ISLE Program

Spring 2013 Session II Activities

Session II, the part of the semester when students begin their elective courses, began with a group trip to the scenic hills of the Tea Plantation district and the city known as Nuwara Eliya.


Above, a snapshot of the rolling, green hills on the road to Nuwara Eliya.


ISLE student April Bethea (above) poses for a photo in front of the tea-growing hills at one of the tea factories.


The landscape is scattered with waterfalls. Above, Faculty Director Cricket Keating's son (left) and student Sam Bonnel (right) play in front of Baker's Falls.


Student Benjamin Breger (above) takes a photo of the sunset from the Tea Factory hotel garden.

group shot  Dylan on bench

The next day the students traveled to the Nuwara Eliya Botanical Gardens with Professor Savi and Professor Nimal Gunatilake, experts in Sri Lankan biodiversity. The group (above, left) posed for a photo in front of the gardens while ISLE student Dylan Fisher (above, right) takes some time to catch up on his reading. 


The students went on a biodiversity hike with the Professors, which involved navigating some difficult terrain (above).

Horton Plains

The hike brought the students to Horton Plains (above), where the Gunatilakes explained the landscape.


The day ended with some well-deserved chocolate cake made at the tea factory after a long day of hiking.

Session II also includes extracurricular activities organized through ISLE. These include, batik (a Sri Lankan art form), drumming, and Kandyan Dancing. 

Kandyan Dancing

Above, Program Assistant Katie Seward and student, Benjamin Breger practice the hand motions they will incorporate into the dance.

Kandyan Dancing

Above, the students follow Kandyan Dance instructor Surasena (white shirt, center) in learning the proper technique.

Tamil Class

The group also learned a bit of Tamil, one of the two major langugaes of Sri Lanka. Above, students practice some basic Tamil phrases and learn some of the Tamil alphabet.

Noel and Tilak

Students are dilligently preparing for their Independent Study Projects which begin in Session III. Above, Noel McCann consults with ISLE liaison about his ideas for his upcoming Independent Study. 

Session II continued with a planned trip to the Southern coast of Sri Lanka.

kirinda temple

Above, Ben and Jessica explore the rocks at Kirinda Temple on the Southern coast.


The scenic beaches near Kirinda Temple offer some amazing landscapes. Above, a wave crashes to shore against a moss-covered rock.


dylan coconut

The students then traveled to Kataragama Temple, where they participated in a traditional ritual of smashing a burning coconut. Above, Dylan holds his coconut.

Noel Pooja

Noel (above) shows his respect at the busy Kataragama temple.

flowers at stupa

Students Dylan, Jessica, and Ben (left to right, above) bring their flowers to the stupa at Kataragama Temple.

Sam Wood Apple

Sam Bonnel (above) prepares to eat a Sri Lankan wood apple at Kataragama Temple.

The students also visited Galle Fort (below) on the Southern Coast, a remnant from Sri Lanka's colonial history.

Galle Fort 

The students then met with a Vedda, one of Sri Lanka's indigenous peoples, to learn about the ways Veddas maintain their traditions and culture in a rapidly changing environment.


Above, students and ISLE faculty and administrators listen to the Vedda speak.

Later in Session II, the students in the Environmental Science Class took a field trip to the Knuckles Mountain Range.

Knuckles Landscape

Knuckles, like most of Sri Lanka, is covered in green and home to many different plants, trees, and species.

Knuckles 1

Above, Professor Gunatilake explains some of the history behind the invasive pines in the region as Faculty Director, Professor Keating (left), looks on. 

Knuckles Dancing

The students (above) on the field trip posed for a photo, incorporating some of their newly acquired Kandyan dance moves.

Worlds End

A student looked out over the appropriately named "mini World's End" at the Knuckles mountain range. 

Later, the students in Professor Premasiri's Buddhist Ethics course traveled to Getambe Temple for Poya Day, celebrated on each full moon.

Noel Poya Day poya day

Noel, (above, left) lit a candle to mark the Poya Day while Dylan and Jessica (above, right) light incense at the temple.

Ben at temple

Meanwhile, Ben (above) presented an offering of flowers at a shrine for the Buddha in the temple.

Women Resource Center

As students narrow in on their Independent Study topics, a group interested in Women's issues watched a documentary at the Women's Development Center.

Women in Need

Students also had the opportunity to speak with a lawyer for Women in Need, a local NGO which focuses on supporting women in Sri Lanka.


Finally, the students all traveled to Manawa, a village filled with traditionally low-caste Sri Lankans who have emerged from poverty through the development of a recycling center. Above, Professor Tudor Silva introduces the students to community members and gives some background on the village's history.

Children in Manawa

The children of Manawa were all smiles as the students tried to meet as many villagers as they could during their trip.

Music in Manawa

Some of the older children (above) demonstrated their musical skills with the aid of some of the recycled materials their village collects.


Above, some of the bottles collected for recycling by the villagers of Manawa.

Paddy Fields

Standing in sharp contrast to the piles of recycled material in the village, students took in the peaceful serenity of a nearby paddy field (above).

The students then turned their attention to their upcoming Kandyan dance performance.

Dance Practice `

Students Dylan and Ben (above) practice the male part of the dance routine with their instructor. 

Dance Practice 1

Later, the female students took the dance floor to go over their routine.

Dance practice continued as Session II comes to a close and students prepare for final exams and their Independent Study Project.


Above, ISLE student Chrissy Hayes gets some help with her dance outfit.

Dance Practice

ISLE students, practice their routine in the outdoor pavilion at the ISLE Center.

dance girls

Above, the ISLE students and Program Assistant smile for an after-practice picture. Their performance takes place on Friday, April 12th, 2013.

Check back next week for another update!