Students, faculty and staff traveled by foot, subway, bicycle, boat, ferry and bus for this dynamic learning experience around New York.
In spring 2011, Spence’s Red Doors burst open as the entire school community ventured forth into the city’s five boroughs for the annual Teach-In, NY: Eat, Think, Play. Students, faculty and staff traveled by foot, subway, bicycle, boat, ferry and bus, putting into motion a magnificent lesson plan, accentuated by the dynamic spontaneity of a living classroom. Twenty trips were designed and guided by the best of the city’s local experts, historians, community activists and artists, some of them Spence teachers who added their own personal history, passions and curiosity to the mix. Churches, synagogues, even a shrine dedicated to President Obama and the beautiful mosaic that covers Langston Hughes’ ashes were among the thoughtfully planned and chance encounters, offering the opportunity to collectively immerse, engage, interact and reflect on impressions of everyday New York.
(A) Architecture and Civil Engineering of Lower Manhattan/Skyscrapers and Bridges
Math teacher Alex Davis led a walking tour of downtown New York architecture, where students studied the world’s largest collection of skyscrapers from multiple perspectives. The trip included stops at the historic St. Paul’s Chapel, photos at the iconic bronze tree sculpture and exploring landmark structures. A trek to the Brooklyn Bridge brought lessons about civil engineering and sketches of the NYC skyline.
(B) Food and Flowers in the Bronx
The trip stretched from the grounds of the Botanical Garden and a spectacular display of orchids in the largest Victorian glasshouse in the U.S. to exploring Bronx’s Little Italy. The local guide, Spence’s own Denise Adorante, P.E. teacher, made the neighborhood connections even more meaningful by linking notable landmarks to her personal history. “This is the church where my parents were married; I was baptized here,” she shared in a moving moment on the tour. Fish markets, a pasta-making demonstration, bread bakeries, an authentic Italian lunch and pastries only whetted the appetite for repeat visits.
(C) Biking the Hudson River
The 16-mile biking tour of New York’s Greenway linked waterfront parks, neighborhoods and points of interest along the Hudson River including New York’s newest park, the Highline, once the site of elevated train tracks in Manhattan’s largest industrial district. The group made a stop to honor those lost at Ground Zero.
(D) The Bronx and Yankees
Baseball fans from all three divisions shared an experience of a lifetime with a behind-the-scenes tour of Yankee Stadium. Bronx native Arnold Orellana, P.E. teacher, shared an informed history of the surrounding area and the culture of the neighborhood where he grew up. Back at Spence, the students collaborated to re-create the stadium in a mural that now hangs in the Lower School Building.