In fun videos shown during homeroom, zoologist Professor Featherbottom (played by Middle School Head Matt Buck ’87) and his team of Eighth Grade assistants – Harry A., Masiah C., Miranda E., Bria H., and Jansen C. – encouraged students to guess each region of the day while sharing clues about their capital cities, wildlife, and official languages.
On Monday, Masiah ’22 and Miranda ’22 said “G’day, mate!” and told us about the many natural wonders of Australia, home to the island of Tasmania and the famous Great Barrier Reef. Then, Professor Featherbottom shared some of his favorite Australian animal species, including koala bears, kangaroos, Tasmanian devils, and wombats – some of which got loose around the Lower School. Students in Fifth through Tenth Ages sought out the five missing wombats during a scavenger hunt. Throughout the day, each grade level also participated in an Australian-themed craft and virtual zoo trips in addition to enjoying a themed lunch featuring Tim Tam brownies.
Meanwhile, our Middle School students dove deeper into lessons on the Great Barrier Reef, Australian history and notable figures, and ecology. Teacher Mr. Bretiere shared his experience living in Australia for three years.
“Australia is a continent island. The center of the island is a huge desert that Australians call the Outback. This is where you can find the mighty Ulur, that largest stone in the world,” Mr. Bretiere said. “The southern coast vegetation is luscious and green, and the northern part of Australia has beautiful tropical forests.”
On Tuesday, February 1, Harry and Bria welcomed students to Namibia, a country in southern Africa where inhabitants speak more than 30 languages, including Afrikaans, German, Oshiwambo, and English, the official national language. The country boasts the world’s oldest desert, the Namib Desert, and more cheetahs than anywhere else on Earth. In addition to cheetahs, students learned about oryxes, a species of large antelope that “escaped” inside the Lower School.
In the Middle School, students viewed a presentation on Namibia’s environment and about the country’s belief in conservation. Notably, the Middle Schoolers learned that Namibia was the first country to sign a statement to include environmental protections in its constitution.
For lunch, the boys and girls showed down on spicy chickpea soup, kapana (flank steak), owawa (mushrooms), and omboga (spinach and tomatoes) with oukuki (fat cakes) for dessert.
After Namibia, Calvert students traveled to the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico on Wednesday, February 2, to learn about the indigenous people who lived there, the Taino, and the effects of Spanish colonization.
“They called their island Borikén,” Harry ’22 said. “Which is why many people from this island nation refer to themselves as Boriqua.”
Today, Puerto Rico is a melting pot of various peoples and cultures, including African, indigenous Taino, and European influences. In the Middle School, students studied how these cultures interact and overlap to form Puerto Rico’s unique cultural identity. They also discussed the territory’s possible future as a U.S. state and its struggle to rebuild following a devastating earthquake in 2017.
In the Lower School, students kept an eye out for five coqui, frogs from the Yunque Rainforest, that sing a beautiful song and are tiny enough to fit on a fingertip. For centuries, dating all the way back to the Taino people, the coqui has been a cultural symbol of Puerto Rico, and today many citizens will proudly state "Soy de aquí como el coquí," or “I'm as Puerto Rican as a coquí.”
“This country has everything: deserts, mountains, and rainforests,” Bria ’22 said.
Brazil is a South American country known for Iguazu Falls (the largest waterfall system in the world), the Amazon Rainforest, and the celebration Carnival. The national language is Portuguese, so the students learned to greet one another with “Ola” (hello) or “Bom dia” (good morning). While Brazil is home to many exotic species of animals, Lower School activities focused on the colorful toucan, and the Middle Schoolers took a broader look at the nation’s ecology and its preservation.
During assembly, the students heard from Dr. Charles Munn, a world-renowned biologist and zoologist who has been working to save the Amazon Rainforest for more than 40 years. Throughout his career, Dr. Munn has helped to create millions of acres of nature reserves and protected areas within the Amazon, worked with indigenous populations to locate and macaw clay licks (where hundreds of macaws gather), and participated in field studies of hyacinth macaws that led to a global trade ban on the species.
On Thursday, he spoke with students about his career in biology and conservation, his work to preserve natural spaces, and bird-watching in the Amazon.
To wrap up this year’s International Week, Professor Featherbottom and his assistants said “Ni hao” and transported the School to China, a country that is famous for its technological advancements, like the Maglev Bullet Train, and ancient innovations, like the Great Wall of China.
“More than 2000 years ago, this country built a wall to protect itself,” Harry ’22 said. “That wall is over 13,000 miles long!”
Now, as the Middle Schoolers learned, China builds a skyscraper once every five days, leading to roughly 73 new skyscrapers constructed each year in the world’s most populous country. China’s population is more than 1.4 billion, or more than four times our population here in the states, despite our countries being similar in size.
For the Lower School students, Professor Featherbottom was thrilled to share animal facts about the country’s native snow leopards, Asian elephants, and giant pandas, including how all of the world’s giant pandas are owned by China. For the day’s scavenger hunt, the boys and girls looked all around campus for five missing panda bears.
Thank you to Professor Featherbottom, our Eighth Grade assistants, the International Week team, and the Calvert kitchen crew for making this week so memorable!