On May 31, 2008, eleven Wheaton students traveled with Professor Mary Lee Griffin to begin a two-week internship in Brighton, England. With two days to recover from jet lag, the group gathered Tuesday morning, bus passes in hand and set out for Woodingdean Primary School.
Woodingdean Primary serves students from age 4 (reception classes) through age 11 (year six classes). A breathtaking ten-minute bus ride from our downtown Brighton B & B, the school nestles high on the East Sussex downs overlooking the sea. Each intern spent every weekday working in his/her assigned class, observing, assisting and teaching lessons in literacy, numeracy, U.S. history and geography, physical education and art, as well as reading aloud to their students. They also shared maps and information about their homes in the U.S. Schools in Great Britain follow a national curriculum for all subjects including a National Literacy Strategy and National Numeracy Strategy. Unlike elementary teachers in the United States, primary school faculty members teach all subjects including science, art, music, and physical education so in addition to assisting with core academic classes, Wheaton interns could also be found on the cricket pitch or in the art or music rooms.
By the second week, Wheaton interns were speaking the Queen's English (or a variation of) "brilliantly" and had made real and genuine connections to their students. There were tears on both sides as we said our goodbyes on our last day. When not in school, the Wheaton group took advantage of Brighton's vibrant nightlife (with a number of trips to pubs and night clubs) and cultural scene visiting George IV's spectacular Royal Pavilion, strolling the Lanes, taking in the play, "Sleuth" at the Theatre Royal, and traveling back and forth to London (a 45 minute train ride). We had two weeks of glorious weather with blue skies every day, perfect for hikes over East Sussex downs, white chalk cliffs, and trails along the South Downs Way. Very different than internships possible in the United States, this trip offered a once in a lifetime cultural experience, both in and out of the classroom, for these eleven Wheaton students This internship was a cultural experience in and out of school for these eleven Wheaton students, so very different than the internships they complete in the United States.