Eight lucky University of Birmingham School pupils and students went on a trip of a life time to the USA last academic year. Over 80 pupils and students applied to go on the ‘Aristotle in Arizona’ trip, fully funded by the Turing Scheme, to explore how other schools teach character education and also find opportunities to develop their own courage, compassion, and resilience. The eight pupils and students were selected after completing a detailed application form on why and how this trip would change their life, and were then interviewed by Professor James Arthur and Dr Tom Harrison from the Jubilee Centre for Character Virtues at the University of Birmingham.
Our explorers spent three days hosted by Dr Rob Jackson, CEO of the Great Heart Schools in Arizona, working alongside other pupils studying classical texts and engaging in Socratic debate. Our pupils and students then had the opportunity to teach lessons about Birmingham and British culture including a lesson in chocolate tasting and a history of the up and coming Commonwealth Games.
The growth in all of our young people was vast, especially the way they got stuck into delivering lessons to the pupils at Great Heart and sat lessons about Greek Mythology and Latin. One of our pupils commented on how she has “changed as a person because of this trip and is so much more confident now than before.”
As part of the trip the group also had the chance to go on a conservation walk in the Arizona Desert, visit the Botanical Gardens to find out how climate change is impacting the native flora and fauna, and find out more about the conservation work that is taking place to protect it. They star gazed using telescopes with a real life astronaut from NASA too! No trip to Arizona would be complete without a chance to see Phoenix Suns play basketball, riding with cowboys through the desert, and eating pizza the size of the state itself!
“Glendale Prep students and staff prepared a farewell BBQ for us before we left. They brought their puppies with them, which was really cute!” Joshua, UoB School Pupil. The warmness received when the pupils were there was lovely, and long lasting friendships have been made.
“It’s changed my life. I’ve never travelled out of Birmingham before and it’s made me see what incredible opportunities the world has to offer if I’m just a little braver to take more chances.” JO, UoB School Pupil.
We were so different and our countries couldn’t be further apart but we all connected on a human level and underneath it all realised we’re just teenagers who want a bit of fun and to make sure we have something left of this planet to give to our children.” MJ, UoB School Pupil.
“As a member of staff here at UoB School, I had the chance to look at different types of pedagogy (teaching practices) at the schools in Arizona, and include these practices within my classroom. It was interesting to see how the US schools taught character education, and we found it useful to share ideas with each other. This trip allowed our pupils and students to acknowledge their own learning but also take responsibility of the learning of others (when teaching pupils) – they demonstrated virtues of listening, empathy, kindness, teamwork, and acknowledged each other’s strengths.” Mrs H Stemp, UoB Staff.
The group came back longing for more!