Guided tour of Ypsilanti

Guided tour of Ypsilanti

Academic Year:
2022 - 2023 (June 1, 2022 through May 31, 2023)
Funding Requested:
Project Dates:
Overview of the Project:
We are seeking funds to support a guided tour of Ypsilanti, led by Deborah Meadows of the African American Cultural and Historical Museum of Washtenaw County. We will explore historical and current sites significant to Black people’s experiences in Ypsilanti. This tour is for undergraduate students pursuing their elementary teacher certification in the School of Education. The focus on Ypsilanti is intentional and significant, as all of these students currently have a field placement at Perry Early Learning Center and some of them will have future field placements in other Ypsilanti schools as part of the teacher education program. As instructors for many years in the School of Education, we have found that students often hold deficit perspectives of Ypsilanti and do not necessarily see the community’s assets and strengths. We believe that actually exploring the community with a knowledgeable community member has the potential to positively counter the dominant narratives some students hold by humanizing and historically situating the Black communities in Ypsilanti. We intend to use this field trip as a touch point to create further learning opportunities in our courses. For example, in ED 307, the instructors plan to discuss the way these beginning teachers might use the guided tour to further build their understanding of and relationship with students and their families. In ED 392, the instructor plans to capitalize on these beginning teachers’ deepened understanding of Ypsilanti by exploring policy issues, such as redlining and school choice, that have greatly impacted schooling in the community.
Final Report Fields
Project Objectives:
  • To expand students’ historical knowledge and understanding of Black peoples’ experiences and contributions in Ypsilanti, the community where all students were working weekly in schools.
  • To counter the dominant narrative, which students sometimes enter the Teacher Education program having, about Ypsilanti and its residents.
  • To humanize a community which has been stigmatized and marginalized by others.
  • To introduce the students to community resources, such as the AACHM and Parkridge Community Center.
  • To highlight for these beginning teachers the importance of learning about the school community in which they work, and the impact this deepened awareness and knowledge can have on their relationships with students and families as well as their own instruction.
Project Achievements:

Foremost, students had the opportunity to deepen their knowledge of Ypsilanti’s history and the contributions, both historical and present, that Black residents have made in the area.  Students’ new understanding was apparent in their course writing and discussions about the experience.  We anticipate that students will continue to draw upon this knowledge across their remaining three semesters in the teacher education program as they work in different school settings.  For those students who chose to spend their student teaching year in Ypsilanti, they will have multiple opportunities to directly build on the knowledge gained in the guided tour.

Furthermore, as instructors we used the guided tour of Ypsilanti as a touch point to create further learning opportunities in our courses.  For example, in ED 307, the instructors discussed with the students how they could use their deepened understanding of the community as a way to further build relationships with students and their families.  In ED 392, the instructor capitalized on these beginning teachers’ deepened understanding of Ypsilanti by exploring policy issues highly relevant to the community, such as redlining and school choice.  While we have previously engaged with these topics in our courses, we believe that having this shared learning experience outside of the university and led by a knowledgeable community member made the content more accessible and meaningful to the students.

To further build on this experience, our department supported the creation of a “book club” for the winter 2023 semester with these students, so that they might further explore issues around identity, history, and schooling.  All three of us instructors are taking part in this book club activity, which will enable us to help build connections for students between the books and the guided tour experience.

As noted above, we believe there are many opportunities for students to draw upon this experience, whether it is in future classes, field work in schools, or in their book clubs. Because all three of us instructors are involved with the students across their two years in the Teacher Education program, we will have many opportunities to harness the learning that resulted from the guided tour experience.
We discussed the project’s activities in our monthly team meeting, and we will have further opportunities to do so as we meet and plan for the year ahead with our colleagues.
Advice to your Colleagues:
Our number one piece of advice is to start the planning process before the semester begins, as this provides more opportunities to intentionally build connections between the project and other courses and program activities (beyond just the courses we taught).