“One’s destination is never a place but a new way of seeing things.” This suggestion by the American writer Henry Miller conveys the inspiration behind all Dana Hall School student trips, no matter where in the world we go. During the 2019 March Spring Break, 18 students and two teachers traveled to Athens, Crete, Delphi and the Peloponnese, hoping to discover new ways of seeing ourselves and others through an exploration of ancient and modern Greece. From the ruins of the 2nd millennium B.C.E. Minoan palace at Knossos to the graffiti-painted walls of 21st-century Athens, we were awed and inspired in the birthplace of so many aspects of architecture, theater, government and philosophy that we examine in the Western Civilization course at Dana Hall.
My favorite site was the stadium at Nemea near Corinth, forgotten for more than 1,000 years and excavated only in the last few decades by UC archaeological teams. Late in the day we had the site all to ourselves. In honor of the ancient and revived Nemean Games held here, the Dana students ran a footrace the length of the stadium. It was easy to imagine the commonality of human experience across time in a place liked this.
One specific goal of the trip was to connect Dana Hall students with peers at a local high school in Greece. Teachers and students at the 3rd Gymnasium of Heraklion graciously hosted us for a morning of classroom presentations and group activities designed to foster conversations among the students. Many of the Dana Hall students described this as a highlight of the trip. To continue the connection and increase opportunities for students to build global awareness at Dana, the Western Civilization classes will remotely collaborate in educational activities at various points in the year with the students on Crete.
At the numinous site of Delphi where the ancient oracle offered advice to visitors about everything from criminal investigations to military endeavors, we walked in the footsteps of a historical host of pilgrims up the hill to the sanctuary. Our guide, Paniyota, gave us a dynamic tour of the sculptures in the museum, her narrative drawing on Greek mythology and Delphic history to construct a philosophy of the human condition. “You are both amazing and self-destructive” was the Promethean moral of the story that she left us to ponder. What we saw on the trip, including the Parthenon’s glistening grandeur and the Athens Partnership’s exciting urban renewal efforts but also the effects of Greece’s economic crisis and the desperation of refugees, helped us to see this in new ways.