28, 2001 was the last day of this cycle of our citizenship class. Instead
of having a party in the classroom, we went to visit the Freedom Trail.
As usual, most of them are over 65, but they were as excited as children.
Here is what we did for the trip. We started at Boston Common. I told them
the history of it, like how and when this land became a "common land",
and what "Boston Common" had witnessed in American history. I
pointed to the building with the golden dome, and asked them what do they
know of this building. I was amazed to hear that Chinese immigrants call
it "Boston's White House."
We visited Park Street Church next. My students would never go to knock the door of a foreign church. I encouraged them to do so. Mr. Feng volunteered to try. A young man opened the door for him. To our great surprise, this young man saw us and started to speak standard Chinese! Big laughter burst from my students. He told us about the church's history, and also invited the students to come to study English there. Everyone got a schedule of the class and talked enthusiastically about their next study plan.
I didn't lead them straightly into the Park Street Churchyard because, in general, a burying ground is not a place that people would like to visit for fun. For those who are superstitious, visiting a burying ground might have some bad impact on their life. I had to be cautious. So we stopped outside the gate. I told them that three of the signers on the Declaration of Independence rest here. They know this part of American history well. They respect people who fought for liberty and independence. As they saw many tourists coming in and out of the gate, they followed them. Once inside, they looked around for the tombstones of those "heroes", like the first Mayor of Boston, Peter Faneuil, and John Hancock. We also discussed the difference between Chinese and American customs, like how we Chinese choose a burying ground far away from residential area, while in America, especially in Boston, churchyards are in the busy and crowded area. How we Chinese build big tombs above the ground, while here tombs are hardly recognizable if there are not tombstones erected in front of it, etc.
On our way to Faneuil Hall, we stopped by at the Old State House. With the experience of knocking at the door of the Park Street Church still fresh, I encouraged my students to go to pull the door open, telling them that once they pass the interview for naturalization, they will come here for their swearing-in ceremony. Two of them did pull the door open, but they found that two Americans were looking through the glass of the inner door. So they came back telling me that we could not enter, because the two Americans couldn't seem to get in. "There is no reason for the House to be closed at this time. I'd like to try again," I said, went into the front door and pulled open the inner door. "There we go!" The two American tourists followed us in. We all laughed.
We had no problem getting into Faneuil Hall. A guided tour was going on. Unfortunately, my students didn't understand much of it. They could recognize President Washington on the canvas painting. We sat quietly for about ten minutes. Looking around and seeing portraits of great Bostonians, they were inspired. As soon as we came out, they could not wait to share their feelings with each other. They were filled with respect to the great leaders and pride in being new Bostonians.
Before we took the subway train to Harvard Square, I led them through the glass monuments for the holocaust to the Jewish people during World War II. My students couldn't help comparing the destruction to the Nanjing Massacre. They appreciate all the efforts done to keep peace in the world. People all over the world love peace. Our last stop was Harvard Square. There I showed them the horse footprints carved onto the sidewalk bricks. The date April 16,1775 reminded them of "the first shot heard around the world" which started the American Revolutionary War in Lexington. "Who led the Colonial Army to fight against the British Army?" I asked them. "George Washington." "Yes! This was the tree under which George Washington became the general of the Colonial Army more than two hundred years ago," I told them as I pointed the tree well fenced in Cambridge Common. I took pictures for them under the tree and in front of the statue.
Since many of them had never been to Cambridge, I went back with them to see that they found their way home. They kept saying how happy they were to see so many places in Boston, and to learn a lot more than they could from books. Some said that they would visit these places again, since they learned that they could just go right into any of the "museums" from this field trip. Some said they would show their relatives or friends around these places. The motivation for this field trip was to help my students to identify a broader community, which I found very necessary from my past teaching experience. I found it easy to help the Chinese immigrants to identify their community. Within the Chinatown area, many people are well informed about Chinese American issues. But they seldom go to places beyond Chinatown district, or make friends with American people, let alone care about what is going on outside Chinatown. They are isolated and I just want to show them what a broader community they belong to, to show them that there is access for them to get closer to the main stream of American culture . From their response, I think this trip was very successful.
England Literacy Resource Center