At LAS, we believe in the importance of experiential learning. Getting outside the classroom enhances our curriculum and allows students to see the real-life applications of their studies. Last week, one of our English classes visited Vevey and Montreux and really enjoyed exploring those cities! Though they had a relaxing and fun time, the students also learned more about the play they are studying, A Raisin in the Sun, by Lorraine Hansberry, and were able to buy costumes to help them recreate scenes from the text.
The group started the day in Vevey with a scavenger hunt, which included various challenges, such as taking a group picture in front of the Charlie Chaplin mural! Afterward, everyone had an hour or so of free time to explore the town with friends. Giving students independence and agency over their free time creates responsible young adults, and it was so lovely to see our students having fun with their friends! Afterward, students and staff spread out around the park and lakeshore for 20 minutes of silent self-care. They were encouraged to sketch, pray, meditate, and practice Shinrin Yoku. (bathing in and connecting with the nature that surrounds you). Students enjoyed this time and reported that it was very calming. They followed this with burritos. Yum!
Students then boarded the bus to Montreux, where they visited the Galetus second-hand shop. Students were looking for props and costumes for the current play they are studying, A Raisin in the Sun, as well as previous works they have studied, such as Of Mice and Men and Macbeth. For some students, it was their first time in a shop like this, and they enjoyed choosing costumes for the characters!
A Raisin in the Sun tells the story of a black family's experiences in South Chicago as they attempt to improve their financial circumstances. The text explores themes of racism, family, and cultural assimilation and was named the best play of 1959 by the New York Drama Critics' Circle. Studying texts from multiple countries and historical periods allows our students to become more compassionate citizens of the world and teaches them the historical backdrop to modern-day issues. Learning about different cultures through our curriculum goes hand in hand with the experiential learning program at LAS. Taking students outside the classroom allows them to experience learning in the real world rather than just in a classroom setting.
Choosing costumes to use for recreating scenes from the play allowed students to create connections between the play's storyline and backstage elements such as costume design. Thinking about how each character is presented through exterior appearance allowed students to reflect on the importance of clothing and image in revealing hidden symbolism within each character. What does a specific hat say about the status of a character? Why does a certain character wear traditional Nigerian clothing while another wears American? What does this say about the cultural assimilation of each person? Reflecting on these elements of costume and the meanings tied to them added to our student’s understanding of the play and facilitated their visualization of each character. Thinking about this different dimension of character development added to the student’s understanding and provided a deeper appreciation of the play.
Our students really enjoyed their day out in Vevey and Montreux and loved linking their textual analysis to costumes in a second-hand shop! Linking our students’ studies to the world around them while also exploring a new place always adds to their learning, and we feel fortunate that we can take our students on different outings around Switzerland! This trip was made possible by the amazing LAS Impact Fund, and so we would like to thank everyone that has donated to support our students' experiential learning. Our community's spirit of philanthropy really helps our students get the most out of their education!