One of the highlights of the Dunman High School Bicultural Studies Programme (BSP) is the learning journey to the United States. On 26 Nov 2012, 23 BSP scholars, led by Ms Ching Pey Suan and Mr Lester Lim, embarked on this learning journey covering four major cities, namely, Washington, Philadelphia, Boston and New York City. The programme was filled with exciting highlights and places of interest encompassing politics, history, education, culture, entertainment and the arts.
The aim of this learning journey was to afford these students an opportunity to gain exposure to American politics, culture, education systems, and lifestyles by visiting important places of interest as well as attending workshops and guided tours by Americans from all walks of life. In doing so, they would also be able to draw comparisons between their experiences in China and Taiwan and their experience in the United States.
Some of the highlights of the trip include the visit to the Capitol where students had the rare opportunity to see both the Senate and House of Representatives in session, and also embark on a fascinating guided tour of the magnificent 19th century neoclassical architecture that characterises both the interior and exterior of the Capitol and the Library of Congress. The visit to the Pentagon brought about a better awareness of the defence policy of the United States and an insight into why many Americans would willingly sign up to join the armed forces.
The students also had the chance to learn more about Singapore’s role and position on the international stage through the highly-interactive dialogue sessions with Mr Ervin Yeo (First Secretary) at the Singapore Embassy in Washington and with Mr Mark Neo (Deputy Permanent Representative) at the Singapore Mission to the United Nations.
Furthermore, the trip was sprinkled with visits to many highly-acclaimed museums, such as the high-tech and interactive Newseum, which chronicles the history of news reporting from the 16thcentury to the present, and the Holocaust Memorial Museum, which provided an emotionally-charged and eye-opening encounter with the brutalities of war. The visit to the John F Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum was particularly useful as what students had learnt from the history textbooks become live before them in the form of exclusive footages of interviews, political debates, accounts and photographs from the JFK Presidential Library collection. The visits to the Ground Zero Museum and workshop and the 9/11 Gallery and memorial demonstrated the importance of remembrance and honoring the dead.
In addition to the visits to the various museums, students also gained a more intimate knowledge of the history of the United States through the highly-informative Constitutional Walk at Philadelphia, the Freedom Trail at Boston which had a guide masquerading as a person from history, and the visit to the Arlington Cemetery, where they had the chance to witness the solemn 21-step changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, as well as gain new knowledge of the Vietnam War, the Korean War and the lives of the Kennedys from the useful commentaries from the local guide.
Many students attested to how the visits to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University were very helpful, as they gained a better understanding of the liberal arts programme in the United States and information that would help them make more informed decisions related to their future career or educational path. The sharing sessions with students from the DHS alumni doing either undergrad or post-graduate studies at these universities were fruitful, as the scholars could clarify their doubts about university courses, coping well with studies and other issues.
The trip also included visits to two famed art museums: the National Gallery of Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Through the guided tours and time on their own at these museums, students acquired a finer appreciation of different periods of Art history and what is distinct of each period, for example the Renaissance and Impressionism, as well as the more abstract contemporary art. Students also observed how the architecture and layout are so important in creating a conducive and enjoyable experience at these museums.
There were also opportunities for fun and leisure. Students thoroughly enjoyed the riveting Broadway performance, War Horse, at the glamorous Lincoln Center Theatre. This musical takes audience through World War I via the life of a horse and its owner. The students also visited the famous Central Park, Times Square, Bryant Park and went on a cruise around Liberty Island and Ellis Island.
Nightly debriefing sessions were conducted by the teachers to help consolidate and crystallise the students’ learning for the day and to ask any questions to further clarify and enhance their understanding of the subject matter. These sessions were vigorous and students got to hone their ability to articulate ideas as well as respond to the viewpoints of other students.
All in all, the trip had enabled the students to think more critically about various political, social, cultural and historical issues concerning the United States and also adopt a more careful consideration of the world’s happenings from both the perspectives of the West and the Asian countries. Through the various activities, guided tours and visits, the students gained an invaluable learning experience which many have benefitted from as evident from what the students shared at the final debrief session. This will definitely be a trip these students remember for life.