Cape Fear Academy Students Immerse Themselves in Ecuador’s Culture

NCOAE Headquarters

June 03, 2022

Late last year, the staff at Cape Fear Academy in Wilmington, North Carolina, asked for our help in creating a unique and meaningful 10-day, outdoor and adventure-based out-of-country expedition for a handful of its high school students.

In particular, Cape Fear’s educational leaders were looking for a diverse destination that would enable their students to immerse themselves deeply in a new culture — an adventure that would extend far beyond selfies, social media, suntan oil, and sand — and which would reinforce the school’s own values and curriculum. Known for designing and leading custom outdoor education programs for private and independent schools, we were happy to help!

The original Cape Fear Academy was established in 1868 as an independent school for boys. After closing in 1916, the school was reestablished 52 years later in 1968 with the commitment of “forging capable young adults with skills, confidence and resilience to take risks, solve problems and overcome challenges.”

So, it was with that focus in mind that the school asked us here at The National Center for Outdoor and Adventure Education (NCOAE) to custom design an expedition for nine of the school’s students, along with a chaperone from the school and three NCOAE field instructors. Their destination? Ecuador.

Our staff prepared an itinerary that incorporated the school’s objectives of instilling confidence, facing challenges, taking on informed risks, and solving problems. After all, those missives mirror the NCOAE Educational Framework.

The video you see above, which beautifully illustrates the students’ immersion into an indigenous culture with which they were unfamiliar, visually describes an environmental and biological diversity that these young travelers had never experienced.

This brief, but expertly filmed video, presents a glance at what Cape Fear’s students experienced on their 10-day expedition to Ecuador, as well as their thoughts on being 2,375 miles away from their school.

In the video, one student describes her previous travel experiences as being “family trips to touristy type areas.” But in talking about the Ecuadorian trip, she said, “Being this in-depth in a culture, in a community, in a rural country is, I think, something that I never experienced before and will probably never experience again without NCOAE.”

Some experiences described by Cape Fear’s students encompassed intensive river training and learning the basics of river ecology before embarking on an amazing three-day Amazon River paddle, visiting local villages, and sleeping on the riverbank at night.

Other learning adventures included a scenic trek within the Cotopaxi National Park, a visit to one of Ecuador’s largest indigenous craft markets and taking in a relaxing soak at the Termas de Papallacta Hot Springs.

Highlighting the custom outdoor education program was the opportunity for these students to visit three different indigenous communities where they participated hands-on with sustainable farming initiatives. Among those tasks were cooking meals, caring for animals, and harvesting and replanting artisan crops.

They learned about the impact they could have by supporting ecotourism abroad and improving the quality of education — all ways these teens can help conserve traditions and empower new generations.

Another student said, “This trip really changed me. I’m excited to go home and tell everyone and teach people about the things that I learned and the things that I experienced, and I’m excited for the future about traveling with NCOAE.”

A third student said, “The way NCOAE sets up their courses is that you are able to become so in-depth and immersed in the culture in a way that I’ve never experienced before. It’s just something that you can’t find anywhere else.”

Whether you’re interested in an open enrollment outdoor expedition for yourself or your teen, or you’re seeking information or a proposal for a custom outdoor education program for a private or independent school like Cape Fear Academy, we can help. Visit our custom programs for private and independent schools page or check the many adventure-based teen expeditions that we offer here in the United States and elsewhere.

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