By Eric Erickson
Thirty-one students from Justin Mann’s social studies classes at Como Park Senior High School spent five days experiencing Manhattan’s culture, arts and history, while interacting with the diversity of the city’s neighborhoods.
Mann’s New York City odyssey was years in the making. After encouraging participation and partnering with EF Education Tours, he emerged with an excited, willing and able group from Como. Accompanied by six other adult chaperones, they returned to St. Paul on July 1 with memories made and stories to share.
After flying into Newark, New Jersey, Como’s explorers took a chartered bus through the Lincoln Tunnel and into Midtown Manhattan for an Italian dinner, before a 100-story elevator ride up to “The Edge.” The newest observation deck in the city provided a stunning overview and countless photo opportunities.
The second day of the trip started with a ferry ride to the Statue of Liberty, followed by another ferry to Ellis Island and lessons about European immigration.
Levi Kallhoff studied AP Human Geography with Mann this past year. He said he appreciated the exhibit on the perimeter of Ellis Island displaying the names of every immigrant processed there.
“Looking at the names was impactful,” Kallhoff said. “It was cool to see how many there were, as well as the many different ethnic backgrounds.”
Following a visit to Ellis Island, the group walked through Battery Park towards the Sept. 11 Memorial. A visit into the Sept. 11 Museum was a somber reminder about the event that shaped U.S. foreign policy at the onset of the 21st century (before the students were born.)
The rest of Day two included a subway ride up to Times Square, where each chaperone led a small group through the mass of humanity to a dinner spot while also soaking up the people watching.
The small groups worked well during the third day as well, with walking tours of Chinatown, Little Italy and a jaunt through vendors on Canal Street. The afternoon highlight was a visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The evening concluded with a Broadway show.
Not knowing what to expect, the students were blown away by the production of “MJ: The Musical.” The music of Michael Jackson came to life through an upbeat and thoroughly entertaining show that has garnered four Tony Awards.
The fourth day began with a tour of Madison Square Garden, “the world’s most famous arena.” Then the bus delivered the group to the Apollo Theater in Harlem. The small groups set out on walking tours of the historically African-American neighborhood that has influenced culture around the world.
A bus back downtown dropped the group off in Greenwich Village at Washington Square Park. They ate dinner at the Gotham Market Food Hall before settling in for a night of hotel relaxation.
The final day’s activities included the American Museum of Natural History, a walk through Central Park and later a journey up onto the Brooklyn Bridge before boarding a late flight back to St. Paul.
“The New York experience was very enjoyable because we did so much in those five days,” said Denzel Schuna, a rising senior. “The chaperones put their time and effort into making the trip memorable for everyone.”
The city revealed itself as Mann imagined it would, opening minds and expanding the worldview of his students.
“Experience has taught me that travel best rewards discovery and learning,” Mann said. “I feel it was important to take the students to New York so they could step outside the classroom collectively and experience the wonder of a megalopolis firsthand.”
Eric Erickson teaches social studies at Como Park Senior High School and is a regular Bugle freelancer.