8th Grade Chicago Trip 2019

Eighth grade students of Onekama School met up with students from an eighth class from
downtown Chicago, with whom they have been corresponding all school year.

BIG CITY, BIG IMPACT ON ONEKAMA STUDENTS

Onekama Eighth Grade Takes Class Trip to Chicago

 

By Megan McCarthy, Onekama Middle School Teacher

 

            During my fifteen years as a classroom teacher, there have been many rewarding experiences – and near the top of that list is the opportunity I have had to be a part of the Onekama School eighth grade trip to Chicago.

 

            As I write this article, I am sitting on a charter bus as we make our way home to Manistee County, surrounded by the chatter of students and chaperones and my fellow teachers – all of us with hearts and heads (and camera memory cards) overflowing with remembrances of our time together in the Windy City.

 

            More than a sight-seeing tour, this class trip was an opportunity for our students to discover a bit more of the world, meet new friends, and celebrate the culmination of their middle school years.

 

            The trip was educational, with trips to the Museum of Science and Industry, Shedd Aquarium, and an off-Broadway performance of Hamilton. It was experiential, as many students were traveling away from home for the first time, being introduced to new cultural and life experiences. And it was interpersonal; students met and spent quality time with a partner class from Chicago, with whom they have been corresponding since September, and got a chance to connect more deeply with their classmates outside the walls of our school.

 

            It was, finally, a demonstration of an incredible amount of financial generosity. The trip was made possible by donations by sponsors – primarily local and summer residents of the Onekama area – many of whom do not personally know the children of our district.  Twenty-nine individuals made donations to support the students’ fundraising goals. That’s 29 people who believe in our students as much as we do. That’s 29 people who selflessly gave so that this class could have an experience that will leave an impression on them for a lifetime.

 

Additionally, a substantial donation from the Little River Casino Resort provided for a trip highlight: a lunch cruise aboard The Mystic Blue for the students of Onekama’s eighth grade class and their new friends from St. John Berchmans class in Chicago on our final afternoon before we boarded the bus to return to Onekama.

 

Since September, Onekama’s students have been working on developing relationships with students from their partner class. Students communicated first through all-class live videoconferences, in which they introduced themselves and were able to ask and answer questions in real time. Next, each class created a series of videos to show off their school and surrounding community.

 

Onekama students shocked their Chicago partners when a student explained that our village has no stoplight, and when a male student described his daily farm chores, and most especially when a female Onekama student nonchalantly described the process of gutting a deer. Similarly, our students were caught by surprise at the ways that their partners’ environments differed from their own. They expressed envy at the Chicago school’s proximity to Starbucks and multiple shopping malls, and they expressed disbelief at discovering that many of their Chicago partners did not have the freedom to roam the way they do, for fear of crime and violence.

 

After our group interactions via video, Skype, and Padlet (an online private bulletin board shared between classes and monitored by teachers), each Onekama student was matched with a Chicago partner so that they could correspond via email. In total, 268 messages were exchanged between students!

 

During these conversations, students quickly discovered that they had more commonalities than differences. Topics ranged from music to television series and sports accomplishments, to more serious subjects, including divorced parents and concerns about the future. They found out that despite differences in geography and background, the shared experience of navigating the tricky waters of being a teenager in 2019 united them.

 

As students said goodbye today to their partners after our lunch cruise, I watched them exchange hugs and fist bumps and social media handles. I am confident that some of these friendships will continue past this weekend.

 

And I am certain that the experiences gained during our short time in the Windy City have left a permanent impression on our students. I am grateful that this group of clever, joyous, interesting teenagers allowed me to come along for the ride.

Abbey Pruyne and Carly Bennett pose for a photo under 
the marquee before attending Hamilton at the CIBC 
Theater in Chicago.
 Onekama teachers Michele Warman and Megan McCarthy worked with Chicago teachers Christina Copre and Carolyn Begley to coordinate the student partnership
Comments