Mount Vernon Upper School teacher Meg Brooks is committed to making school look more like real life. In order to do so, she believes that it is necessary to offer students authentic off-campus experiences that are tied to the curriculum taught inside of the classroom, which is why she decided to incorporate a trip to New York City into her Harlem Renaissance course.
Throughout this course, students investigated the rich history and legacy of the Harlem Renaissance, an innovative and creative period of creation in art and culture. Students studied multi-genre and multimedia texts, including poetry, fiction, essay, paintings, songs, etc., and discovered themes and issues at the heart of this time period.
Following their in-class studies, Meg Brooks took her students to Harlem, New York to walk the same streets, listen to the same songs, and read the same texts that Harlem Renaissance greats wrote in the place they were written nearly 100 years ago.
“The Harlem trip was awesome because I got to see what Harlem is really like. It completely changed how I saw Harlem in my mind and really opened my eyes to what we were studying and why we were studying it.“
– Charlie Baynton, Class of 2020
On their first full day in New York, the students visited the National Jazz Museum and traveled across every inch of Harlem during their guided walking tour.
To end their first day, the students were treated to a private jazz concert held in a brownstone in the city.
“Going to New York on a school trip was a wonderful learning experience that was also a lot of fun. We were able to immerse ourselves in the culture of the city while also being able to step out of our comfort zones. We went to a private jazz concert at a brownstone and learned about rent parties (parties thrown to help raise money so you could pay rent).“
– Eleanor Madderra, Class of 2021
On their second day, students visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the 9/11 Memorial. They all were also given free time to use to explore the city, and were encouraged to take public transportation and navigate their way through the Subway.
“Our trip to Harlem was an amazing way to learn about the culture and history of the neighborhood through a completely immersive experience. I think that immersion is super important when learning about anything, but especially history and culture because there are various details and aspects of it that simply can’t be taught through writing or even videos/pictures. In order to fully learn and absorb other cultures, it is important to meet people who live in those places and who take part in the culture there on a daily basis. the opportunity that we were given, to meet/interact with Mr. Harlem (our walking-tour tour guide), Mr. Billy Mitchell (who runs the Apollo Theater and has met just about everybody who’s anybody), 3 genuine jazz performers, and various other members of the community, was truly one of a kind and I learned more from this trip than I ever could have without it.“
– Kylie Smith-Wolfe, Class of 2020