Praise for Out of the Classroom and Into the World
Salvatore Vascellaro’s vivid and inspiring Out of the Classroom and into the World portrays a pedagogy in which the world—urban and wild, local and afar—becomes the classroom. Drawing on his experience as a teacher and a teacher-trainer at the historically progressive Bank Street College of Education in New York, Vascellaro asserts that learning occurs to its fullest extent when a palette of rich, interdisciplinary, and frequently kinesthetic experiences are directed at a topic of study. On an ethical level, he argues, learning about the interconnectedness of people and the world is informed by, and leads to, a greater sensitivity toward issues of social justice.
The efforts presented by Vascellaro are intended to dive deeply into taken-for-granted aspects of the neighborhood and city. Vascellaro unmasks the rich relationships that make human worlds possible. A bridge, a bus depot, a tailor’s shop. Teachers and students start with these apparently mundane elements and then begin to penetrate the complex relationships that make up our human worlds. Paramount in this vision is an emphasis on geography and social history. As a social historian, I was captivated by Vascellaro’s method of bringing the history of the everyday and marginalized groups alive for elementary students and teachers-in-training. A vivid example is that of teacher Trish Lent’s semester-long study of the Brooklyn Bridge with her elementary students. Using direct observation, interviews, and written sources, including poetry, Lent’s students learned principles of engineering, physics, model-building, and creative writing, as well as social and economic history....
Perhaps Vascellaro’s book is a starting point from which this “curriculum of connectedness” can be applied to schools themselves, beginning with students who so often are still forced into “rigid uniformity of posture and movement…[and] machine-like simulation of attitude of intelligent interest” (Dewey, 1916, p. 165). Radiating outward from the direct experience of such students, can we—and they—better understand and challenge what Vascellaro calls the “lifeless regime” (p. 199).
Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University, Toronto, Canada
Journal of Experiential Education, 2012, Vol. 35, No. 3, pp. 480-481
“While field trip itineraries are included in the appendix, this book is not about how to take field trips. Rather, it is Vascellaro's richly detailed account of three teachers who prioritized the richest way of knowing (which included field trips) over the shortest route to learning. With today’s educational climate measuring success in terms of how much productivity can be squeezed out of learners within the shortest amount of time, it was extremely gratifying to delve into these teachers’ success stories. The “field trip” was really that of the teachers’ journey into the uncomfortable terrain outside the content of the textbook and security of the classroom. Vascellaro (Bank Street College of Education) captured the teachers’ intellectual process that emerged from a living, captivating encounter with children’s natural fascination with the world around them (e.g., bridges, parks, and rivers). These teachers allowed the where to profoundly influence the what of their curriculum. Along the way, students engaged with academic language, specific discipline content, team building, and role models in ways that allowed them to genuinely understand a topic. The book offers motivation for both teachers and students to pursue a love of learning.”
University of San Diego
Reviewed in Choice, June 2012,
a publication of
the Association of College and Research Libraries
“All parents and teachers should read this book.”
—Ellen Condliffe Lagemann, Levy Institute Research Professor,
“As the school world hastens to narrow its focus, [this] deeply satisfying account of curious, imaginative teachers and their counterparts in the past makes us want to open the classroom doors and search for our own new narratives. Vascellaro ... demonstrates a happy truth: we all need to listen, face to face, to other people's stories in order to develop our own more humane vision of the world.”
—Vivian Gussin Paley, celebrated author and teacher
“Out of the Classroom and Into the World is a thrilling book. Its ... rich examples of a "curriculum of experience" could really—I mean really—change the lives and practice not only of teachers, but also of teacher educators. Parents, too, may find in Vascellaro an alternative and yet highly practical vision of an approach to education that truly meets the needs of children.... In bringing us back to the basic question of democratic educational purpose, he directly challenges with the power of live voices and vivid example and big ideas many of the key assumptions behind the current obsessions with trivializing rubrics, decontextualized learning, and high stakes testism.”
—Joseph Featherstone, professor of education,
University of Michigan
“Vascellaro convincingly demonstrates that teachers will adopt innovative practices in curriculum and instruction if teacher education programs immerse them in those practices.”
—Stephen J. Thornton, professor and chair of secondary education, University of South Florida
"Vascellaro, master storyteller and teacher ... illustrates the marvels and historically grounded complexities of experiential learning, and in so doing, builds profound meanings for the shopworn terms ‘field trip’ and ‘social studies.’” This book shows what it can mean in a diverse society to educate—not measure with tests—all of our children."
Celia Genishi, professor of education, Teachers College,
“Vascellaro defines the educational theory and history and the great importance to getting out and seeing the world first hand.”
—Darryl Malek-Wiley, Environmental Justice Field Organizer,
“As a student teacher in the 1940s, I went on one of the long field trips Vascellaro describes. That trip into the segregated south was the beginning of my understanding of US social history and of political commitment that was deeper than intellectual veneer. I'm thrilled that the full story of such field experiences will have a wide audience. Read and be inspired to plan for your students!”
—Courtney B. Cazden, Harvard Graduate School of Education
“In Out of the Classroom and into the World: Learning from Field Trips, Educating from Experience, and Unlocking the Potential of Our Students and Teachers (The New Press, 2011), Salvatore Vascellaro, a professor at the Bank Street College of Education, takes a close look at carefully planned, curriculum-related trips, most of which don't cost a fortune but are sky-high in educational value. In his preface, “Everyone Should Know How to Sew a Button,” the author describes a particularly inspired outing to a local tailor by a group of his first and second graders who set off “with clipboards and pencils for sketching” ready to do the important work of learning about a local business. The account of that visit, along with others to a florist and a shoemaker, makes for memorable reading.
Out of the Classroom is divided into three sections. In Part One, the author follows three teachers as each develops a unit of study incorporating carefully considered field trips. A third-grade class explores Brooklyn’s Brownsville through visits from parents and teachers and trips to a local restaurant and barber shop, while another class conducts an in-depth exploration of the Brooklyn Bridge via several on-site visits and cross-curricular science and poetry lessons. Readers also meet a Long Island teacher whose authentic study of Native Americans leads to a long-term friendship with members of the Shinnecock Nation. While all of sites visted by Vascellaro and his students were in or near New York City, the concepts and ideas he promotes can be easily adapted to any neighborhood or area.
The second section offers a bit of history and the author’s source of inspiration: “The Long Trips” taken by Lucy Sprague Mitchell, Bank Street founder, her colleague Eleanor Hogan, and their education students. Together they traveled by bus to coal mining and steel towns, the Tennessee Valley Authority, an African-American farming community, and other sites to study labor, unions, and civil rights firsthand. Vascellaro recreates these trips, including the observations of the actual participants, some of whom returned to the communities they visited to live and work.
And proving that he's true to his word, in Part Three, the author describes how he and a colleague planned an intensive “four-week current-day” course for adults based in New York City that featured visits to the 79th Street Boat Basin and the 135th Street bus depot. Student musings on the impact of the course on their lives, professional and personal, are incorporated.
Coincidentally, a recent New York Times article, "A Field Trip to a Strange New Place: Second Grade Visits the Parking Garage," which describes one school’s return to making “real life experiences the center of academic lessons” and fostering achievement through child-centered play stations, speaks to the vision of experience-based learning, so vitally important for learners of any age, and so eloquently represented in Out of the Classroom.”
By Alicia Eames
School Library Journal, March 2012
“A truly beautiful book. Vascellaro weaves several interlocking stories of how both educators and students benefit from hands-on experiential learning. In an age of slashed education budgets with an ever-narrowing focus, Vascellaro shows why it’s important for students to get outside the classroom and try to understand that they are part of a larger ecosystem: a community and world that they need to actively engage, listen closely to and discover how to learn from. This is a lifelong process for everyone involved. Beyond the low bar of producing pliant, capable workers, Vascellaro shows the importance of developing active, thinking and feeling human beings. Clear-eyed and deeply humane. Chock full of great stories. The book itself is an artifact reflecting the very principals the author espouses, serving the narrative wonderfully. Can’t recommend reading this book enough.”
Magnus Ver Magnusslon, March 2012