On April 11 and 12, 125 Forsythe Middle School seventh graders enjoyed a field trip to the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn. Following the museum visit, the students experienced an authentic Lebanese lunch at Al-Ameer restaurant.
A visit to the Arab American National Museum fits in perfectly with the district’s seventh grade curriculum, which explores immigration and emigration, as well as Southwest Asia. The museum focuses on the Arab immigrant experience in the United States – why Arabs came to the U.S., their lives here, and how they have made an impact. Exhibits also address the diversity of the Arab world and the contributions of Arab civilization.
While adding to students’ knowledge about the Arab world and the immigrant experience, this trip also served to undermine stereotypes. One student observed that the visit was “an eye-opening experience. I had no idea that most Arab American communities were just like us.” Another student said, “This trip really helped me understand Arab Americans and how stereotypes of them are unfair. It also made me realize that we need to work to dispel these stereotypes.”
Since the museum is able to handle only 100 students at a time, half of the students went each day. While this was the third year that Forsythe organized the field trip, it is the first year that students went to a restaurant (previously, they ate a catered lunch at the museum). Al-Ameer Restaurant delivered a delicious and plentiful meal of hommus and pita, falafel, chicken and meat shwarma, fatuous salad and baklava. While some students approached the unfamiliar cuisine with trepidation, they inevitably left the restaurant contented. One student declared that the food “might persuade me to move to an Arab country.” Most pleasing to the teachers and chaperones, the restaurant manager pronounced the students “polite and respectful….a joy to have.”
The cost of the trip to Forsythe families was kept to a minimal thanks to two grants. The Ann Arbor Educational Foundation provided $1,000 for museum admission fees, and the PTO Thrift Shop covered the cost of buses.
“I came back from the field trip feeling that it was very worthwhile and something that every middle school should be doing,” said Semra Koknar, Forsythe social studies teacher and organizer of the trip. “I’d be glad to assist any one wanting to do something similar at their school.”
A happy seventh grader summed up the value of the trip: “The museum was very educational. The tour guides knew a lot and were very descriptive. It was almost like you were living in the life of an Arab American. The restaurant had great food. This made the field trip educational AND really fun.”
–Submitted by Semra Koknar