The great plus of teaching at an International School in Europe is our ability to take our students to the places where it happened. Sure you can do this in the US too, but public schools don’t tend to fund a whole class trip to a battle sight or ship people by plane anywhere. This week I had the pleasure of escorting my students to Barcelona to study the Spanish Civil War.
On our first day of study we were guided by Nick Lloyd. He took us down the Rambles, recited Orwell, quizzed us on party factions, showed us photographs, played us music, but most of all shared his passion for his subject. Our students had recently finished their unit on the Spanish Civil war so they were familiar with the basics. However what they gained from Mr. Lloyd was a much more illustrated and in depth look at the plight of the worker, the Republican, the Catalan, and Catholic establishment. Our students were engaged for over 3 hours. They asked great questions and appreciated Mr. Lloyd’s multimedia approach.
That evening our students returned to the hotel to plan their own investigations that would take place over the following days. They could choose something about the Civil War or research other topics. Surprisingly all of the students chose a subject that built off of what they had learned during the day. One group wanted to see how art was influenced by the politics of Francoist Spain. Another group wanted to compare the racist policies of Hitler in 1936 to the more open acceptance of all races as shown by the People’s Olympics in Barcelona in 1936. Another group wanted to focus on the role of women during the revolution and what these women ultimately lost due to Franco’s conservative Catholic ideologies.
The next day we sent them forth into the city. They visited various museums and found great information. They also analyzed their sources for their value and limitations. When students stopped in cafes to discuss their findings at lunch, two groups were approached by strangers. These people had over heard their conversations and wanted to hear about what the students had found. One of the strangers was quite an expert himself.
When our students reflected on their experiences they thanked us for our trust and openness; for allowing them to choose a subject that interested them. They thanked us for giving them a reason to visit a museum. Often times we take kids on tours and trips and it is not relevant to their real lives. We take them to learn something, but it isn’t anything we are studying. This time they chose their museum in the hopes of finding the information that they needed. They walked through these places with purpose and interest. They became real life historians researching the Civil War where it happened.
I loved hearing their stories over the following days. Their excitement about their findings was contagious. I got a bit teary as we set them free at the airport.
What are memories you have of favorite class trips?