The curriculum in grades 1, 2, and 3 have been revised since the 2017-18 school year and include more diverse perspectives in our materials. As a sample, here are some learning activities that have been added to our curriculum.
1st Grade: Throughout their first grade year, students will complete a portfolio of “Special Days Around the World”. This allows students to be exposed to a variety of cultures and days that are important to different groups of people. The portfolio begins with Labor Day and ends with Juneteenth. We also address diversity in other ways, such as the variety of family structures. One way we do this by reading Who’s in my Family, by Robert Skutch. This book celebrates the diversity of our families, recognizing that a family is rooted in love, not just genetics.
2nd Grade: For our history unit (trimester 2), we focused on bringing the voices of groups of people who were historically marginalized to the forefront of our curriculum. For example, some of the texts we include are:
- Elizabeth Started All the Trouble, by Doreen Rappaport
- Mango, Abuela, and Me, by Meg Medina
- My Name is James Madison Hemings, Jonah Winter & Terry Widener
- Ruby Bridges Goes to School: My True Story, by Ruby Bridges
- We’re All Americans, by Dylan Jessup
3rd Grade: In trimester one, we develop the students’ understandings of our American government in greater detail, but are able to examine the complexities of our government and history with more sophistication. For example, we discuss minority rights and majority rule and highlight the experience of Josephine Baker through the text, Josephine Baker: Little People, Big Dreams, by Isabel Vegara. Additionally, the class reads I Pledge Allegiance by Pat Mora & Libby Martinez as a way to discuss immigration to our country.
During the 20-21 school year, a team of 4th and 5th grade teachers will revise the curriculum of those grades, with a focus on ensuring that the stories of all Americans are present in our courses.
Additionally, many events and activities at the elementary level are driven by holidays and months of recognition. As those dates approach, support materials are shared with teachers to ensure a more culturally responsive classroom. For example:
- Columbus Day / Indigenous People Day – Teachers offer a variety of learning activities to explore if Columbus should be commemorated by having a day of recognition. For example, some classes read Encounter, by Jane Yolen to learn about Columbus’ landing from the Taino perspective. Other teachers watch videos available to them on Brain Pop and Brain Pop Jr that discuss Columbus’ arrival in San Salvador from both the European and Taino perspectives.
- Thanksgiving / Day of Mourning – Each year, a reminder is sent to K-5 teachers speaking to the challenges of celebrating Thanksgiving, as traditional classroom celebrations often ignore the experience of Native Americans. This is the annual post:
As November is upon us, many of you are looking forward to Thanksgiving celebrations in your classrooms and certainly with your families! This is a great time for us to recognize everything we are Thankful for – our freedoms, our family, our friends and so much more! However, many of the ways we have celebrated in the past may not be appropriate for today. For example, I remember dressing up in a paper bag vest and donning a feathered headdress in elementary school. Looking back, I now know that outfit was not truly reflective of what the Wampanoag people would have worn, nor is it considerate of the trials and tribulations faced by the indigenous people after Europeans settled the continent. What was tolerated/accepted decades ago is not appropriate in today’s society. We must always aim to be historically accurate and culturally sensitive as we celebrate such events. Please work within your building teams, including your equity team, to ensure that our instruction of Thanksgiving is both historically accurate and culturally sensitive.
In order to better prepare you for teaching Thanksgiving in your classroom, I invite you to explore these resources to build your own background knowledge. Please be a critical reader of these resources. As we know, history is painted by perspectives and each resource presents its own value, but also its own bias. Some resources are provided to give ideas on how to tackle this topic in your classroom, others are for your own background knowledge.
National Day of Mourning (United American Indians of New England)
- December Holidays - Prior to winter holidays, staff is reminded what is permissible according to the Anti-Defamation League. Nothing that gives the appearance of endorsing a religious message is displayed in our schools.
- Black History Month – A variety of resources each year with teachers. This past year the materials were sourced from Teach Rock and focused on the black experience in America. One example is the lesson, Muddy Waters: The New Kid in Town. This lesson uses Blues musician Muddy Waters’ relocation from Mississippi to Chicago to learn about the historic Great Migration while also practicing the SEL skills required for navigating new experiences. At the building level, equity teams engage in a variety of activities, assemblies, and displays to highlight black Americans.
Our 6th Grade curriculum is World Cultures and Geography. The curriculum was recently revised to integrate more contemporary issues and inquiry based learning activities into our curricular materials.
7th Grade & 8th Grade are American History. In 7th grade, the course begins with the peopling of the Americas, as students explore the various theories of how humans migrated to the Americas. From there, students enter an in-depth unit of study of different Native American groups. The course continues to progress chronologically, ending with the formation of the United States. In 8th grade, the course begins with the formation of the United States, taking an in-depth and critical look at our founding documents, including the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution. The course continues to explore our country’s history chronologically and concludes with the Progressive Era (early 1900s). During the year students address critical questions, some of which read:
- Why did Jackson use force to remove Native Americans from their homelands?
- How did the movement of people often result in conflict?
- Why did this western movement intensify the debate over slavery?
- How did different groups work to end slavery?
- How did the Civil War change American Society?
- Why does the Civil War still matter?
- Was Reconstruction a success or a failure?
- How does government define its role in social reform?
In 9th grade, students take African-Asian Cultures. During the 18-19 school year, the ninth grade teachers worked to revise the curriculum to include a wider variety of cultural groups. For example, the old curriculum document had unit titles of “India” and “China”. The new units of study are “Indian Subcontinent” and “East Asia”. Additionally, the course materials also reflect a renewed focus on the study of culture. This is best highlighted by the first unit of study which focuses on the question, “How do social scientists, such as historians, geographers, and anthropologists, study places over time?”
During the 19-20 school year, the 10th Grade teachers worked to revise the curriculum to a thematic approach that also included Latin American history in the course. The previous course description read, “Students continue their study of the world’s cultures with a focus on European & Latin American Studies. The roots of the Western tradition are examined by studying Greco-Roman culture and the history of Europe is surveyed from the Middle Ages through the end of the Cold War.” The revised course description reads, “This course explores Europe and Latin America by focusing on major themes, such as government systems, power structures, wealth, identity, and human suffering. Students will engage in inquiry based activities to see how historical events connect to the modern world.”
During the 2020-21 school year, the 11th Grade teachers will revise the curriculum to ensure that the stories of all Americans are present in our US History course.
The social studies department also offers a wide array of electives that address diverse groups of people, including sociology, African American History, Hispanic Cultures, and AP Human Geography. In the 2020-21 school year, the department will present to the school Board a proposal to add the course “Race & Ethnicity in America” to our course offerings.