Today while we were walking to the subway for our second tour at the Tenement Museum, I realized I was finally, finally becoming more secure with where we are living. Finally, I knew where both subway options are. Finally, I know where to buy food, which way is ‘downtown’ and which way ‘uptown!’ This was strangely comforting, and I needed that!
It made me think of how my students will need this same experience of “OK, I got this now” if they’re coming to a large city like NY for the first time and navigating the urban nature of getting around and all.
I greatly appreciated having a second look at the Tenement Museum, this time from the inside out, with a chance to ask questions and see the real-life living space of so many immigrants. There, too, I appreciated that today we were coming back to something familiar. The hands-on viewing, the reading about the practices of the immigrants, and also hearing oral histories/voices from actual immigrants, was powerful. I realized I can locate some oral history material from German immigrants to bring real voices to the experience ( the “Story Corps” project from the 1930’s probably captured some). This would parallel what we heard from the Italian immigrant and make students’ experience more rich. One of the ‘extra’ chapters in the Sobania book underscored how having various ways to experience material (visual, spatial, here, auditory) can be important.
I’m greatly looking forward to the Ellis Island experience tomorrow, then will think about how to sequence the various visits for my trip. I also plan to return to the Tenement Museum for an additional tour.
And while talking today about “sustainable communities” I realized students, or groups of students, might also pre-research some elements important to community beforehand and bring this knowledge to the group (history in Europe in 1848 and around 1900’s (the two waves of immigration) the work of Karl Marx, the Germans’ early organization into trade unions, the German press, etc.), so that students take a more active role in learning/sharing while here. This ties in with what Feller (Ch. 3, discussed today) mentions re: study away– that it’s the learning that distinguishes a Study Away from a “Grand Tour” where students mostly visit place + place+ place. I think that developing student “experts” in some of these areas would lead to more intentional discussions/ questions from them during the tour(s), both at the Tenement Museum and at Ellis Island.
My next step will be to spend some time on the United Nations web site to learn more of what’s available there for study tours– and for resources to prepare for and with students on the global dimensions of migration today, and the role of the UN in that.