By Division I Media & Journalism reporter Rhys
After a trimester studying urban equality, Division IV Humanities students finished up the year with an ethnography project based upon lives of people in the Egleston Square community. This was a long-term endeavor where students shadowed someone in the Egleston Square community for four hours over several days. The project included many challenging aspects for everyone in the class. Students exposed themselves to a new community as outsiders.
I spoke about this with senior Max, whose subject was Ana Tavares, the principal at the Rafael Hernandez School. He explained, “People act differently when there's an outsider in the room, and to be that outsider but to have the protection and invitation of the head honcho really made me think about the value of having dedicated, safe spaces for marginalized or oppressed groups.” As for the transition into that community, he told me that “we were sent into a community that isn't reflected in our little Meridian bubble without doing any learning to smooth that transition."
I was also able to talk to Nathan about the project as well. As one of the designers, he had a lot of thoughts about the project, some of which address Max’s points. The project was designed, he explained, explicitly to get students into a community that they would not normally be a part of and to learn about that community from its own members rather than outside sources. Both Catherine and Nathan knew that the project would make students uncomfortable, but Nathan told me that he thought it was an important feeling to experience, since it will happen so many times in every student’s future.
Despite all of these challenges, both students and teachers have had a meaningful experience with this project. While Nathan said he experienced times where the project was extremely challenging, there were just as many times where he was thrilled with it. As Max said, “Of all the projects I did at Meridian, it was definitely the one that prompted the most radical perspective shift.”