DEI Across Our Curriculum
Since the 1990s, Bank Street has had a deliberate and responsive approach to social justice and advocacy. Our curriculum provides Lower, Middle, and Upper School students with meaningful, age-appropriate opportunities to learn about diversity, equity, and inclusion. Additionally, students from first grade (6/7s) through fourth grade (9/10s) participate in our Racial Justice & Advocacy curriculum, a dedicated curriculum that focuses on positive racial identity and prepares students to be advocates for social justice.
Racial Justice & Advocacy (Grades 1–4)
Racial Justice & Advocacy Curriculum | First Grade (6/7s) – Fourth Grade (9/10s)
The Racial Justice & Advocacy (RJA) curriculum is a four-year program from first grade (6/7s) through fourth grade (9/10s) that takes place in the spring each year. As an extension of the identity work that is already occurring in each classroom, RJA provides a more focused study of the different aspects of identity through a racial lens. Consistent with our progressive approach to education, grade-level teams meet to plan the scope of the curriculum and the intended goals. The RJA curriculum encourages students and teachers to engage in discussions that include topical issues and tend to the emerging needs and understandings of children in developmentally appropriate ways.
The program empowers all students to take part in developmentally appropriate lessons and activities based on themes related to racial identity and advocacy. It is a dedicated curriculum that focuses on positive racial identity and prepares students to be advocates for social justice. The program continues to focus on affirming children’s racial identity and building language for understanding and advocacy while learning more about inequities related to Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) in our society and, later in fourth grade (9/10s), exploring the history of race in America.
Over the course of the four-year program, students will:
- Build a positive racial and cultural identity (based on race, culture, and family history)
- Develop language and a confident voice to talk about race and racism. In a safe space, learn to process challenging emotions and discomfort that arise when talking about race
- Become aware that people around them are mistreated in intentional and unintentional ways
- Understand racial history and its impact today in the United States, including developing an understanding of what it means to be a person of color, multiracial, and White anti-racist person, raising awareness of Whiteness and privilege, and challenging notions of “colorblindness”
- Challenge assumptions including “normal,” “good,” and “American”
- Learn models of anti-racist advocacy and how to be an upstander
- Learn to be changemakers who recognize and actively resist institutional, interpersonal, and internalized racism in our own communities and in the larger society
- Emerge with a positive self-image of their individual racial and cultural identities, empowered to advocate for themselves and others
All students from first grade (6/7s) to fourth grade (9/10s) participate in Affinity Groups based on race and students beginning in second grade (7/8s) have access to additional groups based on gender identity and family structure.
DEI in the Lower School
Lower School students begin by learning about families, friends, and their community. Through these explorations, students develop an understanding of themselves and a sense of self. Additionally, students explore concepts around similarities and differences, fairness and unfairness, and more, which sparks discussion and helps students gain language around these topics. Students also focus on sharing, responsibility, and inclusivity while learning how family structure, racial and gender identity, and learning differences are part of our everyday lives. Children explore diversity through books, conversation, classroom guests, and the arts. By first grade (6/7s), students begin to understand how empathy is developed through relationships and how advocacy plays a role in and out of school.
DEI in the Middle School
Building on the work done in earlier grades, Middle School students deepen their learning about aspects of identity, such as gender, gender identity, language, spirituality, ethnicity, ability, age, family, social class, and race, explicitly and implicitly during emergent and everyday interactions. Additionally, real-world issues and current events are integrated into lesson plans in the Middle School to provide opportunities for dialogue and discussions about worldly events. Throughout this process, students engage in active listening, critical thinking, and they begin to consider their role and responsibilities as future citizens of the world.
DEI in the Upper School
In the Upper School, students continue to explore concepts related to identity by reading biographies, listening to guest speakers, electing to participate in various affinity spaces, learning about current events, and engaging in their studies of people and history. Throughout the curriculum, students investigate the political systems that continue to marginalize BIPOC people while considering constitutional issues in our country’s government, such as authority, power, and rights. Additionally, real-world issues and current events are integrated into lesson plans in the Upper School to provide opportunities for dialogue and discussions about worldly events. Throughout this process, students engage in active listening, critical thinking, and they begin to consider their roles and responsibilities as future citizens of the world.
Students have access to optional grade-level affinity groups based on race, gender identity, family structure, and advocacy, which provide supportive spaces for dialogue and connection among individuals who share a similar identity.