Crescite week is an exciting and unique component of the Heights experience. During this highly anticipated week, classroom academic work stops, and teachers lead students on trips and seminars that take them all over the DC Area, the US, and the World beyond. What do exploring ruins in Pompeii, horseback riding in Texas, and visits to the Supreme Court in D.C. all have in common? These are all opportunities that have been offered to Upper School boys during Crescite Week. Though there are no classes during these trips, the week is a significant component of the curriculum for Upper School students at The Heights. They turn the world into their classroom by climbing mountains, backpacking in foreign countries, or volunteering for charity at home and abroad.
We derive Crescite from the Genesis account of the first words God spoke to man, “Crescite et multiplicamini,” or, “increase and multiply.” The Latin word Crescite in this context does not simply mean to increase in number or size, but when used in a commanding manner to a person takes on a closer meaning to “come to be” or “grow.” Thus this imperative calls us not only to grow physically, but also spiritually and intellectually. In accordance with the mission of The Heights, Crescite Week serves as an invaluable opportunity to strengthen all of these essential components.
So how does a pilgrimage to Santiago, a journey through the art-abundant Florence and Milan, or even a local trip around our own historic Washington, D.C. aid in the formation of young men? The answer lies in our oft repeated commitment to encouraging and fostering our boys’ engagement with reality. While studying the history of Athens or Icelandic Vikings in books is all fine and good, bookish learning by itself can lead to a loss of familiarity with the actual, real entities that are being studied. We foster a deepened love of learning by traversing the fjords, and we increase awareness of history–real, honest to goodness history–by walking where the ancient Athenians walked. Viewing pictures of the Roman Colosseum is a vastly different experience from standing on the same ground where gladiatorial battles were fought millennia ago.
Relatedly, it is our intention at The Heights to create life-long learners. That is, to imbue students with the desire to know, and the understanding that they should not cease to learn once they step out of school. Crescite Week facilitates this lesson by allowing boys to watch teachers passionately share their hobbies and hard sought knowledge and expertise. Watching a teacher demonstrate basic navigation while on a boat in the Florida Keys, or hearing a teacher explain Antoni Gaudí while standing in Park Güell exposes students to an unlimitedly knowable existence; it reveals to them that our minds are–or should be–constantly at work.
With an eye towards the formation of the student, teachers on Crescite Trips are always acting as advisors, finding ways to develop a student’s virtues through experience. For example, before embarking on Mr. Cardenas’ biennial pilgrimage to Santiago, the boys will meet in the chapel to listen to Fr. Diego discuss the meaning of “pilgrimage” and perform the Blessing of the Shells, followed by having dinner as a group. The trip itself involves a rigorous 20 mile-a-day trek to the tomb of St. James in Santiago de Compostela. And we know that this mission-based, character-focused travel is working! Our students and graduates tell us so!
Though the trips are enjoyable and create lifelong memories, the final cause of Crescite Week is not recreational. A case in point, students are encouraged, and in most cases required, to surrender use of their cell phones. Similarly, Crescite trips endeavor to avoid hotel rooms as much as possible. The reason for these practices is that they allow a young man to fully immerse himself in the culture and place around him. Staring at a cell phone’s GPS and spending time in a hotel room have the effect of disengaging a boy from the reality that is around him, and it is precisely this engagement that is one of the chief formative goals of Crescite Week. If you ask our boys, they’ll begrudgingly agree. In fact, we’ve had a current student write his college essay about the time he was forced to navigate through a foreign city without the use of his phone during a Crescite Week trip in Europe. Imagine if you could check your iPhone instead of asking a friendly local for directions; think of the silence on an electronically pacified bus full of students that should be playing pranks on each other and singing about who-knows-how-many bottles of beer on that infamous wall.
It is with all of this in mind that the faculty at The Heights plan a Crescite Week trip. Whether spent traveling abroad or staying local, each trip is designed as an integral part of the curriculum at The Heights. And while any current student or alumnus will tell you how much fun the trips are, like all aspects of The Heights, the aim is the spiritual, moral, intellectual, and physical formation of the students.