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Exploring Cambridge

Exploring Cambridge
Posted on 11/21/2016
Exploring CambridgeOn October 19th, over 60 staff members from the Morse School participated in a first-of-its-kind learning expedition called Exploring Cambridge. Educators spent the afternoon walking in tour groups to learn about the Cambridgeport neighborhood, which surrounds the Morse School. Exploring Cambridge is an initiative which was developed by and for educators in the Cambridge Public Schools. Each “walk about” was designed to take about an hour, led by members of the local community. The weather could not have been more perfect for Morse’s first endeavor at this school-wide project.

Before venturing outside, staff gathered in the lobby facing the school’s beautiful, silkscreened mural, where Principal Pat Beggy gave a brief history and overview. Painted by Japanese artist Tomie Arai, the mural contains symbols and imagery that speak to the school’s multicultural history and unique position along the Charles River. Staff listened as Ms. Beggy shared some of the rich history of the Morse School, including some of Cambridge’s firsts; Morse was the first elementary school in Cambridge to have electricity, and one of the first schools in the district to have a female principal. The staff also looked at demographic data from the Cambridgeport community, and watched informational videos about the school’s namesake, Asa P. Morse, and the history for building 808 Memorial Drive.

Exploring CambridgeEach walking tour was designed to explore a different corner of Cambridgeport. The goal was for teachers and staff to connect directly with the people, places and things that are important to Cambridge students and families. Along their path, teachers were encouraged to notice what kinds of dwellings, public transit, shopping centers, parks and playgrounds they came across. Cathie Zusy, president of the Cambridgeport Neighborhood Association, led a tour to the “Beat the Belt” mural behind the Micro Center, with a final destination at Magazine Beach. Valentino Robinson, Director of Community Affairs at Cambridge Community Center, led a tour to check out the new King School playground, and the Cambridge Community Center. School Safety Officer Ozzie Ortiz led a tour to Dana Park and Hoyt Field. Deacon Sarris Blunt and Reverend Jeremy D. Battle met a tour at the Western Avenue Baptist Church, sharing about the mission of their congregation to serve families and partner with the local community. Other stops along the six different tours included the Trader Joe’s mural painted by Cambridge artist David Fitcher, 808 Memorial Drive, Woodrow Wilson Court and Old Morse Park.

After the engaging learning experience, staff reconvened in the Morse library, joined by Superintendent Salim, Chief Planning Officer Lori Likis, and Program Manager for Educator Development, Chris Colbath Hess. Teachers and staff reflected about what they learned, and the impact of participating in this experience. One teacher who commutes to Cambridge from a town about 30 minutes away remarked how her tour had deepened her understanding of both the local area, as well as Cambridge as a whole. Ms. Likis and Assistant Principal Samantha Headley shared how this work aligns with the overarching goal of the district: developing teacher capacity for cultural competence and culturally relevant instruction.

Exploring Cambridge was the collaborative effort of district and school-based educator teams. Fletcher Maynard Academy and the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. School also participated in neighborhood tours. The Morse staff has new a Cultural Proficiency team, and they plan to continue this work by developing a new set of tours to explore different neighborhoods of Cambridge in the Spring.