BROOKSVILLE — They had suitcases and passports. They visited seven locales. But the kids in Central High School's exceptional student education program never left campus.
The idea for an Around the World project came to ESE teacher Holly Curry, who thought it would be fun to turn some of the department's classrooms into countries so the special-needs students could get a taste of tourism and learn about the world.
She was joined by ESE teachers Wilson Sommer, Kim Worden and David Lewis, assistant principal Jill Kolasa, ESE department head Lisa Hallal and teacher's assistant Denise Doyle, with assistance from ESE teacher Maureen Castro.
"Each classroom did their own country," said Kolasa, "and because it's our special-needs (students), we did a lot of visuals."
"It was enriching for them," said Hallal. "We hit all their senses."
Four classrooms actively participated with decorations, information, flags and food.
"The whole hallway smelled so good," Curry said. "They were well-fed that day."
The places the students studied were Ireland, Mexico, France, Puerto Rico, Germany, South Korea and Italy. Students rotated through the rooms, listening to music, learning geography and tasting ethnic goodies.
The sites offered activities and souvenirs. In Curry's room, students had researched Mexican recipes, and visitors were invited to assemble cookbooks. Curry also had student-made maracas and a photo booth — for the tourists to take pictures.
Her class offered salsa, wedding cookies and punch, while Mexican music played.
"The students really enjoyed the music," she said.
David Lewis' classroom illustrated Germany.
"He built a castle," Doyle said.
The menu included bratwurst, hot dogs, Gummy Bears and pom fritz (french fries).
Kim Worden housed three exhibits in her room — Ireland, France and Puerto Rico. She solicited the assistance of her husband, Ron Worden, and her daughter, Darien Worden, and had shepherd's pie and chocolate pastries. Castro helped with the Puerto Rican food, cookies, flan and nonalcoholic pina coladas.
Students were introduced to the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral and the Palace of Versailles.
"We played music from the country. We discussed the holidays. And we introduced words," Kim Worden said.
"We had to listen to ciao and hola for a month," said Doyle.
For Sommer, South Korea was a perfect fit.
"I'm half Korean; my mom's Korean. It was easy."
Another bonus: "My mom did all my cooking for me," Sommer said.
They had rice, wontons, tteokguk (rice soup), bulgogi (marinated meat), rice cakes and green tea.
Central High sophomore Matthew Ortiz, 17, one of the approximately 60 students who participated, identified his favorite stop of the day.
"Mexico, because it was more active and fun," he said.
His favorite food was the Korean dishes, he said, and he learned "the different cultures and stuff."