One of things I am most proud of at Marin Academy is our faculty’s innovation in the classroom and dedication to life-long learning—the two go hand in hand. Last night, despite the rain, we had a wonderful turnout for “Argentina, Baseball, and the American West: The 2011 E.E. Ford Foundation Presentations.” Since 1993, more than 30 faculty members have received support for summer travel and study related to their academic offerings at MA. Tom Woodward, a 23-year MA history teacher, Mary Collie, a 5-year MA English teacher and water polo coach, and Stephen Baldwin, a 6-year MA Spanish teacher, presented photographs, videos, and stories from their travels.
Tom: The American West
Over nine days in June, Tom drove more than 4,500 miles from California to Utah to Montana to South Dakota to New Mexico and back to California again. “There is no substitute for an in-person visit to a place where something historically significant happened,” Tom explained; for him, it was thrilling to see things that he has taught during his more than 30-year career as a history teacher. Tom’s solo trip loosely followed the path of the transcontinental railroad (an early stop was in Promontory, Utah, for the Golden Spike National Historic Site) with a focus on the role of race and racism in the development of the West. A few facts that we learned from his wonderful presentation:
More than 10,000 Chinese laborers worked in incredibly dangerous conditions to build the railroad. While there are now markers to represent this fact, we still have a ways to go to recognize this extraordinary contribution.
- In contrast to the all-black, stoic steam trains that we usually think of, the first trains were painted in many colors in order to drum up business in this new industry. They could be boring black later after rail travel really took off.
- Mount Rushmore has changed a lot since Tom visited as a child. Not the rock itself, but everything around it: with a visitor center, promenade, and more than two million visitors each year, it’s a far cry from the dirt path that he remembers. What is the same is the fact that the nearby Crazy Horse Memorial is still under construction (since 1946).
- Visiting the Manzanar War Relocation Center was among the most moving experiences of his trip. The contrast between the beauty of the environment and the dark human deeds that happened there was particularly striking.
Mary: A Baseball Odyssey
Mary’s summer of baseball included 4,619 miles driven, 13 cities, 21 games, and 186.5 innings over four weeks. The experience (which she shared with her husband, math teacher and water polo coach Jamie Collie) combined her two loves: baseball and writing. Born a Yankees fan, she went to her first game in 1981 and was the first girl in her Connecticut town to play baseball. I don’t want to give away too much of her presentation, as we’re publishing some of her writing in the upcoming Nexus magazine. But a few facts I can’t leave out:
- Mary wrote articles, interviewed “any stranger who would talk with me,” recorded “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” at different stadiums, and took more than 3,000 photos during the trip.
Following a pattern from her childhood, she collected many souvenirs—plastic cubs, bats, balls, t-shirts, etc.—and offered bits of her collection to audience members.
- The Oakland A’s are the only major league team that allow fans to walk on the grass in the outfield. Mary had a chance to do this for a fireworks show after a game.
- The best thing Mary ate at a stadium? Cotton candy. The worst thing? Hard to tell, though she and Jamie were unable to fulfill their goal of eating a hot dog at every stadium after getting a bad stomachache.
- The team with the best fans? Also hard to tell, though the wave went around 8 times in Cleveland, if that speaks to dedication and spirit.
Stephen: Buenos Aires and the Aftermath of State-Sponsored Terrorism
Stephen had the opportunity to be a historian in Buenos Aires, where the military dictatorship between 1976 and 1983 is still shrouded in mystery. He walked us through the history of the last 50 years in Argentina, and how political instability and coups created a feeling of constant turbulence. In 1976 the military coup resulted in “The Process of National Reorganization,” a plan to eradicate subversion, develop Argentina’s economy, and “join the Western Christian concert of nations.” “It has been a slow but amazing process of accountability and recovering identities,” he explained. Stephen plans to incorporate this historical period into his courses at MA. Some lessons we learned:
- The most notorious detention center in Buenos Aires was a naval academy (ESMA). Although now a museum, it operated as a naval property until 2004.
In the Parque de la Memoria, a huge wall lists the name of 9,000 people who systematically “disappeared” during this period. Human rights organizations put this number at more than 30,000.
- To this day, mothers and grandmothers of those who disappeared demonstrate in the Plaza de Mayo.
- Stephen lightened up his trip by seeking out Milonga music and dance, and was impressed by the skills of retirees who still wear giant high heels!