In the Classroom
Our faculty uses multiculturalism as a lens through which to select and evaluate new material for their programs. Lower and upper school teachers evaluate the content of the curriculum to ensure that all students have both “windows and mirrors.” Our Co-Directors of Diversity collaborate with faculty to enhance cultural competency through grade-level curricular review. This process focuses on highlighting materials, topics, and texts that represent a variety of viewpoints, ideologies, and perspectives in the classroom.
Subject Area & Teachers: Social Studies; Kindergarten Team
At A Glance: Kindergarteners learn about self and family as part of the Identity unit in Social Studies. Why study identity? Positive self identity is the first step towards becoming a compassionate, respectful, and engaged member of a diverse community.
Goals of Study:
- To build positive self identity for all children
- To make explicit the diversity within our community
- To highlight our connections and our differences
- To give children language to talk about who they are
- Monthly self portrait work
- Inside/outside observations
- Identity circles
- Family study and shares
- Gender and gender stereotypes unit
- Books and conversations
Subject Area & Teacher: English and Social Studies; Sabina Piersol and Jamie Yuen-Shore
At A Glance: Students read and study the graphic novel trilogy March by Congressman and iconic civil rights leader John Lewis (co-written by Andrew Aydin and illustrated by Nate Powell). In addition to our discussions about resistance, activism, and justice in the context of March, students will have the opportunity to engage in conversation with African-American adults in the SF Day community about their own life experiences and connections between past and present.
What is the Civil Rights movement, and how did it change the course of history?
Why does the fight for racial justice still exist in the United States? What are its historical underpinnings?
From personal to system-wide levels, how can we work toward achieving more equity, justice, and harmony in our society?
By the end of this unit, students will be able to:
understand the philosophy of nonviolence
explain why civil rights activists in the 1950s and 1960s chose nonviolence as a way to attain equal rights
identify and evaluate the efficacy of a variety of nonviolent strategies that civil rights activists used
assess how the civil rights movement changed the course of history in the United States
identify and evaluate strategies we can use today to combat racism and repair harm (on both personal/small scale and systemic levels)
In social studies, Ms. Yuen-Shore initially frames our exploration of US history by having students consider how Germany addresses its history of government-supported atrocities against citizens. Specifically, students look at how the German government, and in particular its education system, seeks to repair harm and prevent future atrocities through learning and remembrance. Students then embark on a focused survey of U.S. history from 1619 through Jim Crow, exploring first-hand accounts of the Middle Passage; economic and Constitutional protections for slavery; everyday forms of resistance by enslaved people; reconstruction; segregationalist Supreme Court cases; and Jim Crow media and propaganda. Connections are made to present-day segregation in school systems, and students participate in a simulation of equity vs. equality as strategies to combat centuries of oppression and discriminatory practices. These lessons give chronological and thematic context to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s-60s.
In English class, students then embark on their reading of March, the powerful graphic novel trilogy by Georgia Congressman John Lewis that tells the story of the Civil Rights Movement through the personal narrative of one of its most courageous leaders. Our focus is on methods of resistance, but also on the underlying philosophy of nonviolence that steadied and guided the movement.
Midway through our unit, members of the faculty and administration who identify as African American join the class to engage in conversation with the sixth graders. Among these community members are artist and art teacher Rodney Ewing; Co-Director of Diversity and Dean of Faculty Loren Moyé; P.E. teacher and coach Damian Crosby; first grade teacher Katherine Odlum; and Upper School Head Dr. Ruth Bissell, who all share generously about their personal life experiences. Students not only learn how to enter into courageous conversations about race and social justice, but they also gain the important understanding that activism can take many different forms.
As a culminating activity for this interdisciplinary Civil Rights unit, students write an essay in which they identify, explain, and evaluate at least two different responses to racism, drawing from March, other historical sources, and something they learned from an adult in the SF Day community. Our first hope is that these young scholars deepen their understanding and awareness of the challenging issues facing our country; ultimately, we hope they will become passionate about responding to injustice in thoughtful, constructive ways.
Subject Area & Teacher: Social Studies; Dara Carroll
At A Glance: In history, our eighth grade students reflect on the impacts that colonization have had on our country and on Native people.
Truth & Reconciliation
In eighth grade, the social studies curriculum focuses on the region now known as the United States of America. Students start their study at the beginning of human history on the continent and then focus in on just a few of the many Native, Indigenous, and First Nations of North America. This leads us to then examine European invasion and colonization of Native people and the resilience and resistance movements that allowed many Nations to survive to today. Throughout the unit, we pause to ask how the power dynamics of earlier times still persist in the US, and to look at how Native history has been intentionally erased by Americans and Europeans. The unit comes to a close with time to learn about modern forms of colonization, particularly foster system policies that target Native communities and remove Native children from their community. Based on this unit's study of oppression and resistance, containment and liberation, we end with a reflection on healing and the work of the Wabanaki Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Over Indigenous People's Day weekend, students wrote their own Truth and Reconciliation Reflection on how they hope to repair the harm to Native communities.
"When I think of ways that I might of harmed or offended Indigenous People, I don't think of what I have done, but rather of what I haven't done. For years I have not acknowledged the importance of the First Nation people and how they have impacted my life. Every year “Columbus” day comes around and I think ‘Yay! I get a day off', but I don’t acknowledge the history behind the holiday...We can start by making sure that other people are aware of the problem that the Indigenous People face. It is important for people to make sure that the cycle isn’t continued. Retelling the history we’ve learned in class to other people can spread awareness and cause a change in society’s belief."
- 8th Grade Student