“Unforgettable”, “exciting”, “informative” and “fun” are several adjectives Maine East Italian 1-4 students used to describe their field trip to Barilla (the number one pasta company in America) at their North American Headquarters in Northbrook. As an Italian teacher, I wanted to provide students with an opportunity that would highlight how knowing and using Italian can help them in the professional world. So, I contacted Mrs. Wilkens, one of our Career Pathways coordinators, to help me plan this trip and she helped establish the relationship and organize the field trip with our class goals in mind.
Immediately upon arriving on campus, we felt the warmth of being part of an Italian “famiglia” as we were welcomed by Ms. Laura Birk, Vice President of Human Resources, and given a tour. Students walked down Heritage Hallway which was a visual depiction of the company’s history. We then visited the Barilla kitchen where the chefs work on trial recipes. We went to the “listening room” where Barilla monitors social media and what’s trending in order to be responsive to clients. Students learned about their “virtual store” which is related to sales and marketing and how Barilla prepares for potential clients. We also learned that Barilla sponsored Mikaela Shiffrin in the 2018 Winter Olympics and we were able to see the company’s on-site fitness center. (Our guide shared that Shiffrin donated equipment to the fitness center for the employees!) Our guide also talked with us about their flexible work day and how the culture of their workplace – everyone is family and treated as such – is how founder, Pietro Barilla, wanted it when the company was established in Parma, Italy in 1871. Students also had a panel discussion with the CFO, Marcello Camoletto, the Vice President of Human Resources, Laura Birk, the Vice President of Supply Chain, Fabio Pettenati, Head of General Counsel, Talita Ericson and a high-school student intern. Our Maine East students asked thought-provoking questions, demonstrating that they had researched for this field trip and listened to our tour guides. One idea that was made clear by our panelists was the importance of learning a language (if not two!), as it allows you to understand other cultures and create connections with other people. At the end of our visit, students were given goodie bags with samples of Barilla pasta, sauce and crackers, to name a few items.
Overall, it was an amazing, unforgettable field trip which gave students the opportunity to see how learning Italian is relevant in the real world!