History of the Long Trip
Creating ‘Contacts More Real’: Lucy Sprague Mitchell’s Long Trips
When speaking to a group of teacher educators, Lucy Sprague Mitchell (1941) posed two questions: “What can we do to enlarge the groups to which student teachers belong?” and “What can we do to enlarge the groups to which their future school children will belong?” She believed the Long Trip offered an opportunity to move beyond “merely knowing about” people to actually “knowing them.”
In essence, the Long Trip grew from the aims and curriculum of the Bank Street teacher education program, with its focus on the total development of the teacher as well as the child. Based on Deweyan beliefs in education through experience and the social-political aims of education, the Long Trip reflected what Lucy Sprague Mitchell believed was important for teachers: studying children and the world in which children grew—as it was and as it might be.
So each spring, from 1935-1951, excluding the years of World War II when the trips were suspended, Mitchell led the entire class of approximately twenty-five to thirty-five student teachers, all traveling together by bus over a thousand miles, to areas of the country dramatically different from New York City. These week to ten-day trips placed the student teachers in a position to confront directly social and political issues of their day—the labor movement, poverty, conservation, government intervention programs, race relations—all the while considering the lives of children and their families, and the educational implications of what they experienced.
Mitchell (1946) was convinced that “learning that comes from first-hand experience has a smiting quality…” With the optimism characteristic of the progressives, she believed that empathy, caring, and commitment would grow from seeing the world from another’s eye. With the hindsight of over half a century, across years of work and family life, many of the students who attended the Long Trips have confirmed her belief.
– Written by faculty member Sal Vascellaro, GSE ’75
2009: New Orleans, Louisiana
We learned about the social, racial, and environmental injustices in New Orleans and the devastating impact of Hurricane Katrina on the African American, Huoma, and Vietnamese communities. We experienced outrage over the juvenile justice abuses but were inspired by the advocacy work of the Juvenile Justice Project to challenge the legal system. At Cafe Reconcile, a non-profit group doing good work for poor citizens, we enjoyed a special lunch prepared by disadvantaged African American youth. During this trip, we were thrilled to meet so many community activists focused on changing unfair systems and rebuilding communities. We previewed a film on rebuilding New Orleans, which sadly showed the deliberate bureaucratic barriers facing poor communities. We also previewed a film on rebuilding New Orleans, which sadly showed the deliberate bureaucratic barriers facing poor communities. However, two universities played important roles in the rebuilding efforts and we had the opportunity to listen to Dillard University faculty about the amazing results of using sunflower seeds to remove toxins from the soil. This trip offered our group very powerful learnings and we had the chance to enjoy wonderful cuisine (beignets!) and a jazz performance at Preservation Hall.
2007: Reykjavik, Iceland
Thermal pools! The Blue Lagoon! Glaciers and Geysers! Thinguellir where two continents meet! The Kerid volcanic crater! The magnificent Gulfoss waterfall!
There was so much to learn and understand about Iceland. The terrain was unfamiliar with different vegetation and the lack of trees; however, all roundabouts on the highway used stones as art in their centers. Rocks everywhere were covered by brown or lime green moss. We learned that Iceland is a volcanic island, so the soil doesn’t hold trees. We explored Iceland’s history and culture through the captivating exhibit of medieval manuscripts, Eddas, and Sagas displayed in The Culture House. We learned about preschool education from the Department of Education and visited four play schools. We observed that teachers trust the children to work by themselves and play is valued. At the University, Hronn Palmadottir discussed teacher preparation and early childhood education and the influence of John Dewey on curriculum. In response to a question regarding whether children play outside during bad weather, a teacher told us, “there is no bad weather, only bad clothing!”
2006: Charleston and Morgantown, West Virginia
Our group revisited the first Long Trip in 1935 to Arthurdale, a New Deal Resettlement community for miners, and learned much about the impact of mountaintop removal on the community. Bill Price, Sierra Club organizer, informed us about the work being accomplished by his organization as well as by the local residents in preserving the mountains and creating a healthier environment. A side trip to environmentally polluted Cheshire, Ohio, introduced us to families suffering from massive pollution from the American Electric Power, the devaluing of their homes, and the company’s legal maneuvering to avoid compliance.
In West Virginia, we met with several community groups fighting against mountaintop removal and its disastrous effect on the people and on one school. We saw the total devastation of the awesome Kayford Mountains, a sad and somber scene. In Mingo county, coal sludge waste had seeped into drinking water, causing numerous illnesses within families. We entered the Beckley mine and marveled that workers, often cheated and mistreated, survived in the dark and damp environment. We also understood that in addition to their beauty, the mountains are the pharmacies for local residents who also collect food items like ramps and plants for home remedies. We listened to stories, heard ballads and participated in mountain style dancing. Then we traveled to Morgantown for our visit to Arthurdale, the New Deal Settlement community and the school for which Bank Street founder Lucy Sprague Mitchell was consultant, and Scott’s Run, a very poor and rundown community from which the original families for Arthurdale were selected. No black miners were selected for the new housing.
2005: Knoxville & Nashville, Tennessee
This Long Trip focused on civil rights and social and environmental justice. We visited Maryville College, which was founded in 1819 on the premise that all people could and should be educated. This ended in 1901 when state laws forbade mixing the races. We next visited the Highlander Center known for its focus on popular education, labor, civil rights, environmental justice, immigration issues, and empowering people for action. Our next stops were the Black Cultural Center at the University of Tennessee College of Law, the Norris Dam that provides cheap electricity and flood control for the region, and Alex Haley farm with its ark-shaped chapel designed by Maya Lin. On to Clinton, the site of the first (peaceful) march in school desegregation. In Nashville, we visited the Belle Meade Plantation famous for breeding thoroughbred horses, learned much about the 60s civil rights activities and key individuals like Septima Clark, and sat at the recreated lunch counter in the Civil Rights Room, an impressive space in the Nashville Public Library where we also watched a powerful film on the civil rights movement.