This sixth graders recently had the opportunity to experience our state like never before. They spent the week exploring the state from Selma to Birmingham with students from Jewish day schools in Greensboro, Omaha, Rochester, and New Haven. This trip, organized and planned by Lynn Raviv, was more than a trip; it was a journey. Our sixth graders maturely and thoughtfully took a journey into the tough topics of America’s past from slavery to lynching and grappled with how injustices of the past impact life today. Students heard from staff of the Equal Justice Initiative and Offender Alumni Association as part of their discussion of the justice system and mass incarceration today. Throughout the week, students also heard other personal stories related to tolerance and making change. Students had the opportunity to learn from Reverend Webb, a leader of the Childern’s March in Birmingham, Ms. Joanne Bland, a woman who marched as a child in Bloody Sunday, Dr. Abe Schuster, a second-generation Holocaust survivor, and so many others in our community.
Our students have spent the year preparing for this trip. They have learned about social justice issues in our own community. In preparation for the trip, students had a speaker from the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama and toured and volunteered at the YWCA. Students also studied primary and secondary sources to prepare for what they were going to experience throughout the week. Students analyzed Norman Rockwell’s “The Problem We All Live With” and read Lions of Little Rock (both about school integration). Students also read a range of newspaper reactions to Brown v. Board and looked at the program from the March on Washington.
Throughout their journey, students built relationships with the sixth graders from visiting schools. Prior to the trip, students communicated through video classes and an online blog to get to know each other and have preliminary dialogue. During the trip, the students built a community complete with singing Hebrew and Civil Rights songs iconic to the movement. Students performed in a talent show for the other schools, and our families even hosted these visitors in their homes.
This journey is not over though. Students are continuing to reflect on and internalize their experiences from the week and develop their new relationships, and next year, the same students will reconvene in D.C. with a focus on advocacy. We look forward to watching our students mature as educated changemakers.
Thank you to all who volunteered throughout the week (including our host families and drivers). To see more photos from the Middle School Alliance Trip, visit our Facebook page and look at the MSAT Photo Album.