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.

Arundel and Portsmouth

In one day our group visited the fairy-tale castle of Arundel, home of the Duke of Norfolk, and boarded the historic flag ship of the British Navy made famous at Nelson’s victory at Trafalgar. What an action packed day!

The morning was spent in the quaint town of Arundel on the Arun River. Arundel Castle dominates the hilltop and is a real, working castle. After exploring the village shops and bakeries, our group entered through the castle gates and meandered through the beautiful gardens. 

We imagined how invading forces - like the Cavaliers and Roundheads in the English Civil War - might have laid siege to the keep of the castle and then stormed the keep ourself, making our way across the narrow passage between the main castle and the keep and up to the parapets to scan the South Downs. Books and photographs cannot compare to the experience of getting to climb the keep and strategize about how one besieges a castle and how one defends the keep - an exercise that students in Mr. McLaughlin’s Topics in Art History can look forward to this fall. 

Our visit to Arundel finished with a tour inside Arundel Castle. The Duke of Norfolk and his family call this palatial residence home. As Earl Marshal of the Realm, the Duke is the highest ranking member of the nobility and is responsible for such state occasions as coronations and the State Opening of Parliament. We were able to view the Duke’s library, dining room, and several more public rooms filled with masterpieces of art and pieces of British history and heritage. Guides, like the friendly Garth in the Duke’s Library, were eager to share stories with students and point out items like a Van Dyck showing the Norfolk’s almost-purchase of Madagascar and the death warrant for the Fourth Duke of Norfolk signed by Elizabeth I.

The afternoon was spent on the seaside at Portsmouth. We boarded the HMS Victory and followed in Horatio Nelson’s footsteps. Up the gangplank, we arrived on one of the gun decks and made our way to the exact spot where Nelson was killed by a sniper during the battle. We visited Nelson’s stately quarters and went into the hold of the ship exploring provisions, workshops, and the lives of the sailors who made this ship such a masterful weapon of war. One of the guides walked our group through the loading and use of one of the massive cannons.

Transitioning from past to present, we boarded a ferry and toured Portsmouth Harbor. From the bow of the ship, we enjoyed panoramic views of the wide harbor dredged by hand by prisoners of the Napoleonic wars and the massive cruisers, destroyers, and aircraft carriers of the mighty British Navy. To see these modern vessels lying astern of the historic Victory were a testament to the rich heritage and long history of the British Navy.

Posted by on Friday July 13, 2018
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Campus Fun

Our group had a chance to sleep a bit later today, and with two action-packed days behind us and two more upcoming, we relished the rest. Today, we broke into groups with students from the other schools and participated in different activities like squash, fives, and cricket, drama (which Mr. McLaughlin helped out with), netball and football. At the end of the day, we gathered in the ISCA Garden where several prizes were awarded for particular skill, effort, or team spirit. Dillan was awarded a prize for Netball and Bella received recognition for all three of her activities today: squash, drama, and soccer! The day concluded with workshops on the Battle of Trafalgar in preparation for Friday’s visit to Portsmouth. One group re-enacted the battle formations with water balloons. Then, it was back in our houses for house meetings and lights out.

Posted by on Thursday July 12, 2018
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Perspectives on London

This morning, our group was excited to go into the capital of the United Kingdom, the great city of London. We boarded our bus with students from Our Lady of Mercy School in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and from the Colegio Peruano Britanico in Lima, Peru. As we wove through the streets of London, we caught glimpses of landmarks like St. Paul’s Cathedral, MI-6, and the new American Embassy in Battersea Park. We crossed the River Thames on Tower Bridge, perhaps the most iconic of the 214 bridges that cross the river.

Our first stop in London was the Tower of London.There were many points of interest to visit in the Tower, and we began with the Crown Jewels. The Jewels include the 140 crowns and instruments of anointing, investiture, and coronation and are a dazzling collection of 23,000 precious and semi-precious stones: many of them even have names like the 530.2 carat Cullinan I or Great Star of Africa set atop the Sovereign’s Scepter and worth 400 million pounds!

William the Conqueror built the Tower as a strategic fortress, and the White Tower (the keep of the castle) remains a London landmark and was our next stop. We saw many coats of armor and weaponry from various time periods and a chapel used by the Order of the Bath, the knights who escorted monarchs to their coronation through the seventeenth century. This part of our visit reminded us of the Tower’s role as a fortress and armory.

The Tower is perhaps most famously known for being a prison and site of execution -and our next stops kept that history in focus. We went to the site where Anne Boleyn, among others, was executed during the reign of Henry VIII. We then chatted with a Yeoman Warder of the Tower who answered our many questions about how one becomes a Yeoman and the history of the Bloody Tower - the last location of the princes of the Tower who were murdered after the death of their father, King Edward IV.

As we left the Tower, we visited the ravens of the Tower. Seven live at the Tower and have their wings clipped as it is said that should the ravens leave the Tower, the fortress will fall. The ravens are not the only animal to have taken up residence. At one time, the Tower was also home to the royal menagerie - which included a polar bear (a gift from the King of Norway) that was known to go fishing in the River Thames.

We enjoyed a picnic lunch on the Thames and boarded a boat for a cruise upriver. We saw a number of landmarks as we progressed to the London Eye. Aboard the Eye, we soared 135 meters in the air for breath-taking panoramas of London.

We returned to campus in time for dinner and the semi-final of the World Cup. It was a thrilling game with England taking an early lead. The energy on campus was electric. Croatia tied the game up in the second half and clinched the spot in the final against France during the overtime play. We had a very full day and are looking forward to sleeping in and enjoying recreation at Charterhouse during our first on-campus day tomorrow.

Posted by on Wednesday July 11, 2018
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Wonderful Winchester

Our first full day on the ground took us to Winchester, the former capital of the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Wessex. Before departing campus, we attended a talk on Winchester to prepare us for the sites of this important city. We disembarked at King Alfred’s statue at the base of the High Street and then walked to Winchester Cathedral, our home base for the day. 

Nathaniel and Kendall navigated the group to the Great Hall, the sole remaining structure of Winchester Castle. A round table dominates one of the walls - for years believed to be the round table of Wessex’s most famous man of myth - King Arthur. Our group “got medieval” donning costumes in the hall and spent time in the gardens for an impromptu lesson on architecture.

After lunch, the group visited the Cathedral. Construction on the Cathedral began in 1079, and the evidence of Norman architecture and later Gothic additions was clear as we explored the buttresses, vaulted ceiling, and arches: that morning lesson really paid off! Students were on the lookout for a number of points of interest in the Cathedral including the quire (the oldest in the United Kingdom), the crypt, a chair from Queen Mary’s wedding to Philip II of Spain, and the former tomb of Saint Swithun. 

Keeping with the theme of the Cathedral, our next stop was the ruins of Wolvesey Castle, the former residence of the Winchester bishops. The students split into small groups - one entering the great hall imagining they were guests of Bishop Henry, the principal patron of the palace and brother to King Stephen; the other tracing the pathway of the army of servants bustling food from the kitchens to the staging area to the great hall.

We returned to campus for a BBQ in Scholar’s Court followed by sports activities and the option to watch the semi-final of the World Cup. We’ll all be watching the Cup tomorrow as England faces off against Croatia for a spot in the finals.

Posted by on Tuesday July 10, 2018
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Hello London!

Austin Prep’s ISCA delegation arrived at London Heathrow Airport at about 10 London time. We transferred to the campus of the Charterhouse School, our home base for the next month. After getting settled into our rooms, we had lunch and went on a walk around campus. The rules for football (soccer) were formally adopted at Charterhouse, so our “home” is also the “home of football” - and an apt place to watch the World Cup. The excitement here in England is brimming in anticipation of the semi-final match against Croatia. Our campus tour also included a stop at the Chapel, which is the largest war memorial in the United Kingdom, and which was designed by the same gentleman who designed the iconic red telephone boxes. We also peeked into the South African Cloisters - the hallway where the actors from the Harry Potter films first met and worked together on “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” which our Class of 2025 is reading this summer. We next had a walk through the countryside to the village of Godalming for ice cream. Godalming was home to James Oglethorpe who established the colony of Georgia - Charterhouse is the alma mater of Roger Williams who established Rhode Island - how very colonial! After dinner, we got unpacked in our rooms in Davisites (the boys) and Bodeites (the girls) and settled in for a much-needed night’s rest.

Posted by on Tuesday July 10, 2018
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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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