of enrichment intellectually and culturally. So with that said, I would like to say, “Thank you for taking me on your trips!”


Even the 200 something days before the trip impacted my life, this trip motivated me to get a job and work harder in school, I just wanted to thank mrs. Becker, mr.Becker ms.Kenkel and mr. D who took time out of there lives to plan this amazing experience. 

Being half Dutch I have always wanted to see some part of holland and I was not disappointed. Amsterdam was beautiful, breathtaking and I would have to say my favourite stop on the agenda. That may be because of the stroopwaffles and Dutch candies though. Jokes aside I definitely recommend going to Amsterdam. 

Next stop was Belgium, even though on the ride there we had to stop and get out of the bus in the pouring rain it was still fun and now I have a memory that I won't forget. Belgium had a very cute small town vibe that I loved. 

Our long ride to France was accompanied with the back of the bus singers and "sir" yellers, but once we got to the farm in Normandy everyone was ready to eat to sleep. Unfortunately for my group of roomies we left a window open and I light on, leaving the perfect place for bugs to come in. Upon finding the hundreds of tiny black flies we all ran into the loft of our bedroom and 7 of us slept there, the loft meant to be for 4 people it was an interesting night. Besides that the farm had cute bunnies and crazy sheep that made for a good laugh. When we went into town I got to have my first French macaroon in France and my first crêpe in France as well. They were amazing. 

After the farm we all hoped onto to the bus on route to Paris! Another fun bus ride and we made it to the beautiful city unfortunately we had to bid a farewell to our trusty bus driver and stick to the sometimes crazy metro. Paris was all that I hoped and dreamed of plus a little more. I got to check many things off my bucket list and fell in love with the city. I wish that I could write every little memory and moment down but I think that would get boring and a little to long, so I will finish with this. 


Hi, my name is Sonia. August 24th to September 5th were some of the best days of my life. It was very tough deciding what to write about as SHS Europe was filled with many breathtaking memories. Eventually, I decided upon 3 special places/moments that are special for their own particular reasons.

 First is Centre Pompidou. This is definitely one of my favourite places in Paris because it gave me the time to reflect on such beautiful pieces of art and it was a very calming couple of hours. However, these two hours went by insanely fast because there was so much to see and do. One of my favourite rooms was Sonic Boom. It was completely dark when we first walked in and we put on the headphones that were on tables as it said to do. The lights started to magically turn on to the beat of the music. I loved trying to figure out what the confusing pieces of art represented knowing that it was different for me than anyone else. This art brought out different emotions and memories from everyone that looked at them and that to me is truly incredible.

Another memory that stands out would be the dinner at the Bistrot Montagne, as known as the dinner where Mr. and Mrs. Becker's group waited almost 2 hours for the others to show up. Shiraz, Janelle and I grabbed a table and soon I didn't mind waiting at all. The waiter was a very kind man who encouraged me to eat escargots and also switched my drink when Shiraz put pepper in it! We had a great time laughing and drinking way too much coke!  When the rest finally showed up, we saw that they looked exhausted. Nicole sat down beside us, stuffed her face with bread and repeatedly said , "I don't want to talk about it." Although this dinner didn't go as planned, it was one of my favourites because of the memories created with some of my best friends. However, the sugar crash afterwards wasn't so great! 

Last but not, the Reviers Cemetery. This cemetery was particularly special to me because it was the last war cemetery we were visiting. I wanted to spend as much time as I could reading the tombstones. I thought about how each of these men had their own story of how he died but more importantly the story of their family and life. I just waned to know everything about them as people but all we were left with were memos on the tombstones such as "Not in his native land, but under foreign skies, far from those who love him, in a soldier's grave he lies." It was an unforgettable and humbling experience.

Overall, the time I spent in Europe was priceless and I will forever cherish the memories. Everything from the food, culture and music was extraordinary. Never a dull moment with the SHS Europe family! Thank you to Mrs. Becker, Mr. Becker, Mrs. Kenkel and Mr. Dewinetz for this experience. You four encouraged us to try new things and gave us advice that we will never forget. We cannot thank you enough.


Europe has definitely been the adventure of a lifetime. From the historic landmarks to the mouth-watering food, Europe was everything I expected and more. I am so grateful to have been on this trip with an incredible group of individuals who have made every moment one to remember. 

Trying new food and dining at unique restaurants was personally one of my favourite things to do. The first day, we tried pannekoekens. I would've never guessed adding ham and cheese to a pancake would've been so appetizing before!  Although they were just hotel breakfasts, there was also a lot of delectable foods. In Amsterdam alone, I ate nine ham+cheese croissants in two days. The most memorable dish for sure though was the escargot and chicken stomach we've tried in France. Digging the snails out of the shell was quite the amount of work but surprisingly, both dishes were amazing and I would love to try both again. 

Enough about food, the historic sites we've visited are so remarkable. I went on this trip coming out of Social Studies 11 and knowing what has happened while visiting each site had such an impact on me. Many places such as Tyne Cot cemetary, Juno beach, Essex farm and many other places have been an honour to visit. Being there, you could just imagine the catastrophic events that took place there and visiting these places has really been an eye-opener. 

Many of the activities we've done there has also made the trip very worthwhile. The guided Canal tour in Amsterdam was incredible as we got to see many amazing spots in Amsterdam and tour the city. Walking down the Eiffel tower was an amazing moment. Seeing the view of Paris from such a high point was breathtaking. My personal favourite activity was the chocolate making lab we did in France. Who doesn't love to play with chocolate, make creative patterns and eat it afterwards?

This is just a small sample of my favourite memories in Europe. I loved every second of the trip and am thankful for this fantastic opportunity!