This week the PC education students went on a field trip to the Barbiana School in Tuscany.This school was founded by a priest named Don Lorenzo Milani, and many students who had been kicked out or failed out of other Italian school systems found that they were welcome here. Earlier in the semester, we were assigned a reading written by eight young boys who had attended Barbiana called ‘Lettura a una Professoressa’ (‘Letter to a Teacher’). In the reading, the boys criticized flaws in the Italian school systems. The Don Milani school accepted everyone, and the students who attended the school played an active role in their education.
On the day of the field trip, we met by the Arno River and hopped on a bus. We drove a little over an hour to the base of the mountain that the Barbiana School is located on. Then, we had to hike up the mountain for about an hour from there. I think that we all definitely underestimated the legitimacy of the term “hike”. By the time we got to the top, we were all very tired and sweaty. The scenery was absolutely beautiful. We were surrounded by trees and green, grassy hills and mountains. It was amazing, and really nice to get out of the city for a little while. We went into the tiny school and sat down in the classroom. One particularly interesting thing that we learned from our guide while we were at Barbiana was that anything that the students wanted or needed to use, they had to make themselves. They had even made the tables and chairs that we were sitting on! They referred to this as “learning by doing” because the students certainly learned a lot through creating all of the tools and materials that they needed for their education.
Our guide spoke entirely in Italian, but our teacher was able to translate what she was saying into English for us. She told us all about the founding of the school, and how some of the students came from extremely far away (one boy had to walk over an hour and cross a river to get to the school). It was evident from what our guide was saying that Don Milani really cared about his students. He went to great lengths to ensure that his students got the education that they deserved. The students who attended the school also played an active role in their education. They were able to decide some of the things that they studied based on what interested them. Also, another fact that I thought was interesting was that the students were also teachers. Once they had been at the Barbiana school for a little while, they would be expected to teach their peers. After our tour, we were all starving, and still had to hike back down to the bus! The hike down was pretty hilarious, we were all tripping over our own feet and struggling to keep our balance as we went down the steep patches of the hike. However, all of our efforts were worth it, because we got to have lunch at a local trattoria. It was a very traditional Italian restaurant that our teacher had picked out, and he told us that we would be treated to the “best ravioli of our lives”. The food certainly did not disappoint. We had three different courses of ravioli. The first was filled with a ricotta cheese, and the second two were filled with mashed potatoes (which is a common Tuscan dish). They were absolutely delicious and we were all absolutely stuffed by the time our lunch was over! It was a great field trip, and well worth the hike!