MAP juniors experience Steinbeck’s history

December 3, 2010 — by Cecilia Hollenhorst

The important history of John Steinbeck came alive when 37 juniors of the Media Arts Program (MAP) spent a day in the Salinas Valley and Monterey.

The Nov. 19 trip gave students a chance to a visit a farm in the Salinas Valley and a scavenger hunt at Cannery Row in Monterey. Students missed out on going to the National Steinbeck Center, which was part of the trip last year due to both the added time it would take and the museum’s exhibit schedule.

Nevertheless, a class discussion and video at school followed by activities on the field trip allowed students to gain a deeper understanding of the life of John Steinbeck and how the nature and agriculture of California influenced his writing, especially his novel “The Grapes of Wrath.” The novel discusses farming in the Salinas Valley and is part of both the MAP English 11 and MAP English 11 Honors curricula.

At the farm, students saw chickens, bunnies, goats and ducks, and were able to ride on a hay wagon and harvest strawberries. These experiences are much like those of Steinbeck, who grew up working on ranches in the area during his childhood summers.

“Life on a farm was different than I imagined,” said junior MAP student Stefanie Tanaka. “I’ve never had a strawberry that tasted so fresh!”

After the trip to the farm, students split up into groups of four to five and participated in a scavenger hunt at Cannery Row, set up by the MAP teachers. The scavenger hunt, which included sights relating to Steinbeck’s life and writings, such as a sculpture of Steinbeck himself, provided students an opportunity to use their media arts skills and take photos at every location they stopped at.

“My favorite part of the trip was visiting Cannery Row,” said Tanaka, “because I learned tons of history and got to take pictures.” In order to incorporate the trip into the media arts class, juniors in MAP are now making photo essays with the pictures they took during the scavenger hunt.

Although most students had already been to Salinas or Monterey, the hands-on farm experience and scavenger hunt allowed them to see those locations through new eyes, with a direct focus on Steinbeck.

Tanaka said, “I can’t wait to read ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ now that I’ve learned so much about it.”

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