A unique feature of the upper school is our Field Studies program. The Field Studies program provides an opportunity to immerse students in a world of social, historical and cultural ideas. The objective of the program is not only to enhance the curriculum but also to enrich students’ knowledge and experience of the wider community. It also develops the skills and cultural capital that will support them as they navigate life outside of the classroom.
Our first Field Studies Day of 2015-16 grew out of an idea that first took root at the beginning of last year. In response to growing awareness about the language of consent, faculty members felt strongly that our students would benefit from a day committed to gaining the knowledge and skills needed to prevent violence and delineate personal boundaries. The day’s program began with students participating in workshops facilitated by Prepare Inc., an educational services company that offers comprehensive violence prevention programs to all age levels. These workshops allowed students to explore a range of personal safety issues, from a variety of perspectives. They worked on threat assessment and self-advocacy and participated in role-plays that modeled physical resistance and self-defense techniques. Effective communication was an underlying goal throughout the program, and priority was given to maintaining the integrity and safety in all types of situations, including responding to unwelcome attention from a stranger and navigating sexual consent. Knowing what to do or say during difficult or quickly evolving social situations is a vital life skill, and students ended the day with greater awareness of and confidence in these skills.
Our most recent Field Studies Day in early March was dedicated to the dual themes of Black History Month and Women’s History Month and focused on significant African American women. Students began the day discussing what they knew about Rosa Parks. A few had some notion that she had a history of activism but many relayed the commonly held idea that the rise of the Montgomery bus boycott was a result of a tired seamstress who refused to move to the back of the bus. That idea was dispelled by the day’s guest speaker, Jeanne Theoharis, Brooklyn College professor and author of The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks. In her discussion with our students, we learned that Rosa Parks was neither passive nor naive, nor was she the first to get arrested for not giving up her seat for a white person. Professor Theoharis highlighted Parks’ personal journey to resistance, her work in the South challenging segregation and promoting voter registration, and her continued efforts in Detroit to address the racial restrictions that persisted in spite of civil rights legislation. Our speaker complimented the day’s remaining activities, which focused on the lives of four prominent African American women: the 19th-century abolitionist Sojourner Truth; folk artist Clementine Hunter; novelist and Harlem Renaissance leader Zora Neale Hurston; and civil rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer. Students rotated through faculty facilitated-workshops on each of these women, where they learned not only about their contributions to society but also about the historical circumstances out of which they grew. The day was capped off with a lively performance by Core Ensemble, a musical theatre company dedicated to “celebrating diversity through chamber music theatre.” Their performance, called “Of Ebony Embers”, offered vignettes of the Harlem Renaissance, with narrations and music by some of the greatest names from that movement.
Our Field Studies program will conclude on May 4th with a service day. Look for news about this event in a future newsletter.