Your Impact: Fall Fieldwork Flashback
A key priority of The Campaign for SYA was curricular innovation. One component of SYA’s curriculum that we have developed and implemented in recent years — fieldwork — helps SYA take advantage of our unique locations to create a quality intercultural, place-based and experiential educational environment abroad. Importantly, fieldwork assignments intentionally send our students out of the classroom and comfort zone and into the local community. These activities challenge students to learn to navigate the city, appreciate the ecology of the region, interact with locals in meaningful ways, and discover interesting places and landmarks they may not have encountered otherwise.
Fieldwork happens on a weekly basis throughout the year, starting locally and with minimal teacher support. As the year progresses, students have more independence and geographic range to complete their tasks. The goal is for students to feel confident and at home within their communities abroad.
Below are three of our favorite fieldwork activities from the fall semester.
SYA Italy students in Viterbo walked to a nearby vineyard and harvested grapes to make wine for Applied Agroecology class. Even though not every student takes that course, all are involved in the harvesting by hand as has been the tradition in the region for hundreds of years. As part of SYA’s mission to do place-based, experiential activities, this one is as hands-on as it can get. Students need to pick, crush and destem the grapes in the field. Later, crushed grapes are brought to the “cantina” where the science experiment takes place: first they measure the sugar levels of the solution using a refractometer; then, students create a control into which nothing is added (the old-fashioned way of making wine) and then the experimental batch is made by adding sulfites as disinfectant, yeast and yeast nutrient. There are other processes along the way that students do, finishing with a performance assessment making 50ml of either cider or mead in the laboratory, which is underway now.
This year, SYA France students received a special invitation to spend Thanksgiving at one of the most prestigious culinary schools, le lycée hôtelier de Dinard, a vocational high school on the north coast of Bretagne. The French students prepared Thanksgiving trivia games that they played with SYA France students, and they also showed them how to create holiday-themed centerpieces and dress long, family-style dinner tables. The young French "cuisiniers" then served a Thanksgiving lunch of turkey, corn, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing and cranberry sauce, and joined their new SYA France friends in the partaking and festivity.
In the spirit of giving back, SYA students presented where they came from, the culture and traditions of Thanksgiving in their homes, what American high school is like and why they chose to come to France. They also invited the French students to Rennes to visit in March.
Zaragoza is a city with an ideal size and population for studying the different social realities that exist amongst its inhabitants. To help ensure students moved beyond the gaze of the tourist and gained a deeper and more complex perception of the reality of the city, they were asked to explore new areas of the city. In doing so, they learned about the stereotypes that exist about certain neighborhoods and their inhabitants and then contrasted those stereotypes with the reality they encountered during their visits. They were asked to consider questions such as: To what extent do the characteristics of the neighborhood influence the people who live in it? What makes the neighborhood I am studying different from another? Who am I in Zaragoza? Am I a tourist? If I am not, what status do I have during the time I am here? Students learned through their own observations as well as from the presentations of their peers.
“I really enjoyed exploring the neighborhood and civic center. Physically exploring new places is one of my favorite things about the class.”
“I especially liked going to the other neighborhoods because it let me get to know other neighborhoods rather than just knowing where I live.”