Nine Moses Brown teachers spent their 2013 spring break touring historic and religious sites in Israel and the West Bank, hoping to gain a deeper understanding of the peace process and conflict resolution. The trip was made possible through a five-year grant from the E.E. Ford Foundation, in support of interdisciplinary team travel for teachers. The teachers – who represent all grade levels at Moses Brown – met with organizations involved in the peace process and spent time visiting a Quaker school.
· Did you gain any new thoughts on conflict resolution and/or on working with people with views different from your own? More specifically, did you take away any new ideas on ways to help students with these concepts?
Simone Ahlborn (lower school teacher): I noticed that there was a generational quality to the attitudes many people seemed to hold toward the feasibility of conflict resolution and true social change toward a more peaceful society. I met several young, idealistic educators at Ramallah Friends school and at the refugee camps and rehabilitation centers that we visited who were optimistic about concrete steps they were taking to improve conditions. Older people, including our guide, seemed more focused on educating about the dire nature of the situation and ways in which it continues to change for the worse.
I will try to use some of what I learned to create new learning experiences for our lower school students in diversity workshops and have already been able to make some connections to my Spanish teaching through the shared Mediterranean climate: for instance, yesterday, the second graders were hearing a story that featured a beverage made from tamarind and I was able to share with them that ReAnna and I had drunk it in Israel, and what is the plant that it comes from/how it is prepared. I also was able to give some support to some young American teachers at Ramallah friends who are there teaching English in Kindergarten and second grade and who wanted my help in editing student work and on topics of classroom management. Because I have a connection to these young women now, I am hopeful that we might be able to create opportunities for our students to communicate with one another in the future.
· Was there a specific person, place, organization or anecdote that provided inspiration?
SA: I loved learning about the freedom theater in the jenin refugee camp. They have created Arts programming to help Palestinian youth cope with stress and grieving as well as publicizing the plight of the Palestinian people with their touring productions-a very interesting model of arts as activism and therapy, both at once.
We also had a nice moment our second night at the Sisters of Nazareth convent—we were the only guests there that night and the nuns invited us into their kitchen, where they were having their supper and they had a small television set on which we joined them in watching the selection of the new Pope.
One day we hiked through the canyon from the monastery where St.George is buried to Jericho. We had a guide who introduced us to some of the geology and plant and animal life of the region and the views were stunning on the approach to the Dead Sea.
· How did traveling with an inter-disciplinary team make a difference? Was this trip different from other professional development opportunities? If it was, how will MB students benefit? Are there any plans to combine any grades or courses in projects next year?
SA: I greatly enjoyed getting to know a cross section of like-minded colleagues better than I am normally able to do in my workplace. Opportunities for meaningful connection with people who work in other divisions require considerable effort to establish and maintain.
I feel the group possessed admirable resilience and stamina, as well as commendable flexibility and genuine eagerness for new experiences.
· What was the most remarkable experience of this trip for you?
SA: I really enjoyed staying with my hosts from the faculty at Ramallah Friends. One of them was a Paestinian-American woman who’s Grandmother and other family members have always lived in Ramallah. She took some of us to meet her grandmother and to visit the traditional market where she lead us to buy olive oil from the women who press it themselves from the trees in their yards. She co-directs a summer camp run by Ramallah Friends for Palestinian Diaspora and Quaker teens, that combines culture study with community service. I was able to connect her with our guide, so that he can provide some service sites for campers through his tour connections, and I hope to be able to refer some area students who might be interested in the travel experience of attending the camp.