Grade 9 Explores Global Issues in San Diego

In the final days of their Shore career, Grade 9 students traveled to San Diego for a weeklong culminating experience. The trip was coordinated with the help of Cambridge-based Atlas Workshops, an education travel company that builds domestic and international programs designed to connect classroom experiences to the real world through an extensive network of place-based partners, educators, and organizations. For Shore’s trip, Atlas helped curate an itinerary that linked the ninth graders’ justice-focused curriculum to pressing global issues.

“Of course, the trip was meant to be a celebration of the students’ nine or ten years at the school,” says Head of Upper School Gustavo Carrera. “The students went to the beach and spent time with each other shopping and dining out—it was an opportunity to have fun. But at the same time, it allowed them to engage in learning around the central theme in their curriculum.”

Throughout the year, ninth graders studied the concept of justice, from the Greek philosophers to the present. In their English and history classrooms, they explored ideas of ethical justice, racial justice, environmental justice, and more. San Diego brought these ideas to life by inviting the students to consider one of the most salient issues of our time—mass migration.

“The global phenomenon of mass migration, which is felt most acutely in the U.S. in the Southwest, is a major political issue around the world,” explains Carrera. “In San Diego, Grade 9 students were able to explore this issue from a variety of perspectives. They talked to local pro-immigrant activists, they met people who are working with traumatized immigrants, they worked with artists, and they also had the opportunity to engage with the United States Border Patrol. There was no single answer provided to the students about this issue; instead they witnessed the true complexity of American life in the Southwest.”

According to ninth grader Mai Do, “The local experts and activists we met offered a different perspective on the border. Something new I learned was that the whole border, from Texas to California, is not the same. Most of it is the Trump border, some is the first built border, and the whole stretch of the border is not a wall; parts of it have no wall.”

Drew Mullaney said, “I was surprised when I learned what the border did to the communities on either side—splitting up families, kids and parents, tribes, schools, and students.”

In addition to learning about the implications of the border infrastructure, the desert, and the wall itself, the students spent time learning about the culture and history of the region by visiting Mission Alcala—the site of the first Franciscan mission in the region when it was a province of Spain—and Chicano Park—home to the largest concentration of Chicano murals in the world and situated within a predominantly Mexican-migrant community.

They also traveled to Calexico, a small town directly connected to a larger city across the border, Mexicali, and visited the Imperial Valley Museum in nearby El Centro. They learned about the importance of the region’s agriculture, and discovered what life is like in this key border crossing point. Local groups and representatives as well as artists and nonprofits shared their knowledge with the students.

“We tend to think that global learning is about going to far-flung places,” says Gustavo Carrera, “but oftentimes going to far-flung places doesn’t change anything—you may see a different environment around you, but you are not truly transported. Going just a few miles can create more challenge, culturally and intellectually, than traveling halfway around the world. San Diego did that for our students. It allowed them to challenge themselves to see the different realities of our country in a safe and curated manner. It provided that valuable discomfort that comes from finding oneself in a truly new cultural context.”

Shane Cardarelli confirmed this view. “I didn’t know it prior to the trip, but my perspective on the border wall was filled with blind spots, blind spots I would have never known I had, had I not ventured to California. We learned so much about the border through experience, and talking to people entrenched in the situation surrounding it. I learned just how pointless the wall was, just how insensible and destructive its creation was. One has to wonder, why build it in the first place?”

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