Global Studies in Action: A Blog
Discover the many ways that Bancroft students are engaging with the world and developing their awareness of cultures both near and far.
Photograph by student Michael B.
This Spring Break, these adventurous Bancroft Middle Schoolers are exploring the language, culture, food, and geographical wonders of Costa Rica! Accompanied by adults including Spanish teacher Jody Stephenson, the students are living with Costa Rican host families, taking daily Spanish lessons, visiting farms, nature reserves, beaches, and rainforests, and doing service projects. Immersive, student-centered, field-oriented learning doesn’t get much better than this!
Señora Stephenson gave us the OK to share the following message, which she sent to the families of the students after their first night:
We are enjoying the cool, soothing beauty of the cloud forest now after a wonderful and hot Sunday spent near the capital city.
We began our day with a typical Costa Rican breakfast including “gallo pinto” (ask your child what that is!) and went straight to La Carpio, the Nicaraguan community on the outskirts of the capital city. We had prepped them the night before, as it can be very difficult (emotionally) to witness this type of poverty. When we arrived, we had an orientation from Gail, the director of the Costa Rican humanitarian foundation, who is from the U.S. but has dedicated the past 40 years of her life to working with this community. She is truly an inspiration... She gave the kids a brief summary of all of the reasons Nicaraguan people would flee their beloved country and seek a new life in Costa Rica. We then went down to the school to play with the children there or paint a mural.
Our students were hesitant at first, but being the amazing kids they are, it did not take long for them to start to connect. Soon we had bracelet making, coloring, tower building, and a game of “pato, pato, ganso” (duck, duck, goose) breaking out. The highlight was finding a soccer ball, which eventually turned into a full game in the street! At the end, we walked back to the community center and watched a play performed by the “abuelas” (grandmas) of the community, about their life back in Nicaragua and their desire to seek freedom and safety in Costa Rica. It was very powerful meeting these strong, resilient women who have endured so much but who are so grateful as well.
I’m always so impressed with Bancroft students during and after this experience in La Carpio... they really seem to grasp that this is not just “community service.” It’s not just us “helping these people” because, if anything, they help us. They help us to understand different perspectives and different realities, they help us understand the universality of being human, and the connections we can make with each other if we have an open mind and an open heart. It’s the kind of experience that can be transformative for some kids. At any rate, I encourage you to talk to your son/daughter about La Carpio... it’s bound to be a valuable conversation.
Last night we had an orientation at the language school, a quick “placement test” for the classes, and the students were finally introduced to their host families... they were understandably a bit nervous right before, but when each Mama Tica greeted them with a warm hug, that definitely helped!
Excited to see them in a couple hours to hear about their first night.
Today we walk down to the town, have a scavenger hunt to orient ourselves, and then head back to language school to have a Latin cooking class after which, hopefully, we will be eating that food for lunch. Then our first language classes!
They’re doing really well so far.
This post was written by students in the Upper School Spanish in a Global Context class:
At the start of the school year, the Spanish in a Global Context (Spanish 5) class partnered with the Latino History Project (LHP) of Worcester to help to “collect, share, and celebrate the Latino experience in Worcester.” After helping to organize a Discovery Day at the Worcester Historical Museum, we created a new Facebook page, Latinos de Worcester, to help showcase the stories of Latino immigrants in our community. Inspired by the transcendent “Humans of New York” project, our project aims to capture the same sentiments as Brandon Stanton: the power of human interaction and an understanding of our shared experiences.
Latinos de Worcester is a Facebook page where we will be posting parts of the interviews we conduct, along with photos taken of those interviewed. Quotes are selected based on what strikes us while we hear the diverse stories of the immigrants we interview. With this project, we want to emphasize not only the stories of being a Latino immigrant but also the unique experience of being an immigrant in Worcester. With the core belief in mind that exposure to cultural differences builds empathy and understanding of diversity in all its forms, it is crucial that we take a moment to appreciate the stories of those who came to this country with the same dream as our ancestors.
Visit Latinos de Worcester on Facebook, and be sure to Like, Share, and Follow to spread the fascinating stories of Worcester's Latino immigrants. Photos by M. Barshteyn
from Mark Taylor, US English Teacher
“I just traveled again. That's what I do on Fridays. I travel,” said Bancroft junior Michael B., as he climbed into the back seat of his classmate’s car and once again felt the rush from his fieldwork. Michael and senior Alyssa S. have been involved in an independent study course this semester during which the two of them have worked with Photography teacher Bob Dec to understand the method and the art of famous U.S. photojournalists of the past. They are now conducting their own photojournalism project based on a central tenet of the genre in which they have immersed themselves: telling a true story about an underreported or misunderstood population within society.
Michael and Alyssa chose as their subjects several resettled refugee families here in Worcester. On Fridays throughout December, I traveled with Alyssa and Michael, along with Meg Gallo and Mustafa Alnaimi of Worcester’s Refugee and Immigrant Assistance Center (RIAC), to interview and photograph families from Bhutan, Congo, Burma, and Syria who are making a life for themselves here in Worcester.
Learning how to properly greet people with “Namaste,” asking questions about short-term and long-term goals and dreams, enjoying Turkish coffee, or listening to their teacher resuscitate his very basic and colloquial Arabic from the ‘90s... all these and more are moments from the field as Michael and Alyssa collect material on their subjects.
Even though all three of us have extensive travel experience in our past, we have still been amazed at the rich array of cultural exposure we have been afforded through these local experiences.
Michael and Alyssa’s independent study project is in keeping with Bancroft’s Global Studies initiative and the work that our Upper School students have been doing this year to engage with and become more aware of the issues that face refugees locally, domestically, and globally.
from Gail Buckley, History Department Chair
When Denis Belliveau, the Emmy-nominated writer and director of the PBS documentary and book In the Footsteps of Marco Polo, visited Bancroft on December 3rd & 4th, one of my students called him “a modern day Indiana Jones.” The 8th and 9th grade students in our history classes had recently learned about cultural diffusion in the ancient world and the Middle Ages, and were excited at the chance to meet Denis, and hear about his adventures retracing the steps of 13th century explorer Marco Polo from Venice to China and back. Denis’s appeal is that he is just an ordinary guy with a passion for history, travel, culture, and photography. He brought his extraordinary trip to life for the kids, and his enthusiasm for what he does is palpable. I loved his message — Travel is the enemy of bigotry.
He worked with the students throughout the day, held a Q&A in the theatre, and attended our Lunch with an Explorer, which allowed others in the community to meet him and hear his message, as well.
The more we can educate our students about other cultures, the closer we are to being better citizens of the globe.
Here are some student reflections from the 9th grade classes:
“I loved his program. It was the most interesting thing I have ever done at school…"
"Now all I want to do is to go on a dangerous adventure, and become a traveler not a tourist.”
“I cannot agree more with what Denis said about fear. We fear a lot before we actually get to do something, but once you start really getting to do it, fear disappears.”
“I loved all of the artifacts that he brought in to share. Because of Denis, I would really love to visit Mongolia, China, Venice and Turkey.”
“Denis made me want to seek out the good [in the world], which doesn't always have to be in a distant country. Sometimes it can be at a school or maybe even your next door neighbor.”
“Just the idea of traveling Marco Polo's journey with all the dangers in the area today is completely insane, so meeting the only person to ever successfully complete the trip was amazing.”
“Denis's documentary and talk changed the way I think about traveling immensely. I am excited for my next vacation so that I can be more curious… I think I would like to become a more global citizen.”
“His program really makes me want to travel and live instead of just sitting on the couch.”
“One thing that really struck me from Denis’ talk was when he said there are more good people than bad in the world. I wish there was a way for everyone to realize this fact. “
“My already strong love of history was accentuated when Denis related his current experiences to the past.”
“Seeing Denis’s passion for traveling definitely inspired me to want to see more of the world and experience many of the different cultures.”
“His program made me realize how important global relations are.”
“It definitely makes me want to go on an adventure.”
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