Florence: An Inspiring Destination for an MFL Educational Visit

Ancient streets paved with history, and lined with stylish shops flaunting the latest cutting-edge chic: Florence is a delight for any visitor, and has just the right mix of old-world magic and cosmopolitan modernity to keep students inspired. For an educational visit, Florence, with its fascinating political and artistic heritage, will appeal to trip organisers from many curriculum subjects, not least MFL teachers. Where better for students to push the limits of their Italian language skills (and understanding of Italian society) than this culturally rich and vibrant city? Here are just some of the ways that Florence can provide a first-class MFL learning experience.

Shopping

Your students will have learned basic shopping and currency vocabulary – perhaps they have role-played conversations in the classroom – and an educational visit to Florence offers the chance to consolidate these skills. Florence is justifiably famous for its shopping opportunities, which range from high-end fashion boutiques, to old-style stationers selling quills and leather-bound notebooks, to the sprawling Mercato Centrale San Lorenzo with its cheeses, cured meats, olives, and other Tuscan treats. Encouraging your students to try as many different types of shopping experiences as possible can boost their language confidence. They will build up a layered knowledge of how commerce forms part of the life of a modern Italian city.

Culture

One of Florence’s most enduringly popular attractions is The Uffizi gallery. It is home to artworks by many of Europe’s greatest masters: Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Botticelli, Titan and more. Touring the gallery on an educational visit provides students a chance to practise talking about art in Italian, and offers wider curriculum links for students of Art or Art History. Another popular attraction in the city is the Fountain of Neptune, outside the Palazzo Vecchio. Sculptor Bartolomeo Ammannati was commissioned by the Medici family to create this imposing artwork – making it an ideal place to discuss the interplay of art and politics in Italian history. The Palazzo itself also presents an excellent starting point for conversations about history and politics of the region.

Food

Some are drawn to the art and architecture, others to the scenery, others still to the shopping – but one of the most consistent reasons visitors love Italy is the food! On an educational visit, however, food is more than nourishment: it can be a great learning opportunity for students. From its top restaurants to its caf├ęs and gelato stalls, Florence is one of the finest places to enjoy Italian cuisine, and reading the menus and ordering in Italian will help students to put their vocabulary into practice. For a truly immersive experience, trip leaders can encourage their groups to keep the dinner table conversation strictly Italian; so whether they are comparing notes on the day, looking ahead to tomorrow or simply chatting, they will be cementing their position as accomplished speakers of Italian.

Seattle Fashionista – A Profile in Online Education

Kristin Connell keeps pretty busy these days. As the manager for Shoefly, an upscale Seattle shoe boutique, she spends between forty and fifty hours a week in the shop–that is, when she’s not planning special events or jetting off to Los Angeles for a week of meetings with wholesalers.

While she values her professional experience, Kristin also knows the importance of a solid education. In order to advance her career in the world of fashion, she’s pursuing a bachelor’s degree in fashion design. As many working students know, making a school schedule dovetail with professional responsibilities can be tough. For Kristin, the solution includes participation in online coursework. I sat down with her in her Capitol Hill apartment to get the 411 on her online fashion design class.

Mr. Smith: Your fashion design program includes both online coursework and classroom work, so you have the best of both worlds. What are you currently studying?

KC: I’m taking a few courses, but the online course is fashion sketching.

Mr. Smith: Which involves what?

KC: It’s the start of creating a piece or line of attire. You develop a basic visual concept–a sketch–for a piece of clothing. From there you can draft patterns and actually create the piece.

Mr. Smith: Could you describe your online interface?

KC: It’s basically an all-in-one website. There’s a place for you to get assignments, a place for class discussions, a link to lectures and research materials, and the grade book, which is where you can check your grades after you turn in a new assignment. That part’s helpful, because you can monitor your progress daily.

Mr. Smith: How often does the material update?

KC: Well, the syllabus pre-established at the beginning of the quarter. But the teacher can post assignments as often as he likes. The discussion boards are constantly updating, throughout the duration of the class.

Mr. Smith: Could you describe a week of coursework?

KC: The lesson plan follows the textbook, so we do a chapter each week. The teacher posts a reading assignment, discussion questions, and homework. We use Adobe Illustrator to design fashion sketches, and turn it in as an email attachment when we’re done.

Mr. Smith: How would you compare your online class to a traditional brick-and-mortar classroom?

KC: It’s actually more strenuous. It’s not like a normal class, where just showing up gets you a participation grade. The onus is on you to participate heavily. For example, with the class discussion board, you have to post often and your posts have to be insightful. I got nabbed on that a couple of times.

Mr. Smith: And compared to traditional classroom, how much classmate interaction is there?

KC: Well, of course you don’t get face time, but you have about as much interaction. It was a requirement for us. With the discussion boards, each student has to respond to the teacher’s question, and then to at least two classmates per posting to receive credit.

Mr. Smith: What’s your favorite thing about your online coursework?

KC: Well, while you do have deadlines, you can still work at your own pace. Even though we had weekly deadlines, I was able to turn in my work on the first day of the week.

Mr. Smith: How about your least favorite thing?

KC: To be honest, I wasn’t a big fan of my professor, but that really didn’t have anything to do with the online format of the class.

In addition to her online coursework, Kristin also attends a four-hour pattern-drafting course each week (the brick and mortar being necessary for hands-on participation). While her schedule is tight, she remains determined: “I work as hard as I do because I know it’s worth it,” she says. “I think it’s important to have goals and to make a point of pursuing them.”

Well spoken, I think. After all, if–as Thomas Paine once observed, “What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly,” then busy professionals can look to Kristin and others like her, for a model. After all, Kristin and her fellow students may be determined, but they aren’t all that unusual. As far busy professionals who moonlight as students go, Kristin’s really a textbook example.

Popular Educational Tours – Five Must-See Cities For Students

There is a picture in a maroon binder somewhere in the world of me standing with a friend in Colombia, South America. I am barely standing in my own strength, being so consumed by my own dramatic feelings of teenage homesickness. I had rarely endured 500-mile youth group trips until then, and here I stood across the ocean and several degrees closer to the equator from everything I had ever known. By the end of that photo album, I’m a new person. I have learned to love a culture so different from my own. I care about another language. I have friends here, I’ve learned to cross the street bravely and audaciously in the city of Ibague, and I never slam the door of a cab – the drivers really hate that. I have learned more than I could have known I wanted to. Travel is loaded with discovery, and students – in school and of life – should do it as often as possible. The experience I describe above was out of the country, but there are so many treasures for learning right here in the United States. These are five of the most popular destinations for educational tours in the United States.

Philadelphia

This is an obvious one. Our nation’s first capital and the site for the Second Continental Congress who famously signed the Declaration of Independence during the American Revolution is also the resting place for Benjamin Franklin and the memorial home of Betsy Ross. Benjamin Franklin was crucial in the industrialization and improvement of Philadelphia. His biographer, Carl Van Doren, said of Franklin’s burial, “No other town burying its great man, ever buried more of itself than Philadelphia with Franklin.”

Other historical attractions in Philadelphia include the famous Liberty Bell, Valley Forge National Park, and Old City Hall. But don’t only visit Philadelphia for the history. This city, which is currently the sixth most populated in the United States, is every bit the modern metropolis. It is home to Adventure Aquarium as well as of course the birth place for the Philly Cheese Steak sandwich. Don’t forget to watch National Treasure before you go to both inspire you for some of the historical attractions you will see and to remind you how engaging history can be. And don’t miss the Philadelphia Museum of Art where art, history and pop culture converge as your students will no doubt want to attempt the famous run up the steps first immortalized by the fiction hero, Rocky.

Boston

Very similar to Philadelphia in historical significance, Boston, Massachusetts, is also rich with American foundations. Here you can visit Paul Revere’s house, the Museum of Fine Arts, Museum of Science, or the Children’s Museum. You can walk the Freedom Trail, a tour of Colonial and Revolutionary Boston and the famous sites related to America’s fight for freedom. In the Faneuil Hall Marketplace you’ll find eateries, boutiques, and street vendors crowded with Boston culture. And if you need a quieter tour, consider the traditional swan boats in the public garden lagoon. Boston is nestled in the heart of America’s first colonies and serves as an excellent destination for student groups.

Washington D.C.

Don’t forget our country’s current capital, not that anyone would. Washington D.C. is arguably one of the most visited destinations in the country. Capitol Hill, the Lincoln Memorial, and all kinds of museums of art and science make up this classic American focal point. Arlington National Cemetery is one of the greatest places to visit in Washington D.C., and student groups will never forget the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and its traditional changing of the guard, which occurs every half hour in warm months and every hour in winter.

Most visitors will not feel their D.C. tour is complete of course without visiting the White House itself. In an election year, student tours can be planned for the following year’s grand inauguration. What a memory for any student to be there for the swearing in of their new president! But a trip to our capital city in any year will certainly awaken in anyone an appreciation for our government and the branches that work together to uphold it.

New York City

New York City holds ready-made thrills for almost any young person in America. Art, history, culture, science, and commerce all make New York City a prominent hub of activity. The Metropolitan Museum of Art can take two days to fully appreciate. The Statue of Liberty and Empire State Building are famous symbols of American culture, although Top of the Rock – at the top of Rockefeller Center offers a more interactive journey and beautiful view of the city. Time Square has become a more modern symbol of the various aspects of New York City culture, and Broadway is of course famous for live shows and theater certain to dazzle any New York visitor.

Like the other cities, New York City of course offers various tours already designed for you in order to help navigate this overwhelming metropolis. Circle Line Tours does it in a boat ride, Central Park offers one based on popular movies, and the city offers several other walking tours as well.

Orlando

Walt Disney was passionate about “general mass education” and he loved to accomplish the goal through his fantasy worlds designed as showcases for technical innovation, cultural diversity, and sheer arts and entertainment. The parks in this city are more than tributes to popular cartoon characters. They are rich with sights and sounds and service that will thrill students and adults alike. Don’t expect to only learn in Epcot Center, famous for its tribute to science and innovation. There is something to discover in all of Disney’s theme parks. In this generation, the mere inspiration behind an entertainment giant of such magnitude can shape the hearts and minds of tomorrow’s leaders in arts and science.

I will never think of Disney World again without thinking of Randy Pausch, the professor and scientist whose dreams as a child came true when he was offered the chance to be a Disney imagineer. Today, Pausch’s lessons from that reality have been included in one of the most inspirational lectures and books of our time about the value of our dreams and the effort it takes to achieve them. Orlando is rich with this kind of inspiration – the kind people discover on their own when you just give them the chance to imagine what could be.

The choices for amazing student tours are really endless, but these are five of the most popular cities for any student group. There is a world for them to see and discover and so many things for them to invent and create. These cities can open the door at least for their inspiration.