The World Becomes the Classroom

Participants in the Berlin trip pose with painting they created. thumbnail118933
The high school curriculum was brought to life for 15 students who traveled to Berlin, Germany, to experience life abroad for one week. Living central to all that Berlin has to offer, these young travelers took in its history, lifestyle and more as they toured on foot, by tram and in trains. There was no tour bus for this immersive experience, which helped students gain a new perspective of life in a modern European city.
Accompanied by high school principal Patrick DiClemente, high school teacher Rachel McShane and district parent Edward Neves, the group experienced more than the typical tourist. They participated in a scavenger hunt in which they had to photograph historical sites, they exercised at the local gym and communicated with the local residents about their viewpoints on current events. Reflections, presentations and group work were a key part of the students’ learning experiences.
One adventure included a visit to Tempelhofer Feld, one of Europe’s iconic pre-World War II airports. This airport was used for the Berlin airlift during the Cold War. It has since closed (2008) and now serves as a park for Berlin’s residents. There, students asked German residents using the park for leisure activities how they would change or update the local park. Ms. McShane said this particular activity helped the students gain a local perspective of the capital city. 
On a daily basis, getting from point A to point B meant passing by the iconic Brandenburg Gate, considered the symbol of Berlin. The 18th-century monument, with a statue of a chariot pulled by four horses that sits atop the six-columned gate, began serving as a point of reference for the group. It was a surreal experience to see such a prominent monument on a daily basis.
Urban kayaking and other group activities helped the students form bonds with each other since they were not all friends before the trip. Going to an escape room meant learning to work together to figure out how to free the prisoner and help everyone escape! The most unique part of this escape room was that it was once a Soviet bunker. Other memorable sites included the Berliner Fernsehturm (TV tower) and the German parliament building, the Reichstag.
Ms. McShane said since the high school social studies curriculum includes studying World War I, World War II and the Cold War, the entire trip complemented the lessons the students learn in the classroom. “This trip brought those lessons to life,” she said. She added that they were able to see and do so much because the students were so well behaved. “This was a memorable trip with an impressive group of students,” she said.
Mr. DiClemente agreed, adding that the students were enthusiastic and curious, learning more than they could ever learn within the walls of any school. “Traveling to Berlin with these 15 students was a positive experience I will never forget,” he said. “There was an incredible intellectual curiosity that made each day a learning experience while also being fun.