Sixty eighth graders from Franklin School journeyed to the Statue of Liberty on Thursday, Nov. 14 to pay homage to the monument – and to their country – by belting out “God Bless America” and “The Star Spangled Banner.” Dozens of statue visitors stopped, listened, and were entertained by the group.
For most of the students it was a banner day, a life experience that they had not encountered before, according to Armine Irving, Ph.D., music teacher at the school.
“They were amazed,” she said. “You could see it on their faces.”
“The boat ride was extremely exciting for the kids; almost none of them had been on a ferry,” Irving said. “And the majority of the students had not seen the statue, or been on the island. When they went through security, that was also pretty neat for them.”
The field trip to the statue was the first for Franklin, or for any school in the North Bergen district, according to Irving.
“They were amazed. You could see it on their faces.” – Armine Irving
“We decided to do his trip as a cross-curriculum activity,” the music teacher said. “We decided it would be really good to see the Statue of Liberty.”
After the decision was made, a number of wheels went into motion. The trip wasn’t going to be just a foray for fun. It was worked into the students’ studies, with essays and other writing done that involved the English, Social Studies, and Music departments.
Research and essays before trip
“We worked with the social studies teacher at Franklin, Greg Kalebic,” Irving said. “We wanted to expose the students to American history. He taught them about Ellis and Liberty islands, and the history of American immigration.”
Irving taught the students the songs, and the meaning behind them.
“We learned it musically. We analyzed the song. They learned it lyrically,” she said. “We got into the harmony and the notes. And there was extensive writing for Mrs. Buccos.”
The students did all their due diligence before the trip. First they had to pen two in-depth essays. The first one was about “God Bless America” itself.
“The writing was about Irving Berlin, who composed the song,” Irving said. “They did research with [Mrs. Buccos] on that.”
The second was specifically about the Statue of Liberty, the important facts about it, and the codes on the base of it.
“They had to explain what they were,” Irving said. “They worked on that with Mrs. Buccos.”
Permit to sing
But the preparations for the one-day jaunt weren’t over yet. Even as well intentioned as people may be, they can’t just show up and sing at the statue, the music teacher explained. Permission must be obtained.
“We sent an application and the request to perform on the island,” she said. “They approved and sent us the permits. We had to carry them on us when we went to the island to perform.”
With all the related school and permit work completed, it was time to go.
“We tied it up all together,” Irving said. “And in the end, we took them on the field trip.”
The trip, the trip
“We went to the island, and then to lunch,” she said. “We walked around the statue, sang ‘God Bless America’ in two-part harmony and also “‘The Star Spangled Banner.’”
The group then did what many of the tourists on the island that day were doing: took pictures and went to the souvenir shop to make purchases.
Besides Irving and Buccos, eighth grade teachers Danny Guzman and Stephen Yeager, as well as several parents, attended.
“All together, it was a nice day,” Irving said. “After we came back, they did writing about the trip. It was very exciting for them; it was very new. There were excited about doing the trip with their classmates. It was way more special for them.”
And the memories won’t fade any time soon, according to Irving.
“It’s going to be in the yearbook,” she said. “And we videotaped the singing, so we’ll always have it.”
Joseph Passantino may be reached at JoePass@hudsonreporter.com.