United Kingdom 2018 - ISCA


A delegation of our middle school students, led by Head of Middle School Michael McLaughlin, spent three weeks in the United Kingdom as part of the ISCA international program. Here are highlights from their summer journey.
A note from Mr. McLaughlin: If you were to ask any of the Austin Prep students about their takeaways from their summer experience as part of the Independent Schools Cultural Alliance (ISCA), they will share stories about their new friendships with students in South America, their admiration for their British counselors who taught them sport and led their houses, and the three-week’s worth of history and heritage we took in across southern England.

The ISCA experience was likewise impactful for me as their group leader and teacher. As we prepared for our adventure and certainly throughout our month abroad, I got to know the students quite well. Overseas, I also connected with educators from Argentina, Brazil, Peru, the United Kingdom, and elsewhere in the United States. The dialogue and excitement was enriching and inspiring - with each day offering teachable moments. For example, after exploring the wards of Windsor and winding our way down the River Thames on a ferry, I had the opportunity to deliver a presentation on the Magna Carta. As a history major, I was “nerding out.” Here I was, at Runnymeade, very close to where King John affixed the royal seal in 1215 teaching the history to an audience of 150!

The trip was also special in that it afforded me time “in the field,” to research and write activities for the new course I am teaching at Austin Prep this fall, “Topics in Art History: The Art of Power.” Our ISCA journey seemed tailor-made for this course which will explore how the British crown has used various forms of art to communicate attributes of power over the last millennium. I will always be able to reference my guidebooks or scroll through the 1500+ photos that I took in July, but it was truly the immersive experience in England that stoked my long-held passion for this topic. One such moment was an independent day trip I made into London that I'll remember as "my royal day out." Click here for the story.

Our Final Day

Today marked our final full day in the United Kingdom. We traveled to the village of Windsor, site of Windsor Castle, the longest continuously-inhabited royal residence in the world. Windsor was built in a motte and bailey design shortly after the Norman Invasion and has been the ceremonial home of the Most Noble Order of the Garter since its establishment in the 14th century. In more recent history, it was the favored home of Queen Victoria after the death of her husband Prince Albert and is the weekend retreat of Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II. Americans may be familiar with the Castle as the backdrop for the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle. Students had the opportunity to walk the parapets and explore the State Rooms where the Queen hosts numerous events.

The afternoon was spent on the River Thames as we cruised from Windsor to Runnymeade. Mr. Michael McLaughlin, Head of Middle School, delivered a talk to an international audience of over 100 people at the Magna Carta Monument, a memorial dedicated to the momentous 1215 signing of the Magna Carta.

We spent the evening on campus packing our suitcases before heading to the Great Hall at Charterhouse for a closing dinner and dance - and to say farewell to our excellent ISCA counselors and our new friends from schools in the US, Argentina, Brazil, and Peru.

Posted by on Monday August 6, 2018 at 03:38PM
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The Seaside and a Show

Taking in the sunshine, Austin students traveled to the seaside resort of Brighton on the English Channel on Thursday. Known for its Royal Pavilion, the elaborate palace designed for the merriment and mirth of King George IV, Brighton offered students the opportunity to take a plunge into the waters, play games and go on rides on the famed pier, and shop in the district known as The Lanes. Full of funnel cakes and fish and chips, students returned to the Charterhouse campus to get ready for a night in London’s glittering West End to see the musical “Wicked” at the Apollo Victoria. Students were amazed by the acting, singing, and technical elements like the set and costumes.

Posted by on Thursday July 26, 2018
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Oxford Visit

Students traveled to the scholarly city of Oxford. With the University’s Bodleian Library hosting 120 miles of shelved books - and growing - it was not surprising to discover that the University has produced more published authors per square mile than any other place on Earth.

Strolling past the soaring spires of the 38 colleges that comprise the University, students explored campuses steeped in history and that count 50 Nobel Prize winners, 27 Prime Ministers, and authors like Lewis, Tolkien, and Elliot among its alumni. After the walking tour, students enjoyed lunch and had the opportunity to visit the Ashmolean Museum. 

In the afternoon, students toured New College, known for its outstanding choir - though students were excited to also learn that a 19th century evergreen holm-oak tree in the cloister was featured in the fourth installment of the Harry Potter films. Students were then treated to a private tour of Rhodes House by the friendly porter Bob. Bob explained the origins of the prestigious Rhodes Scholars Program and the work of students today. At the end of the visit, he gifted a title for the Austin Prep Fr. Smith Library and Media Center to inspire students to pursue the Rhodes Scholars’ mission: to be impatient with the way things are in the world, to examine problems, and to act.

Posted by on Wednesday July 25, 2018
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Our Canterbury Tale

Like millions of pilgrims in the Middle Ages, Austin Prep traveled to the city of Canterbury. The visit began with a boat trip on the city’s canals where students ducked under bridges as they learned about St. Augustine of Canterbury, who established what is now considered the world’s oldest school, the rise of the city in the Middle Ages, and famed residents like Christopher Marlowe. Students then explored the massive Cathedral, the seat of the Anglican Church and the location of St. Thomas Becket’s murder at the behest of King Henry II. After the martyrdom of Becket and a number of miracles attributed to him, Canterbury became one of the great pilgrimage centers of Europe, inspiring Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales.” Students admired the fan vaulting, descended into the crypt, and engaged with guides who explained the stained glass windows and ornate Gothic architecture. 

Posted by on Monday July 23, 2018
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A Royally Good Time!

The theme of today’s visit to London could be summed up in one word: the monarchy. This was an appropriate focus for the visit as London celebrated the fifth birthday of Prince George, fourth in line to the throne.

Mr. McLaughlin and ISCA Staffer Rhian guided Austin students around the Westminster district. The group began their walk in Victoria Gardens aside the Palace of Westminster and were reminded of their tour of Parliament last week. Exiting the gardens, we passed statues of Emmeline Pankhurst of the Suffragette movement, King Richard the Lionhearted, and Oliver Cromwell. We paused inside the cloistered yard of Westminster Abbey - site of coronations, royal weddings like Prince William and Princess Catherine’s, and funerals like Princess Diana’s. We progressed up Parliament Street, site of the former Whitehall Palace, where we saw monuments like the Cenotaph, the Prime Minister’s residence at 10 Downing Street, and the Banqueting House where Charles I was executed during the English Civil War. We posed for pictures alongside Her Majesty’s Calvary at Horseguards Barracks before progressing up to Trafalgar Square for a view of the Admiralty Arch and Nelson’s Column. We then made our way up the processional Mall to Buckingham Palace in time to watch part of the ceremony of the Changing of the Guards. The officers looked sharp in their bearskin hats, polished uniforms, an smart red uniforms. We relaxed for lunch in the beautiful gardens of St. James’ Park.

In the afternoon, our royal visit continued with an outing to Hampton Court Palace, most memorable as one of the pleasure palaces of King Henry VIII. Students explored the massive kitchens and engaged with actors who were cooking a feast, paying the king’s bills, and preparing for surgery - giving an interesting perspective into life in Tudor times. In Henry’s State Apartments, students sat at the tables of the Great Hall and enjoyed a performance of Henry’s decision to marry Anne of Cleves. We also explored the richly appointed Waiting Chamber, the Haunted Gallery, and the Chapel Royal. The palace complex is extensive - students want to return one day to explore the rooms of the Hanoverian monarchs and of William and Mary. With another beautiful day in London, we ended our visit exploring the Maze, one of a number of interesting features of the 60 acres of manicured gardens that surround the palace. 

Posted by on Sunday July 22, 2018
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Iconic London

The theme of our visit to London today was icons of the city as we focused on Shakespeare and the breathtaking Saint Paul’s Cathedral. 

We began our day with a tour of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre on the bank of the River Thames with Taz, a veteran member of the Company. Taz then led us in an hour-long acting workshop that explored the prologue of “Romeo and Juliet.” The students got into the warmups and an acting exercise that focused on the essential meaning of the play’s first 14 lines.

After lunch in the gardens of the Tate Museum, we crossed the Millennium Bridge (which makes an appearance in the Harry Potter films) to Saint Paul’s Cathedral. Saint Paul’s is unquestionably the defining landmark on the London skyline. The stage set for Princess Diana’s wedding to Prince Charles and the funerals of Winston Churchill and Horatio Nelson, among others, the mammoth church was designed by Sir Christopher Wren after the Great Fire of London in 1666. We climbed 111 meters through the Whispering Gallery, Stone Gallery, and Golden Gallery to enjoy a panoramic perspective of London and descended into the crypt to view the tombs of Nelson and the Duke of Wellington.

Students are excited about an on-campus day tomorrow which will include the opening rounds of a squash tournament, a workshop of field hockey, and an opportunity to play cricket!

Posted by on Friday July 20, 2018
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Bath and Stonehenge

Bath sits in the Western part of Britain on the banks of the River Avon. Hot waters spring forth from the Earth, leading the Romans to build a temple and bath complex there dedicated to Minerva. Austin students explored the bath complex, the largest and best preserved in Northern Europe, and were able to peer into the past as they walked on suspended catwalks over the ruins of the Roman temple and its courtyard. Students were reminded of their Latin lessons with Mr. Chris Ayers and Mr. Roger Stone who cover the complex at Bath in their unit on Roman Britain.

As the day progressed, our group traveled further back in time to the prehistoric wonder of the world: Stonehenge. The great circle of Saracen and blue stones quarried miles away, ferried to the Salisbury planes, and positioned to align with celestial movements were awe inspiring. Students wondered about the engineering involved in transporting and arranging the stones and the purpose of the site.

With our trip to England officially half-way through, students are making friends with other ISCA participants from Argentina, Brazil, and Peru as well as from other schools in the United States. While experiencing over 5,000 years of British culture and history, it has been exciting to share these experiences with other students and faculty from around the world!

Posted by on Thursday July 19, 2018
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Harry Potter

Austin Prep students trekked to the Warner Brothers Studios outside of London for the Harry Potter Experience. Students boarded broomsticks, navigated the Forbidden Forest, and shopped through Diagon Alley. The tour began with a cinematic overview of the Potter films - after which the screen flew into the air and revealed the front entrance to Hogwarts. When the doors opened, students found themselves in the spacious Great Hall where they viewed a number of props, including the Goblet of Fire and the House Cup Counter. From there, students explored a number of sets in the soundstage including the Gryffindor Common Room and Dormitory, the Potions Classroom, Professor Dumbledore’s Office, and Platform 9 3/4. Along the way, hundreds of costumes and set pieces and thousands of props were a true delight for fans of the films. In the studio lot, we saw Harry’s home at 4 Privet Drive with the Knight Bus, Hagrid’s motorbike, and the Weasley’s car parked outside. The final soundstage included a number of animatronics as well as the Diagon Alley set and a 1:24 model of the campus of Hogwarts. All in all, we enjoyed a magical day on set!

Posted by on Tuesday July 17, 2018
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Brush up your Shakespeare

Our group traveled east to the beautiful town of Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire for a day filled with Shakespeare! Our tour began at the prestigious Royal Shakespeare Company which counts Dame Judi Dench and Sir Ian McKellen as former company members. We were escorted backstage by our guide Nikki who gave us a behind-the-scenes tour of the Theatre. We went into dressing rooms, the wardrobe department, and production booth while learning about how the RSC brings Shakespeare to life each night through its performances.

In “As You Like It,” Shakespeare writes “All the world’s a stage. And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts.” True to that line of the play, Austin students explored the streets of Stratford and visited places that would have been familiar to the Bard. 

At Shakespeare’s childhood home on Henley Street, we saw the room where Shakespeare was born and the bedroom he shared with two of his brothers. Out in the garden, actors performed Shakespearean scenes on demand: imagine, hearing Shakespeare performed outside the room where the greatest playwright was born! We walked by his grammar school and the walled gardens of the home he and Anne Hathaway purchased once he rose to fame. We also spent time in the Holy Trinity Church, the place where Shakespeare was baptized, attended services, and was buried.

Our work with Shakespeare will pick up again at the end of the week when we return to London for a workshop in the Globe Theatre on “Romeo and Juliet.”

Posted by on Monday July 16, 2018
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Houses of Parliament

Today’s ISCA Journey took us to Embankment Park for lunch on the Thames before an afternoon tour of the Houses of Parliament at the Palace of Westminster. We entered through Portcullis House, following the same path that MPs (Members of Parliament) use when they leave their offices to attend committee work, debates, and votes in the chambers. We met our guide Simon in the Great Hall. Home to momentous occasions like the lying in state of Winston Churchill and the Queen Mother and the coronation banquet of George IV, the Hall is the sole remaining chamber from the time of William Rufus in the eleventh century. Our followed the path of the monarch on the State Opening of Parliament, starting at the Norman Porch and Sovereign’s entrance, through the robing room bedecked with Victorian-age reminders of the qualities of monarchy, through the monarch’s gallery - truly architecture as a stage set for government - and into the House of Lords with its beautiful canopied throne. Along the way, we learned about how British government works, a discussion that carried us through the Central Lobby and into the House of Commons, home to the fierce debates of the Prime Minister. Students asked great questions about the role of the Church of England, Black Rod, and the election and appointment of MPs and Lords. Our visit was truly a look into British government at work and the importance of monarchy in that system.

Posted by on Saturday July 14, 2018
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101 Willow Street  •  Reading, MA 01867
Phone: (781) 944 - 4900  •  Fax: (781) 944 - 7530

Austin Preparatory School is a Catholic private school in Reading, MA for Middle School and High School students in grades 6-12. We seek to cultivate the hearts and minds of our young students and provide an environment in which our students can successfully learn, grow, and develop beyond the classroom.

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