In early April, a group of fourteen middle school students and two chaperones from Aspen went to Chamonix, France for ten days. They explored the region: skiing, hiking, going up the famed Aiguille du Midi, visiting the United Nations in Geneva and the chateau in Annecy, eating pizza in Italy, and generally soaking in the culture and lifestyle of this alpine region.
But this wasn’t some kind of chaperoned vacation. The students — from Aspen Middle School and Aspen Country Day School — had applied to and were selected to participate in the annual Aspen-Chamonix student exchange program, the product of a more than 25-year-old relationship between the two mountain towns, and the key component of Aspen’s Sister Cities program.
It’s one of the many things that sets Aspen’s education system apart from others. Programs such as this one are rooted in the belief that it’s not only in the classroom that kids will learn, and it’s not only teachers who have the answer. Similar to Aspen’s experiential education program — which exposes kids to learning experiences in places as varied as the wilderness and the inner city — the Sister Cities student exchange is a piece of the pie that helps give local kids one of the most unique, well-rounded experiences with schooling in the country. Continue reading