written by Leon, Mitchell and Justin

In a blink of an eye, our week in London has come to a close. Each and every member of our team is going home with life-changing memories. From the streets, to the sites, to the science, no part of our trip was done for naught. In just one week, we immersed ourselves in the culture of London, learned about Anemone Pulsatilla, engaged in field work with world-famous scientists, (some of us) visited the burial site of Janet Erskine Stuart, and so many other things. Through these experiences, we bonded closer and closer together, not only as a class, but as friends. As the old saying goes, though, “all good things must come to an end.”


However, our team begs to differ. From our experiences this week, our interest in the field of botany/ecology has soared to new heights. We are excited to learn not only how plants affect us, but how we humans can positively affect the earth around us. In our minds, this trip to London was only the beginning of the road; we are all very excited for the upcoming two-year course.


To conclude, our group would first like to extend a special thank-you to Mr. Farrell, Ms. Simpson, and Ms. Yeh for accompanying us on this trip; we greatly appreciate how you made the “wise freedom” aspect of this journey tangible and evident. To Mr. Helms, we are very excited to study botany/ecology with you the next two years. We were all saddened that you were unable to come with us to London, but we thank you for giving us this little taste of what we will shortly be diving into. We would also like to recognize Mrs. Saltveit, Dr. Krejcarek, and the SSH community for supporting us throughout this whole process. Also, we thank you for letting us use this blog to share our thoughts and feelings about the trip. Our team would also like to thank Dr. Bruce Pavlik, Dr. Lisbeth Louderback, Dr. Sarah Barlow, Dr. Sara Oldfield, Dr. Bryn Dentinger, and Lawrence Trowbridge for making our trip such a great learning experience. We appreciate how you made your profound information so clear and concise. Finally, to our parents, thank you for providing each one of us with much-needed financial and moral support. We all deeply appreciate the lengths you went through to allow us go to London.


Without every single one of your individual efforts, this experience would not have been possible. Once again, we thank you for such a memorable experience.

Our last full day in the United Kingdom

Written by Leon Tsai ’17 and Michael Johnson ’16

Today, we ventured out to the Millennium Seed Bank in Wakehurst. The weather was rather damp today; it began to rain during our bus ride. Because of this, we had to miss quite a few outdoor exhibits. photo 2The Millennium Seed Bank is one of the largest seed banks around the world. It stores, protects, and conserves seeds for reintroduction into nature. Its impact is immense, in that if one particular species of plants becomes increasingly vulnerable, scientists will have the security knowing that seeds for that plant still exist. We ate lunch in the Seed Bank as well.photo 3 Following this, we returned to Richmond, and rode the Underground to South Kensington. Here, our group separated, with the girls going out for tea, and the boys exploring the Natural History Museum. For dinner, our team ate in an Italian restaurant with Mr. Vasquez, who was in London for a Sacred Heart conference.

It was after dinner where things became especially interesting for a few of us. Calvin and I (Leon) accompanied Mr. Vasquez to the University of Roehampton, where we also met Mr. O’Connor. Here in Roehampton, the four of us visited the burial site of Janet Erskine Stuart.photo 4 This was an extremely touching moment for all of us; a wave of emotions flooded over us as we struggled to compose our thoughts. According to Mr. Vasquez, we were the first Stuart Hall students to ever visit such an important site in our school’s history. Calvin and I felt honored and humbled to be in the presence of our school’s patron, Mother Stuart.photo 5

It is so surreal to imagine that this was our final full day in London. Despite the day’s magical moments, each one of us cannot help but feel a tinge of sadness in the air.

Another fantastic day of field work

Written by Calvin, Justin and Mitchell

Today has been are 4th day here at London, and our 2nd day doing field work with the Royal Botanical Gardens of Kew. We traveled to calcareous grasslands, or grasslands with chalky soils containing calcium. There we met up with Dr. Bruce Pavlik, Dr. Lisbeth Louderback, and Dr. Sarah Barlow. Dr. Barlow led today’s excursion on studying different species of flowers, animals, and grasses in Hertfordshire 40 miles north of London, and about the Anemone Pulstilla, also known as the Pasque Flowers. We learned that Pasque flowers are an endangered species of wildflowers that can only be found on chalky soil. After talking a bit to Laurence, the head park ranger of Ashridge Park, we hade ourselves a picnic on the grass near a big oak tree. Then, we continued our excursion to survey vegetation with Dr. Barlow. At 3:00 PM, we finished and took the minivan with Tom, our wonderful driver who drove us around all day and waited for us while we were at the parks, back to the hotel where we rested and recharged our batteries.

A full day at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Written by Isabella Pontecorvo ’17

Today was our first day in Kew Gardens, where we received a crash course in botany and learned how to identify the different parts of a plant in a more scientifically correct form. We had a brief break for simple English tea, which included chocolate biscuits. After our excellent tea and biscuits, we had a series of lectures that enunciated the difference between fungi and plants, taught us how much we depend on plants, and how we use plants in our daily lives. Later, after learning what we could do to help endangered plant species, it was time for lunch. Lunch was amazing, and we were astonished by the variety of goodies sent our way. Once we finished our meals, we headed out to the Kew Herbarium. A herbarium is a place where herbs and different species of plants are cataloged. It was utterly fascinating because some of the plants dated back over a hundred years. Our inside work was complete, so we headed out to the greenhouses in Kew. The gardens took our breath away, and were overflowing with diversity. One of the reasons Kew Gardens is so incredible is the way it is presented to the onlooker: Kew’s Victorian and modern buildings show us how the gardens have grown over time and how important it was, and still is today. Kew was extremely interesting and fun, but the gardens wore us out, so our caring adults took us out for burgers; which were fabulous, of course. Another exciting day in London complete, will we ever tire of this fantastic place?

The sights of London and the Kew Gardens

Written by Leon Tsai ’17 and Michael Johnson ’16

After a long night’s rest in the Kingsley Hotel, we were ready to take on the streets of London. Morale was high as we devoured our magnificent breakfast, and any sense of weariness from the previous day immediately disappeared. Jet lag was no match for us now. Our adventures through London took us to many different sites: the Museum of London, the Millennium Bridge, the Tate Modern museum, Buckingham Palace, and Covent Garden. Lunch and dinner were fantastic as well; we had fish-and-chips and Indian food respectively. This was a great opportunity for the group to get a full-on London immersion experience. So far, we have been very satisfied. Everyone in London has been so kind to us, transportation is easy via the Underground, there are so many things to do, and overall, the city is just so beautiful. Every place has its own intricacies and nuances that make it uniquely it’s own. With two sightseeing days completed, we highly look forward to the Kew Gardens visit to come.

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Convent and Stuart Hall Travel head off to London

Convent and Stuart Hall have formed a partnership with Dr. Peggy Fiedler, Director of UC’s Natural Reserve System, and Dr. Bruce Pavlik from the Kew Royal Botanic Gardens in England for a 2-year elective class that will look at Mediterranean ecosystems (of which the Bay Area is one) of the world. The course has kicked off this week with a trip to Kew Gardens in England.

Written by Mitchell, Justin and Cal – all in class of 2017

As we prepare to embark on this once in a lifetime trip, the 9 members of
our party: Mr. Farrell, Ms. Simpson, Izzy, Bella, Justin, Mitchell, Calvin,
Leon, and Michael, are all extremely excited and have gone to great
lengths to prepare for this wonderful, educational opportunity. There is a
sense of anticipation and anxiousness in the atmosphere. We are trying
to prepare ourselves mentally and physically for the week in London. We
have several days touring Central London topped off with exploring the
enormous Gardens of Kew. Right now, as we are waiting in the air for 9
hours, we find ourselves completely in the dark on what to expect. For all
of us, excluding Ms. Simpson, this is our first time going to London. We
are unsure of what to expect from everything from the workload to the
food to the jet lag. Despite the unknown we are facing, we definitely feel
a calm aura that is surrounding us…something that is making us ready for
our future at London.