Students and teachers in Lincoln Academy’s edLab. Nine edLab students and three teachers will travel to Puerto Rico in early April.

EdLab, Lincoln Academy’s Alternative Education program, will take nine students and three teachers to Puerto Rico from April 2-8. The trip is made possible by anonymous donors.

This is the program’s fourth trip in the last seven years, all funded by anonymous donors. Previous destinations have included Washington DC and Canada. Puerto Rico is “the next logical step” after Canada, according to edLab Director Jody Matta. “It’s close by, and still a US territory, but with a different culture and language.”

The goal of taking alternative education students on a trip every year is to “give students a sense of what other experiences outside of Maine are like,” said Matta. “Some students have never flown before, or been further from home than Portland. These trips broaden their experiences in the world.”

In Puerto Rico, students and teachers will stay near San Juan, visiting historical churches, museums, parks, and other sites, as well as snorkeling, spending a day on a working ranch, and taking dance lessons. The donation covers all expenses associated with travel, including passport fees and necessary gear for students. “We are so fortunate to have this relationship with donors who are committed to helping students experience the world through travel,” said Matta.

Junior Ezra Paetrow is looking forward to the trip. “My grandmother was from Puerto Rico,” he said. “I am going to be the first person in two generations to go back to where my family is from. The farthest I have been from Maine is Arizona, and we drove there–this will be my first time on a plane.”

According to the edLab’s mission, the program is “a small community of learners and teachers dedicated to rigorous academic and personal development through project-based, experiential and individualized education. Students of all aspirations are welcome as creative thinkers and change-makers, finding success in an environment different from the traditional classroom.” Most edLab students are juniors and seniors at LA, though the program is open to students in the spring of their sophomore year if space allows.

Through the upcoming trip, the program hopes to broaden students’ horizons in terms of seeing the world, engaging with different cultures, and having experiences that push students outside of their comfort zone. Matta said, “as a teacher it’s so great to watch someone experience something new, to have that realization of, ‘aha!’ when they have the chance to explore things they have never seen before. I truly think students come back as different people.”

“It’s going to be really cool to hang out with this group, including the teachers, outside of the classroom,” said Paetow. “I think it might bring the group a lot closer together.”