Cultural Exchange
First Steps toward Building Bridges of Understanding
Adapted from Bringing Justice Home ~ First Steps towards Community Action
Connie Borab
teaches Humanities at Boston Day & Evening Academy (BDEA).

Students: Exchange between 2 Grade 9 classes, one from BDEA, the other from Hudson High
Partners
Hudson High School
Teens in Print (TiP)
Bank of America of Dudley Square
Dillaway House
Urban League

Classroom Activities
Respond in journals to schoolwide question: How are we alike? How are we different?
Agree to exchange with suburban high school
Explore family, school &/or community cultures
Reflect on how these cultures may shape identity
Compare Hudson & Boston statistics
Prepare to host Hudson students
Reciprocate exchange process
Reflect & create questions about reasons for economic, cultural & racial differences
Plan to continue cultural exchange
Community Activities
Share journal responses with other classes
Identify Hudson High as exchange partner
Begin to correspond with Hudson class
Greet Hudson students
Hold Ice Breaker & engage in dialogues
Break into small groups with student leaders
Lead groups on school & community tour
Share reflections with school & community
Visit Hudson High
Experience student-led dialogues & tours
Write articles for Teens in Print (Boston Globe quarterly, by/for Boston Public High Schoolers)
Teacher Reflections
Preparing for the student visit to BDEA promoted serious and reflective conversation. . . . In answering:What do you expect them to be like? What do you think their expectations of you are?” students identified individual and community beliefs and stereotypes. The day of the visit, our students were transformed into a community that engaged guests in lively conversations and activities. Students from both schools reacted the same: “They were a lot different than I thought they would be”, and “We had more in common than we thought.”. . . When we visited Hudson in May, though they felt welcomed and were grateful for the opportunity to participate in classes, our students were overwhelmed with the state of the art building. They asked: “How are schools funded? Why do they have TV studios, movie theaters, a sport complex, and we don’t even have a regulation gym for basketball games? Is this racial discrimination? Do they get more money because their MCAS scores are better?” . . . We definitely will address these issues during next year’s Cultural Exchange.

Student Reflections
When we first discussed inviting a bunch of white, suburban kids to the ‘hood, I thought you were crazy. . . . I thought they would be stuck up and look down on us. . . . Then you started asking us questions like “What do you think they will be like?” Some of us were afraid to say what we really thought, but you did not judge us. You just wrote it down. Then you asked us, “What will they think you’re like?” We definitely thought they would think we’re gangstas, drug dealers, rappers, and that we come from broken homes. . . . On the day of the visit, we were surprised how much we had in common. . . . The merry go round icebreaker got us laughing right away. . . . It was good that you broke us into small groups and that students led the group. . . . I liked the tour around the neighborhood. I thought they would be all worried about safety and stuff, but they were interested in the diversity and history of the neighborhood. I noticed parts of the neighborhood in a new way (like the Dillaway House) because they were with us. . . . I realized how easy it is to stereotype someone.

TeachNet Service Learning is administered by Boston Public Schools Affiliate IMPACT II @ High School Renewal.
Supporting TeachNet are Special Assistant to the Superintendent for High School Renewal, Kathleen Mullin; IMPACT II Affiliate Director Barbara Locurto; WebMaster Andrew Binns; Web Advisor Linda Younis, High School Renewal; and Project Assistant Jean Gibran. For more information, email blocurto@gmail.com.

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