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Principia School
Principia’s Expanded Classroom: Lessons from Taiwan


Spring Break marked a milestone for Upper School students as they embarked on a learning adventure of a lifetime—Principia’s first-ever trip to Taiwan. Students found themselves in the middle of a picturesque scene: The streets were filled with an unfamiliar hum. Exciting smells wafted through alleyways. As the rhythmic buzz of a foreign language filled in the gaps, a small group of Principia students embraced the unknown. This setting, while dramatic, is nothing new. Principia’s trip program is robust, taking students to the far reaches of the world in the name of service and education. 

The Taiwan adventure was a long time in the making; after five years of patient planning, students plunged into Taiwan’s rich cultural tapestry. They spent ten days immersed in the Chinese language, visiting local high schools, staying with Taiwanese students and their families, touring historic sites and religious temples, and attending cultural lessons in martial arts, tea ceremonies, and art.

According to Upper School Mandarin language teacher and trip leader, Joy Chang, the students expressed the trademark go-getter Principia spirit. Whether singing songs in Chinese at Karaoke, trying new foods, discussing complex topics with local students, participating in community service, or presenting about Principia and its core values in Chinese to Taiwanese students, nothing was too much for these intrepid explorers. “I feel like this trip is an extension of the classroom. We bring what we learned in this small classroom to the rest of the world,” says Chang. 

The trip’s subway game was a great example of Chang’s philosophy. Splitting the students into two groups and pairing them with a chaperone, students were encouraged to navigate through the Taiwanese subway to a destination of Chang’s choosing. Their adult chaperones, while watching over them for their safety, did not contribute or guide the students. The students learned invaluable lessons of independence, communication, and perseverance—even requesting to navigate back to their hotel the same way.

“That was probably my favorite part,” says Chang. “To see them get out of their comfort zones and work together to navigate the subway system. It was amazing!” 

Reflecting on the trip, Chang notes the value of Principia’s educational travel: “Principia trips provide an entryway for students to explore the world. I can do my best to mimic the real world and maybe bring in a guest or have them talk with native speakers, but it's nothing like being in the environment.”