SOMA-Based ‘Quiddity Tours’ to Take High Schoolers to Italy, Greece

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“Quiddity” means “the inherent nature or essence of someone or something.”

It’s a little known or used vocabulary word for high school students (and perhaps their parents), but SOMA residents Lisa Phillips and Greg Woodruff are looking to change that.

Quiddity Tours, founded by Phillips and Woodruff, was created for the purpose of providing travel opportunities for high school students as a means to learn and earn school credits.

Phillips and Woodruff have been working with the Montclair district for the past year and are in the process of working out credits for their tours with the South Orange-Maplewood School District, including a trip to Greece and Italy this summer.

Why do you want to send your high schoolers off to Europe with Woodruff and Phillips?

Greg Woodruff (Woody) is a teacher in Montclair in English and Humanities — voted Humanities Teacher of the Year. “He reads Plato for fun,” said Phillips.

Meanwhile, Phillips is a freelance educator (formerly Head of Education at the Whitney Museum of Art) and has created content/taught in a wide variety of settings internationally as well as locally.

“I worked with a high-end travel company for two years designing family education curricula for their trips to the Peruvian Amazon and the Galapagos, subsequently teaching on 16 trips. I was hooked. I took my 8th grade girl scout troop to Ecuador on an independent trip, then another scout troop, then a group of local friends. I’ve continued to plan private tours to both Peru and Ecuador.”

In addition, Woodruff and Phillips have been running Camp S.O. Cool for seven years (S.O. is for South Orange), a summer day program creating interdisciplinary, fun and smart content for elementary/middle school kids.

“A few years ago, I realized we needed to combine our talents: his deep knowledge of history, art and philosophy, with my travel/management background. The Montclair BOE approved the class (kids earn HS credit) and last summer was our first formal venture. We took five Montclair students to Greece for 10 days—a huge success.  Two of the students are coming back for the Italy segment this summer.”

With Montclair, QuiddityTours is running a trip to the UK during the spring break titled “Shakespeare Performance & Criticism.”

Now, they are planning a trip open to all high school students, including those from South Orange-Maplewood, to Italy and Greece during this upcoming summer to study the topic of “Democracy and Aesthetics.”

“Our all-inclusive trip will give students the big picture of the wobbly history of democracy (very timely subject) and its deep connection to the arts, architecture, etc.,” said Phillips. “Students pick individual through-lines (or ‘the quiddity’) to study topics such as sports, the role of women, persuasive graphic design, public political participation, etc. and follow that (as well as present) throughout the trip and then after, make connections to our contemporary times in a final, public presentation. Whew.”

During the tour, students will be making pit stops in Athens, Naxos, Rome, Siena and Florence to look at the unsteady history of democracy by investigating its deep connection to the politics, theater, arts and architecture.

Course credit involves extra pre-trip sessions, readings and a project due at the end of the summer, all guided towards students’ specific interests and their connections to democracy. The course aligns with all NJ standards/requirements.

Quiddity Tours is currently approved by the Montclair High School Board of Education and they are currently working on getting approved by the South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education.

Course dates (pre-classes, etc) to be determined.

For the full 30-day tour of Greece and Italy from Friday, June 23 through Sunday, July 23, 2017, the cost is $8,695, all inclusive. Phillips says that parents should keep in mind that the course is competitively priced with other summer educational programs of this sort.

There is also the option to select a trip to Greece only or select a trip to Italy only. The trip to Greece includes through Athens, Micenea, Naxos, is for 10 days and costs $3,275. The tour of Italy runs through Rome, Siena, Florence and runs 20 days; the cost for this trip would be $6,295.

While a large part of the trip would be to become further educated and look at the foundations of modern politics, Phillips notes that “the main reason to go on this trip is to have a blast with fellow students, experiencing these foreign cities differently than any normal tourist would.”

Registration deadline is April 14.

For more information and for the itinerary, visit the Quiddity Tours website:

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