This week the students studying education in Florence had the opportunity to visit the original Don Milani school in Barbiana, Italy. Don Milani, a young priest, established a school for the peasant boys in the small agricultural town of Barbiana in 1956. During the first years there were six boys who attended the school. We met one of these six boys, Michele Gesualdi, who shared with us his recollections of Don Milani and his education experiences.
After an hour bus ride through the countryside northwest of Florence, we arrived at the base of the hill on which the Don Milani school was situated.
Two and a half kilometers later we arrived at the Bariana school and chapel. We were greeted warmly by Michele and showed into the school building. For the next hour or so, he shared his passion for Don Milani and his schooling experience at the the Barbiana school.
- Three tenets of the school:
1) Be aware of the students’ lives and motivate the students
If I stay at school I can smell clean, not like the cows. To quote Michele (translated by Dr. Tarchi) “School is better than cow shit should be written on every school.”
2) Mothers love their children and know that school will benefit them.
3) Need to be progressive and prepare students for the future.
Michele also made reference to the constructivism and cooperative learning as two features of educational philosophy that are similar to what Don Miliani and his students developed and explained in their 1967 paper Letter to a Teacher. Working with his pupils, Milani produced Letter to a Teacher (Lettera a una professoressa), denouncing the inequalities of a class-based educational system that advantaged the children of the rich over those of the poor.
After a special two hours at the Barbiana school, we traveled a short distance to Trattoria Giorgione. This small family trattoria is known to the best raviolis ever made.