Two of the ideals of education we cherish at North Farmington High School are the nourishing of open minds and the provision of experiences that encourage students to make connections to the world outside our walls. To do so, we believe they must be exposed to great ideas and great projects.
During the 2005-06 school year, we began what has turned into an annual journey of interdisciplinary studies. Involvement for both staff and students was (and is) voluntary. Our initial effort was to study the 1960’s with a special focus on Civil Rights and Vietnam. Aspects of the study included: graphics classes recreating a version of the Vietnam Wall Memorial, a one-act play on the lessons of war, two of America’s preeminent Vietnam scholars who spoke to a packed auditorium one evening, a math lesson graphing the human cost of war, art work including masks of soldiers’ faces, foods classes preparing Vietnamese fare, English classes reading Tim OBrien’s The Things They Carried, our TV studio putting together a documentary: “Sixties’ Minutes,” the theatre department presenting the musical HAIR, and the woodshop kids building the casket for the final act of the musical. The project ended with a military ceremony in front of school placing a stone memorial in honor of North students who lost their lives in Vietnam.
During the 2006-07 school year, students studied “Humanity in Crisis: Genocide.” Historical perspectives from survivors of the Armenian genocide, the Holocaust, Rwanda and Sudan gave legs to our goal to move students ‘from awareness to activism.” Students raised thousands of dollars for mosquito nets to combat malaria in African refugee camps. They lobbied the Michigan State Legislature to divest of state funds to companies doing business in Sudan. That bill passed both houses of the legislature. The students primarily responsible for this effort have continued their work in college, founding an organization called “For Peace.”
Paul Rusesabagina, the real-life hero of Hotel Rwanda was our keynote speaker. Nearly 1100 students and community members jammed a local synagogue for his moving presentation. Community book talks led to difficult, but wonderful discussions. A photo journalist, Lucian Niemeyer, drove from New Mexico to share his images from three visits to Darfur. Our school newspaper produced a glossy magazine on genocide filled with historical information, personal stories, and powerful photographs.
The 2007-08 school year turned to our local community as we studied “Our Town Detroit: There’s No Place Like Home.” Tours of the city, special guests from Jim Wanger, the godfather of the GTO, to Ernie Harwell, Hall of Fame voice of the Detroit Tigers, to former mayor, Dennis Archer highlighted our speaker series. The legendary Motown group, The Contours, performed a dance-concert in our gym. Out community book study was Arc of Justice. The hallways at school were re-named with Detroit streets, thus students took classes on Grand River, Cass Avenue, or Woodward. Iconic Detroit venues were photographed and displayed around school. When students went to the cafeteria they were “in” Eastern Market, or at the Fox Theatre when in the auditorium, or the Kronk Gym when in the weight room, etc. Our art club did an amazing replica of Diego Rivera’s “Assembly Line” mural. It is a permanent part of the school’s art collection. Again, the school newspaper produced a 92 page glossy magazine highlighting life in “our town.” It is a beautiful tribute to a city that has known both triumph and tragedy.
During the 2008-09 school year, efforts were directed toward sustainability of both human and natural resources as we explored the theme: “The Good Earth: People, Planet, Prosperity.” This study involved students in a variety of recycling efforts, promoted reusable grocery bags, worked on improving the school’s carbon footprint while informing students about their individual footprints. Class spirit-week t-shirts had environmental themes/slogans, the band halftime show had an environmental slant, student designed posters promote sustainability in each classroom, the school newsletter carries “green tips,” bulletin boards and the daily announcements have awareness info.
The 2009-10 school year saw us look at the American Dream. Staff members did family quilt pieces with their family’s American Dream hopes. A Statue of “Lady Liberty” graced the cafeteria. Artwork and music fueled the study. Approval was given from the NYC Port Authority to receive a piece of the World Trade Center. We intend to build an outdoor classroom with the WTC piece as part of a sculpture/memorial. Students also got involved with microfinance – making loans to individual people in developing countries; indeed granting them opportunities similar to those held by people in America.
The inspiration of great ideals and the engagement in great ideas, great themes, and great projects has catalyzed large portions of our student body. Our students have a greater global sense as they have internalized the truth that life is about giving and serving. It has tremendously impacted the tone of our classrooms and hallways. We have numerous stories of kids telling parents they are making career choices based on these studies or have donated entire paychecks to a cause, or have asked that holiday gift money be given to a cause instead of into personal gifts.
The 2010-2011 school year interdisciplinary focus is 50… 50 years of North Farmington High School. We will look at the past five decades – the trends, the news, the highs and lows. We will offer commemorative hats, shirts and posters; we will have various reunions i.e. “50 Years of Raider Football” and bury a time capsule. The journalism department will do another special edition of the Northern Star newspaper and will use ‘50’ as its yearbook theme. They also plan a Raider cookbook and 18 month commemorative calendar with vintage photos. There are plans to construct an outdoor/50th anniversary classroom with a memorial sculpture from a piece of the World Trade Center. The celebration will be capped on September 7, 2011 with a 50th birthday party and the next 50 years of excellence at North Farmington High School.
Five Decades of Excellence
Redefining the American Dream
The Good Earth: People, Planet, Prosperity
Our Town: Detroit
Humanity in Crisis: Genocide