US Intersession Trips: 2012

Intersession is a one to two-week period in the spring in which the School’s normal routine is interrupted so that all students and faculty can participate in special projects. All Upper School students are required to participate each year. Intersession projects might involve community service, physical activity, arts activity, cultural or informational trips.

This blog page will be updated throughout the week of March 19-23 with trip updates and photos from each intersession. Come back daily to see what our students and faculty are up to, and how they are letting their lives speak in our own backyard and around the world!

You can find more detailed information about SSFS intersessions on our website:

The trips for 2012 are as follows (service trips are starred):

  • Hiking in Death Valley
  • IRELAND Ariel Voorhees & Aaron Chan
  • * Head Start
  • * Historical Maryland Service
  • Discover the Rockies
  • * From the Field to You
  • Sailing the Chesapeake
  • NYC/Washington, DC Theater
  • * Service that Benefits the Local Latino Community
  • * West Virginia Service
  • * Hunger & Food Insecurity
  • Geneva & the French Alps


SED Center: Local Latino Community Service Intersession (DAY 1)
By Eduardo Polón & Kexin Zhang

Service That Benefits the Latino Community Intersession

Service That Benefits the Latino Community Intersession

Led by Upper School Global Languages Department Head, Eduardo Polón, and Chinese Teacher, Kexin Zhang, fifteen fabulous SSFS student volunteers began their service intersession at the Spanish Education Development Center in Washington, DC, on Monday, March 19th.  This experience directly serves the educational, social, cultural and self-improvement needs of Latin Americans, particularly recent immigrants.  Following a brief orientation, our student volunteers were grouped and introduced as Teaching Assistants to their respective preschool classrooms for the remainder of the week.  Not surprisingly, the children, ranging from ages 3-5, quickly warmed up to their special guests.  Teachable moments came by way of story time and station rotations, as well as creative problem-solving activities.  The beautiful weather even permitted trips to the playground too.  If Day 1 is any indication, this week looks to be a formative experience, and not only for the impressionable children of SED Center.










Hello from Galway, Ireland! We are here safe and sound and having a great time. Yesterday we powered through our jet lag to travel from Dublin to Galway, with a stop at the medieval Clonmacnoise monastery near Athlone along the way. In the afternoon we explored the cobblestone pedestrian area of Galway, complete with window-shopping and street-performer-watching, and for some of us, a fortifying afternoon tea. After checking into three b&bs on the same street and having dinner together, we relished in a very early night and woke up feeling much better.  Today we visited the Connemara towns of Spidall and Moycullen, hiking along the highland bogs between them. In Moycullen we witnessed superior craftsmanship in the Galway Crystal and Connemara Marble factories before returning to Galway for lunch together and more independent exploration. After our group dinner, we set off on a Galway scavenger hunt created by Ariel and Aaron, but the original plan of catching live traditional music was thwarted by the revelation of a law forbidding under-18s from being in pubs after 10pm. New plan: find music that starts earlier! Tomorrow we’re on our way to the Burren, a breathtakingly desolate area south of Galway, and for the next two nights we’ll stay in Killarney all together at the same inn.

We happen to have wifi at our b&b, but we’re not sure how often we’ll get it in our other stops. The students have been assigned blog posts, with one or two students reporting each day, but they will be relayed to the blog through Ariel, then through Margaret, thus delayed by at least a day or so.

Slan from Eire (farewell from Ireland), Ariel





Journal entry about the first day of the Ireland intersession from Scott Jamieson ’12:

Traveling to Ireland

When everyone met at the airport Saturday afternoon, the excitement could be felt in the air. Everyone was eager to depart on this journey together. Before we crossed the Atlantic to Ireland, we had to travel from BWI to Newark, NJ, and take our connecting flight from there. The plane we took to Newark was perhaps the smallest plane I have ever been on! I felt very uneasy boarding seeing as I could not walk down the aisle without bending my head down so I would not knock it against the ceiling.

The flight to Ireland was smooth and problem free. Once we touched down in the country we met Michael, our tour guide for the trip. We quickly boarded our bus and went to get a small breakfast. The scenery was beautiful; I have never been to a country so green in my life! It was also very sunny when we arrived, which was a pleasant change for this part of Europe. Everyone was exhausted from the time difference, and many people were suffereing from jetlag. Neverthess, I was still excited to get the trip underway. This is going to be a fantastic experience!

Geneva and the French Alps:

Email from Cathy Harrison: Things are going well here in France. Everyone really enjoyed Paummi’s quiche tonight after a rainy day visiting Annecy, the Venice of France. Tomorrow we are off to Lausanne and a visit to a chocolate factory and cheese making in Gruyere. Bon appetit.

From the Field to You:

Read SSFS Community Farmer Josie Johnson’s blog about the help she got from the Field to You intersession in building caterpillar tunnels for the community garden:








by Caitlin Benkart ’13

In the morning, we went and saw a crystal and then a marble factory. It was really interesting to see some of the local industries. I thought the marble was particularly interesting because of the variety of marble that can be found in Ireland. Some of the marble was even green! Later we drove and climbed on some spectacular cliffs, and we got to see our first good look at the coast. The harsh waves beating against the coastline was breathtaking, and from our high perch we could see the coastline stretch far in either direction. Later, we got to spend some free time in Galway. It was raining sporadically, so we would duck inside different stores and wait for a few minutes whenever it started to rain. We also found a really cute tea shop. I had a fun time relaxing there and they had really good tea.

by Charlotte Fu ’13

Hey, everyone! Now it’s my turn to be in charge of keeping the blog for our journey. Compared to yesterday, we have more a active agenda today: hiking, visiting a crystal factory and craft shop, and so on. Galway is a city that is really near the sea, so when we start hiking, it is so windy. Everyone puts their rain jacket on and tries to keep warm. I like to see the Ireland-style views, which are different from American. Irish houses look small, but not too little. They are really cute with varied gardens around them. Between two houses there are stone walls that clearly divide the property. Michael, our tour guide, tells us that the stone walls are the Irish way of showing ownership. The roads in Ireland are not always flat. When we are hiking, we can see the roads far away from us because the roads kind of go up and down. The best part for me has been the time when we are free to hang out by ourselves. Icy, DJ and I find an original Ireland tea shop, which is so cute that we decide to have our afternoon tea time there. It is a small space decorated with white lace and many other flower-patterned table mats. The waitresses all look very European and young. They have a lot of different kinds of tea on the menu, and  homemade desserts. One more special thing is that every table has different kinds of table mats and matched tea cups. You can’t imagine how delicate it is! We meet Ariel in there, too. Seems that she was enjoying her relaxing tea time sitting there and reading book with a cup of tea. It is a good place to take a short break and experience Irish culture.

Anyway, we have had a wonderful time in Galway. Even though the weather is windy, I am looking forward to finding more beauty inIreland as we go to other places.



Photos from the trip so far: sailing on the Chesapeake Bay and learning about  the Woodland Indian culture –  using traditional hunting tools, making fire, and flint knapping to make an arrowhead; enjoying gelato in Fells Point:






















SED Center: Local Latino Community Service Intersession (DAY 2)
By Eduardo Polón & Kexin Zhang

As the saying goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words.”  See for yourself the difference our fifteen fabulous SSFS student volunteers are making in the lives of the children at the Spanish Education Development Center…













More photos available here:


SED Center: Local Latino Community Service Intersession (DAY 3)
By Eduardo Polón & Kexin Zhang

Video montage of the SSFS students with SED kids:







SED Center Intersession March 2012 Sandy Spring Friends School

by Carson Jarrell-Rourke ’13
On day three we traveled further south from our first location, the city of Galway, to Killarney. The morning was mostly taken up by travel, in which we whipped through the Irish countryside by coach and ferry. After settling into our B&B just off the high street, we were given free time, which my group used to go on an impromptu buggy ride through the nearby national park. Every inch of the park was beautiful, but the high point was stumbling across the ancestral castle of Emma O’Donoghue’s family. This piece of exploration was by far one of my favorite parts of the trip.


Photos from the “Discovering the Rockies” Intersession:






















Photo from the Italy Intersession:

In front St. Marc’s in Venice


















SED Center: Local Latino Community Service Intersession (DAY 4)
By Eduardo Polón & Kexin Zhang

Part of what makes our intersession’s 15 volunteers so fabulous is their extreme generosity.  Evidenced in the joy spread across the faces of the impressionable children at the SED Center, this generosity has been manifested daily in the way our student volunteers have thrown themselves so wholeheartedly into their respective classrooms and assignments. Their generosity has also been expressed tangibly, as they elected by consensus to make a generous contribution of school supplies to the SED Center on Thursday, March 22nd.

To be distributed evenly among the six SED Center classrooms that have welcomed our fabulous fifteen student volunteers into their daily routines this past week, our SSFS ambassadors donated…

  • 6 24-packs of Play-Doh modeling compound
  • 12 reams of 200 sheets of assorted colors construction paper
  • 24 blunt tip kids’ scissors
  • 6 16-packs of Crayola large washable crayons
  • 6 16-packs of Crayola large anti-roll triangular crayons
  • 6 8-packs of broad line Crayola washable markers in classic colors
  • 6 8-packs of broad line Crayola washable markers in bright colors
  • 6 8-packs of broad line Crayola washable markers in bold colors

Leading by example, those that form part of the SED Center intersession group continue to let their lives speak.

by Emma O’Donoghue ’13

Today was our fourth day in Ireland. We started out the day by taking a tour of the beautiful (and ginormous) Muckross Mansion. I had never been inside such a large home before, so the size was overwhelming, let alone the complex interior design. After touring the manor and learning about Queen Victoria’s visit to it in 1861 and all the intense preparations involved with it, we traveled to the town of Dingle and stopped for a lunch of fish and chips.

Dingle Peninsula

Before this trip I thought that there was nothing prettier in the world than the cliffs of the island of Mallorca off the coast of Spain. Boy was I wrong. After lunch we continued our drive around the Dingle Peninsula. None of us could have ever imagined what we were about to see next. Our bus driver, Michael, pulled over off of what appeared to be an ordinary road and told us to be back in one hour. Annoyed from being woken up from our naps to what seemed to be a boring roadside, we all groggily woke up and got off the bus. As I walked to the edge of what I thought was the somewhat boring roadside, my mouth dropped. I was stared down hundreds of feet into the bluest ocean I had ever seen. My friend Carson and I immediately began running around yelling complete nonsense at the top of our lungs. We were completely overcome with a rush of adrenaline from the sheer beauty of the scenery surrounding us. Wanting to get as close to the edge as possible, Carson, Caitlin, Hannah, and I scaled down the cliff on a goat trail with borders lined with fragments of wool. When we made it as far as we could, I slowly crept to the edge to look down, still at least one hundred feet above the crashing waves below me. I lied down in the prickly grass and closed my eyes, taking everything in. The smell, the mist, the wind, and the sounds all coming from the ocean immediately gave me the most intense goose bumps I had ever experienced.  This was that “perfect moment” Carson had been talking about.


Hiking in Death Valley Intersession
Photos from the week:

Serenading Emily on her bday

Overlooking Mosaic Canyon









Dinner at Wild Rose Campground

Leah and Art stop for lunch

Today is the last day of our intersession trip. We went to Friends School Lisburn, which is located in the north of Ireland. It is a big school.  The school has a good field hockey team which has won a lot of honor for the school. I really admire the school uniforms, which are green. From kindergarten to upper school, they all have to dress in uniforms. Girls wear short skirts, stockings and top suits; boys dress in whole suits which makes them more handsome. I hope that we can have that kind of uniform so I don’t need to worry about my dress every day. I went to a math class with the students. They are taught Calculus BC, and the teacher is so serious, but she is the head of Math department. After visiting the school, we had a city tour. A nice guy leds us to some famous monuments and buildings. At the end of day, we played basketball with people who were from the Peace Play organization. This organization was founded in Ireland and tries to help students by teaching them to play basketball. I think it’s a significant organization. I have heard of a similar type of organization which is called Hoop Dreams in my history class.

Tomorrow we are going back to America. I miss you, America. I like green Ireland, but I prefer American food.

by Aaron Chan, US ESL teacher








Upon returning to the US and reflecting back on the past 10 days, our trip to Ireland will create fond memories for me and hopefully for the whole group.  I’m not going to go into too much detail, but there are a few highlights I want to share.

First of all, I was entranced by the lush green landscape everywhere we went.  Even just in transit from one city to another, it was calming to stare at the green hills dotted with sheep and quaint little houses.  Of course the Cliffs of Moher and the Dingle peninsula were the most gorgeous.

Learning Irish Dancing

Secondly, I think our interaction with locals made our trip extra special.  Although we learned a lot about the history of Ireland and our guide mentioned many things about the culture, we were able to experience it intimately, which is why intersession is so great; it’s not just something you can get from a book.  We played soccer and learned rugby from locals.  We hung out with street performers and got them to sing “Don’t Stop Believing” for our scavenger hunt.  We were able to literally trace the steps many of our group’s ancestors made on their way to America and appreciate the struggles they faced to make a better life for us through reenactments and local stories.  We learned traditional Irish dancing with local youth in Carrick-on-Suir, and got a taste of what it’s like to attend a Friends school and Meeting in Northern Ireland.  We shared our culture as much as we experienced theirs.  In addition, we got to know each other better as a group of Sandy Springers in the process.  There is also the possibility that the Friends school near Belfast will come visit us next year to continue that exchange.

Finally, I was struck by the signs of hope for continued peace and development in Belfast.  Ironically, the city is trying to build its tourism around the Titanic, a ship that was built there and crashed on its maiden voyage.  Just like the Titanic, parts of the city were broken in half between Protestants and Catholics in a war zone for decades, and only less than a decade ago they have come to a peace agreement.  Even though the students may not remember every detail of the long 750 year struggle with British occupation, and “The Troubles” that ensued in Belfast, it was clear that persistence for justice and peace can work.  We visited the murals that depict those struggles, and learned how Quakers played a role as mediators in the conflict.  The very meeting house we sat in was a refuge for families whose houses were burnt down.  We also met with Peace Players, a group that builds peace through basketball and diversity training.  Not to belittle our diversity work at SSFS, but their diversity work has life and death consequences, so in fact it teaches us that we should appreciate our diversity even more.  In the end, our memories and love of Ireland will go on and on as the theme from the movie Titanic plays in our head.