Friday, April 8, 2011

field trip.

 In the fall my friend Susan and I applied for a field trip grant from Target to take our Seniors to Portland.   We found out this winter that we got the grant, and planned our day for April with hope that it would be a nice warm, spring day by then.  It was!

Both of our classes read Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart about the Igbo (pronounced eebo) tribe in Nigeria.  We took our students to the Museum of African Culture  to see the tribal Igbo masks that we learned about in the novel.  
 Things Fall Apart
Because we wanted to go for the day, and would only be in the African museum for an hour and a half, we added a walking tour and lunch at Whole Foods to round out the day.  So I walked around Portland on this beautiful spring day with this crew of 25 Seniors.  We took 100 kids but had them in four groups, two of the groups with parents who graciously accompanied us.

I also turned them loose to explore the Old Port for a little while before our museum tour began.  Portland is such a great city.  While the kids walked around, I found a great coffee place to eat the sushi I had gotten earlier at Whole Foods and then drank a delicious dark roast and chatted with the barristas and soaked in the good feel that is Portland, Maine.

 One of my current students texted my former student Jake who graduated 3 years ago and now goes to college in Portland, and he found us in the Old Port.  Jake is a very talented actor and super nice guy. I can't wait to say I knew him before he was famous.

My students were so happy walking through the city, soaking up urban things.  

The next stop was the Museum of African Heritage where the curator Oscar gave us a terrific presentation.    He was a real animated character who definitely had the kids' attention, speaking passionately about the art and culture of the Igbo people we had read about.

In preparation for this trip, we had studied the symbolic meanings of the Igbo masks and asked kids to design a mask that represented their own identity.  They did a fantastic job on these.

Oscar spoke about this mask of a crying man, and about how men are taught not to cry or show emotion; he asked one of my boys to put on this mask and have a good cry.  My student was a great sport and while he cried, everyone laughed.

His overall message to the kids, which he wove into his discussion of individual pieces of art, is that you have to know who you are, where you came from, and who you want to be in the world.  He asked them many times:  "what is the ball of fire that drives you?  what is your passion?  what brings you joy?"
I could feel them all thinking.
 Next,  Oscar changed into full Medicine Man garb and we were treated to a healing ceremony.  He blessed each student, and danced around us.  While my students looked up at him, I thought about our original intention for taking them on this trip:  to expose them to a cultural experience they wouldn't otherwise get in the town where we live. 
 It was so very cool. When I saw all the cell phones and cameras up in the air, I knew they thought so too.

With the budget as tight as it is these days, and field trips being at an absolute minimum, I felt so lucky that we got this grant to take our students out into the world for such a rich experience. They were all abuzz today with stories and thoughts about the field trip. One kid said to me: "I think we should go to Nigeria next." That would be one heck of a grant, but yes, I think we should.


Carly said...

So cool. I always loved trips. And it's great when they tie in to the lesson so well.

Joanne said...

Congratulations to you and Susan for initiating the curiosity, writing the grant and succeeding in bringing such a rich experience to some fortunate young adults! I think this may really impact their view, not only of their lesson, nor of a city in Maine, but their view of themselves and their passions and joys. So nice!

Brooke said...


Airy Nothing said...

What an *amazing* field trip! And how wonderful to weave art, geography, anthropology, and history into a literature class.

How fun would it be to sit in on one of your classes?!

Michelle said...

You are still my favorite teacher that I never had!! What a great experience!!!

Nitsirk said...

Teachers like you make me so glad I will be sending my child to public school. Kudoes to you and Susan for going above and beyond for these kids. It sounds like they got a lot out of it. Glad the weather was cooperative!

Lisa said...

fantastic, Em!

Nikki said...

love this!

Jodi said...

What a wonderful, enlightening experience! The best kind of teachers (and people) do things out of the ordinary to inspire and challenge and it is fabulous that you took matters into your own hands to get it done. Loved the questions your tour guide was asking the students - they got me thinking a bit myself. thank you for sharing this. :0

Carol said...

Emilie, You make me proud to have been a teacher!

Anonymous said...

Portland has a Whole Foods?!...Where?