FROM SLAVERY TO FREEDOM
First Year of BATXILLERAT (Eleventh Grade in the USA)
School Year 2008-2009
During the 2008-2009 school year two projects which our high school had presented were granted scholarships by the Departament d´Educació de la Generalitat de Catalunya to learn languages abroad . One of the projects was carried out in England and the other one in the USA. The project presented by the students of first year of batxillerat was entitled “From Slavery to Freedom” and based on the long historical fight of Afro- American people to abolish slavery.
0n June 13, 2009 our adventure to the United States of America began. A group of 33 quite excited students of various specializations of first year of batxillerat and three teachers from Màrius Torres High School set off to see “in situ” what we had been studying to develop our project.
We began to work in our project during the 2008-2009 school year at high school and it was completed with a trip to Boston, where our students, apart from carrying out their project , enjoyed an English course of two weeks in the E.F. International Language School, which is worldwide highly recognized. Once in the USA we could visit many of the places we had been studying throughout the project. Among the many activities we carried out in Boston we would like to highlight two of them, which we think were quite enriching for our students. One of them was the visit to the Boston Public Library, where they let us have access to very valuable authentic material , and the visit to the Museum of African American History, where they could clarify for us many of the sections of our project.
As we have already said, among the landmarks our students visited there was the Boston Public Library, which according to the American library association is the third largest one in the United States by its number of books, after the Congress Library and Harvard University Library. Nowadays, the BPL has got over 6 million books and owns one of the largest collections of books about the fight against slavery in the country.
When looking for what we needed to carry out our project, we found out that the Library had an important collection of materials closely related to it. As a result, By January 2009 we contacted the Library by e-mail. Kim Reynolds, responsible of the section “Rare Books and Manuscripts” replied to it. Once we had told her what our project was about, Kim accepted, with great involvement and enthusiasm , to let our students have direct access to the original materials related to our project. Therefore, on June 17 we began to work in the Library; Kim decided to divide our group into two and made a wonderful presentation of many priceless documents and manuscripts. Besides being able to access many editions of the newspaper “The Liberator”, they showed us a copy of the Independence Declaration with its authentic signatures. We could also touch and read books by John Adams. In addition, Kim kindly showed us many manuscripts by Lope de Vega and a letter by the Catholic Monarchs. It was a very interesting and educational visit. In reality, we all had a great time, as the Library workers explained everything in a very didactic way and adapting it to students who speak English as a second language.
On the other hand, we also wanted to take advantage of our stay analyzing the differences and similarities between the so called “American way of life” and ours. At the end of our project we not only were developing aspects concerning that mentioned historical period, but at the same time we also tried to be shown live how American schools , their facilities, teachers and the Schools Management System work.
We all, students and teachers, had our accommodation at the same university residence hall in Suffolk just in the city center and in front of the famous “Boston Common” park. It is important to add that apart from completing our project and improving our English, we could also visit almost all the most famous sights in Boston, such as the Faneuil Hall, The State House, The Old State House, Charles River, Revere Beach, etc. We also went out of Boston to visit Harvard University, the city of Cape Cod, New York and the Niagara Falls.