Making the Grade: Field Trip Highlights History – With Some Help From Ken Burns

Traveling is a luxury not every student has a chance to experience, and a program is giving some inner-city students from New England the opportunity to learn about their history - with a little star power as well.

Sixth grader Jayda Dupree of Connecticut is one of a large group of middle-schoolers participating in a six-day fully funded trip through the Sparks Program. The entire trip is backed by Tauck, the high end tour and cruise company. This Tauck program is designed to take inner city children on a 6 day exploration tour through Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Washington D.C. to see U.S. National Parks and learn about history first hand.

"I hope to learn new things and come back to my family and tell them what I learned because I feel like it's a great program to be in especially since I'm young," Dupree said.

Christian Mestre, an eighth grader from Connecticut, said about the Sparks Program, "in a book it's described to you, it's not really shown to you and I am more of somebody who learns easily when it’s shown to you rather than told."

Before the six-day tour begins, the Sparks Program kids stopped in Boston for quite the treat. During their visit to the African Meeting House in downtown Boston, they got to meet Ken Burns, the renowned American filmmaker best known for his documentary series "Baseball" and series "The Civil War."

On Monday, the kids saw a 15 minute clip of Burns’ newest film premiering next week on PBS on Jackie Robinson.

"To come to a place like this, which is so steeped in history and to meet with a group of kids who may not know history yet, who haven’t been set on fire yet by history. I don't know, maybe they already know or don’t know anything about Jackie Robinson, and if they do they only know the superficial that our film is trying to get beyond. This is a wonderful teachable moment," he said about his meeting with the middle schoolers.

Burns is a big fan of the program and thinks everyone should see the U.S. National Parks more often.

"The National Parks are quite simply the Declaration of Independence applied to the landscape. For the first time in human history land was set aside not for kings, or noblemen, or the very rich but for everybody and for all time. That’s an amazing inheritance that each of us have," he said.

Combined with an inspiration such as Jackie Robinson a day like Monday could be something these students never forget.

"We think the story of Jackie Robinson, and for these kids to get out of their routine and come to a place like this has the possibility of being inspiring," Burns said. 

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