Learning About What Unites and Divides Us in the Windy City

Real World Problem: In this age of globalization, cultural divisions and a fear-based mentality continue to affect social interactions and ideas of acceptance.

Guiding Questions:
– How do human traits and characteristics influence humans social interactions?
– How have perceived differences between humans influenced social interactions?
– What are the genetic foundations for similarities and differences?

Learning Targets:
– I can explain how molecules in a gene produce phenotypes we can see.
– I can articulate why human interactions are dynamic.
– I can debate nature vs. nurture, and what characteristics may stem from each

Our group of HS students had an immense goal when they set out to study Unity and Division, and the students far exceeded what we thought we could cover. After 10 days in Chicago, students walked away with a better understanding of power, privilege, and identity, and what an individual can do to make the world a little bit better.

The trip kicked off with a lesson on gerrymandering, as the midterm elections were happening. Students simulated districts by voting for who should get the donuts for breakfast. Next they explored some neighborhoods by walking The 606; a restored L-track turned walking trail. The following morning the crew analyzed voting results in the local newspapers and went downtown to observe the city post-elections. Each car group was given a star from the Chicago flag to study and went to different locations to observe what their star represented. These days offered a great way to get a sense of place!

One of the highlights of the trip was shadowing students at Amos Alonzo Stagg High School. Their Voice of Witness class partnered up with our students to share their stories and hear about others’ lives. Students shared the vast differences of the school but recognized the Stagg students had far more in common with us than they thought.

the front of soldier field stadium
students on a sculpture of a boat anchor
students behind a picture frame sculpture

"It was truly a pleasure to have such an engaged and kind group of students take time to visit our preschoolers and seniors." -Casa Central

Students also participated in a 5K run along the beautiful shore of Lake Michigan; a run which benefited veterans. They received a personal tour from Chicago natives, learned about genetics from the Museum of Science and Industry, and, volunteered at Casa Central. Students interviewed Malak, an Egyptian student currently studying at the University of Chicago, about her experiences being in Egypt and Chicago. Finally, their capstone interview was with Ja’Mal Green, a current mayoral candidate with an inspiring passion for making positive change in our world. Their entire discussion was live-streamed by Ja’Mal’s team – check it out!

the high school class has their picture taken

"I could not stop smiling the whole walk home and just cannot get over how incredible your students are." -Malak Arafa (Egyptian University of Chicago Student)

Students were also given “electives” for the trip. Small groups were sent to programs happening around the city. These small group experiences allowed for more intimate conversations to occur, regardless of the activity. Highlights included: Chicago Young Authors Poetry nights, Emcee Wreckshop on writing raps, Tonika Johnson’s Folded Map Project, Women Speak, and Imagine Armistice.

Finally, students ended the trip mapping out their entire visit on a Chicago neighborhoods map. Student experiences were supported with an academic workbook, where they read “A Case for Reparations,” articles on the role of Chicago in World War I, and poetry from various local poets.

Students truly brought the trip to the next level with their engaged and insightful questions, thorough debriefing, and amazing synthesis of readings and experiences. Even our experts noticed how awesome our kids are. We could not be more proud of what they did in the field.

the high school class in front of a sculpture
the highschoolers insite soldier field stadium
students studying at a desk
a painting inside of a church