Embarking on two trips in one week, Marshall's 8th graders spent time deep under the Earth's crust and then were immersed in new cultures and languages. It was a multi-trip experience for these Hilltoppers, visiting the Soudan Underground Mine and the Concordia Language Villages.
The pair of trips started up north, geographically, but certainly below the surface of most maps. Marshall's students were about one half mile underground in the Soudan Mine.
"The ride down the elevator was interesting," said Carter Zupancich.
The elevator can be a tight fit, with anywhere from ten to twelve people traveling slowly down. According to these Hilltoppers, the experience was as fun as it was strange. It is also a long-standing tradition, as many Marshall 8th graders have made the trek up to the mine and down this particular elevator.
The mine itself is well known both for its ore used in steel production and the University of Minnesota's physics lab located deep within the earth.
With a focus on the mining portion of the experience, Marshall's 8th graders explored an engine room, were taught about the various tools and equipment, and even rode a mine cart ¾ of a mile through the mine.
Just two days later, the same group was bound for northwestern Minnesota, and the Concordia Language Villages.
"It was really fun," said Bella Kartch about the Spanish village she visited. "We got to eat a lot of interesting food, and dance, too."
Students went to Spanish, German, and French villages depending on which language they study. The camps exclusively speak in whatever language they are centered around, leading to a few issues and a steep, but valuable learning curve.
"The first day was really hard," said Kartch. "I started understanding what they said later."
Each village featured different experiences depending on the culture and language they were immersed in. For instance, the Spanish village was based on Cuba for this particular trip.
As for what they got out of the experience, students seemed eager to give it a go again.
"If I went back, I would sign up for different activities," said Zupancich. "I did have a lot of fun."
Of course, whether it is the mine or the language villages, the experience extends far beyond the trips themselves.
"There is long-term value in giving students an immersion experience that has them feel what it is like to only speak that language," Anna Moore, Marshall Middle School Spanish teacher, said. "They have to figure out different ways of communicating in an authentic situation. In class, we often talk in words and themes that they know, but at Concordia anything and everything is in a different language, so they gain that skill of developing context and going off what they do know to communicate."
While it might seem intimidating, the students were not only up to the task ... they are already bringing some of the deep dive in language back to Marshall.
"The total immersion - from songs to food to the counselors - it really excites them," Moore said. "Now we're planning on performing the dance we learned at language camp at the next Middle School meeting."