Europe becomes DHS students’ classroom
De Soto High School students got to learn about art this summer by viewing the Mona Lisa in person.
A group of about 25 students, parents and teachers traveled for two weeks to Paris, Venice, Florence and Rome with De Soto art teacher Tim Mispagel and De Soto social studies teacher Adrianne Lehrman.
Mispagel said the idea to go on a student trip started a few years ago.
"It started with both my wife and I wanting to tour Europe, but because of her being pregnant and the timing when our child was born my wife wasn't able to go," he said.
Instead, Mispagel planned a trip with De Soto High school students and with the help of De Soto resident Jay Roberts. He planned a trip to Florence and Rome during spring break in 2005.
Roberts, who teaches at Olathe North High School, has a travel agency called Italia Tours of Kansas City. Roberts leads small groups on trips to Italy.
When Mispagel was planning his first student trip to Europe three years ago, one of Roberts' daughters told him about the business.
"It was great," Mispagel said. "I could customize the trip however I wanted to."
On his second trip with students, Mispagel took Lehrman along for the ride and decided to stop in Paris for a few days as well.
"Adrianne and I put our heads together and decided what places do we want to go and in what proximity," he said. "It was an educational vacation."
Although the students weren't enrolled in a class while traveling, they still learned a lot, Lehrman said.
"I think that sometimes the students have to be outside of the classroom and just have complete emersion learning," she said. "Most of these kids have never left the country. With this you can learn about another country and experience, the weird toilets and weird food, not being able to community with the people much - you can really learn a lot about another culture."
Mispagel and Lehrman agreed that a trip every year would be too costly, so doing a trip every other year or every three years would give the students time to save up money.
Lehrman said she would like to plan more educational trips for students in years to come.
"I would like to start looking at a variety of different trips we could do," she said. "I know when I was in high school I went on a World War II trip to Poland and doing something like that here would be great."
The most memorable part of the trip for Lehrman was seeing the Eiffel Tower light up at night.
"It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen," she said. "It's so much bigger than you imagine it to be. There were no words for it.
Mispagel said he enjoyed arriving at the Pantheon in Rome, where they saw Tom Hanks and Ron Howard.
"When we walked up to the square there was a lot of activity going on, and we found out they were filming 'Angels and Demons,'" he said. "It was really, really cool."