Out of the classroom learning expeditions should enhance and deepen the learning that is taking place in the classroom. Last month, in connection with our studies of Colonial America, fifth graders visited Touro Synagogue. Because the students have been learning about this time period this semester, this expedition served as a platform for them to synthesize and deepen the ideas they’ve been thinking about and wrestling with.
At first glance, it is clear this synagogue sticks out. How so? Why?
Feeling truly free in Rhode Island, Jews proudly built their synagogue facing east, toward Jerusalem, at an angle with the street it’s on, different from any ordinary building.
Fifth graders were familiar with the principles on which Roger Williams founded Rhode Island: freedom for all and separation of church and state.
Students take pride in the fact that Rhode Island was the first colony to welcome everybody, while realizing the Narragansett Indians were displaced after the colonists arrived.
Students took notes about what they found interesting and what they wanted to know more about. They were amazed at all the connections they could make from Isobel in the novel they’d read to the journey of other Jews escaping from the Inquisition who made it to Rhode Island.
We were awed by the original Torah they used, made from deerskin.
We learned about the architecture, the founding members of this historic synagogue, and the pride of Newport over the ideal of religious freedom. Sadly, Newport played a major role in the slave trade, an ugly reality of our country’s history.
Fifth graders marveled over the perfect symmetry in the architecture. They were also proud of how impressed the tour guide was with all their background information on this time period.
George Washington once visited this synagogue and wrote a letter to the community promising they would always be free and safe.
Afterwards, students learned more about this community at the interactive visitor’s center.
On our walk back from Touro to the bus, we spotted this gorgeous public lawn and knew it would be the perfect place to enjoy our lunches on the crisp fall day. The Redwood Library and Athenaeum is a private subscription library. Founded in 1747, it is the oldest community library still occupying its original building in the United States.
This was one of those moments when we all appreciated the freedom we have to enjoy a spontaneous moment.
And since we were missing the official “lunch and recess time” back at school, it only made sense for some play time to follow the meal! What a beautiful setting to have recess!
It was a day of great learning, bonding, and enjoyment.