Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Learning beyond the classroom at SAIS Europe

One of Italy's biggest daily newspapers, La Repubblica, covered an unusual SAIS event this past weekend which it said sparked "flash mobs" in Bologna.

A group of 50 SAIS students, staff and guests gathered at one of Bologna’s medieval city gates on Sunday to participate in a history tour.

Display of WWII items collected from
fields and houses around Bologna
A student stood up on a ledge overlooking the crowd and addressed them in German. Another student translated. The message was clear: no partisans were to be allowed into the city! Inspect the baggage and documents of all persons entering or leaving the historic center!

This was no ordinary tour. This was an interactive event in which students provided presentations at World War Two-related sites throughout the historic city center.

Nathan Shepura presents on Partisans
in front of Wall of Martyrs in Bologna
The first stop recreated the scene at Porta Santo Stefano 70 years ago, when Bologna was occupied by the Germans. Other stops included battle-damaged buildings, the site of a failed assassination attempt on Mussolini, and a former German prison attacked by partisans who liberated more than 300 people in 1944. At each stop a student or group of students stepped forward to present the subject matter, often in a creative manner, telling a story or role playing.

The idea for the tour was inspired by the staff rides run by the Strategic Studies program in Washington, DC, which contributed funds to the SAIS Europe WWII History Club for similar activities here in Europe.

Last weekend’s WWII Bologna tour was a fund raiser for a similar event in Germany over Easter weekend, when 22 students will be visiting Munich and Nuremberg to study the rise of National Socialism in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s.

John Dellinger (MIPP'14)

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