Hall High School students take 2 international trips

Spanish students travel to Spain; science students venture to Costa Rica

Hall High School students in Madrid, Spain. (Back, left to right) Denzel Sobin, Dilon Ziano, Sean Casey, Zack Bosi, Aaron Baltikauski, (front left to right) Katie Lawrence Ella Giachetto, Ariana Villalobos and Mary Donovan.

Two international trips were taken by some Spring Valley Hall High School students and staff in June of this year.

Ten students and two chaperones went to Spain with the Spanish Department and three students and two chaperones went to Costa Rica with the Science Department.

The Hall teachers on the trips shared the experiences.

The group from Hall High School preparing to hike up the base of Arenal Volcano (left to right) Reid Sartain, Robert Malerk, Hope Whightsil and Lucas Gruber.


The trip to Spain had been planned since May 2019 and was originally scheduled to travel in June 2021. However, because of COVID restrictions, it was delayed to June 2022. This was a culmination of more than three years of planning and excitement. Students that attended the trip were Ariana Villalobos, Sean Casey, Dilon Ziano, Denzel Sobin, Zack Bosi, Aaron Baltikauski and Ella Giachetto. Accompanying the students were Hall High School’s two Spanish teachers, Katie Lawrence and Mary Donovan.

The trip started in Madrid where the group discovered the Puerta del Sol, the Royal Palace, La Plaza Mayor and the Prado Art Museum. And, by chance, the group also stumbled upon a public appearance of King Philip VI as he was getting out of his limo.

Hall High School students in Toledo, Spain; (from left to right) Mary Donovan, Aaron Baltikauski, Denzel Sobin, Ella Giachetto, Ariana Villalobos, Zack Bosi, Dilon Ziano, Sean Casey and Katie Lawrence.

Next, the group went to Spain’s former capital city, Toledo. The king of Spain moved the capital city from Toledo to Madrid in the 1600s. Since then, the city has kept much of its historical charm and architecture. Staff and students were able to do a walking tour which included Toledo’s many churches and a sword and jewelry making factory.

To end the excursion, the group ziplined over the Tagus River for an exhilarating and memorable experience.

The Spanish trip’s next stop was La Mancha on the way to Granada. Staff and students were able to walk amongst the windmills from the novel “Don Quixote” by Miguel de Cervantes.

After arriving in Granada, the group went to a professional flamenco show and toured the Alhambra, an Islamic palace built in the 13th century. Following Grenada was a trip to Seville for a river boat cruise and sightseeing which included the Plaza de España. The group toured Seville’s Cathedral, which is the third largest cathedral in the world and houses the tomb of Christopher Columbus. The trip was punctuated with a relaxing two-day visit to the Mediterranean coast in the beach town of Fuengirola.

Throughout the trip, the students were able to use their Spanish by communicating with locals and experiencing things that had been talked about in class prior to the trip.

Costa Rica

The group from Hall High School at the animal sanctuary after presenting a monetary donation (left to right) Robert Malerk, Lucas Gruber, Reid Sartain, Hope Whighstil, (back row) sanctuary workers.

Planning and promotion of the trip to Costa Rica began in September 2020. It was open to the Classes of 2023 and 2024. Come June 2022, three students and two adults attended the trip. Students that attended were Lucan Gruber, Reid Sartain and Hope Whightsil. Accompanying them were Hall High School teacher Robert Malerk and his wife, Christy Malerk.

The main focus for the trip was to have students travel outside the United States and experience the culture and vast biodiversity of Costa Rica. After a long day of traveling, the group arrived in San Jose where they had dinner, met the group tour guide, and got some much needed rest.

On the first day, the crew traveled to Arenal and, on the way, stopped at Doka State for a tour of the coffee plantation. The tour showcased the whole process from planting coffee seeds to roasting the coffee beans. And, it included a taste-test to try the different types of coffees they make.

Next on the itinerary was Sarchi, an artisan town which is home to the World’s Biggest Oxcart. Staff and students then toured the working factory that has made these oxcarts and other items for nearly 100 years. After the tour, the group traveled to La Fortuna and stayed there for the night.

The next day included a hike to the base of the Arenal Volcano, which showcased beautiful landscapes and views. After, the group went kayaking and swimming in Arenal Lake, which featured more views of the volcano. Later on, the science students were able to relax in a natural hot spring. While in La Fortuna, the group went horseback riding where they saw a waterfall, lots of different plants, and learned about the Maleku tribe which is an indigenous people of the area. Then, staff and students traveled through the Costa Rican mountains to the Pacific Coast.

The next day, the group went on a crocodile tour where they got to see and learn about crocodiles, iguanas and different types of birds. This was followed by a trip to Santuario de Lapas, an Animal Sanctuary. There, they learned all about the history of the Sanctuary and the many species of rescued animals. The group saw a lot of animals and birds such as macaws, monkeys, jaguars, toucans, etc. and volunteered to help collect grass to feed the tapirs. On top of that, the staff and students also made a monetary donation to the sanctuary.

The next day the group traveled to the Manuel Antonio National Park. The excursion included a walk through the forest where we saw monkeys, sloths, snakes, and iguanas before arriving at the beach. Once at the beach, the group relaxed by playing in the water and relaxing in the sand before heading back to the hotel for a Costa Rican dinner.

Next, the science students headed to Puntarenas to zipline through the Costa Rican forest. Before heading back to San Jose, the group stopped at a local elementary school to visit.

While there, the boys played soccer and the girls played in the park. Staff and students left a monetary donation for the school to buy supplies and then made their way back to the hotel and got ready for a farewell dinner at Mirador Ram Luna. Dinner included a performance from folklore dancers and views of the city lights below.

The last excursion of the trip was a white water rafting trip down the Sarapiqui river. On the way, the group stopped at an open fruit stand and tried some of the unique fruits of Costa Rica. Before rafting, the staff and students went hiking where they saw some iguanas, green and black and blue jean poison dart frogs, and crossed a river on a hanging bridge. The rafting trip included a little bit of rain, but that did not take away from the exhilarating experience.

On this trip, the students had experiences and made memories that will last a lifetime and hopefully encourage them to continue to explore the world. After years of planning, this was truly a dream come true for all involved.