10/11s (Fifth Grade)
In the 10/11s, our social justice work is evident in our Social Studies, Current Events, and Community time curricula. In Social Studies, students explore an in-depth study of Culture. This provides us with many opportunities to address issues of equality, human rights, and stereotypes. Additionally, our Current Events work surfaces issues and topics around gender normativity, immigration, racism, and more. We use our Community time as a platform to discuss social justice while taking into account the developmental needs of our students. Some topics include equity versus equality, ability, and advocacy (both in our school community and the world at large). The curriculum for the 10/11s focuses on studying China and the stereotypes related to it. Students engage in persuasive writing about the issues in the community and society related to social justice and they study sex, gender, and sexuality. We engage in a series of lessons on learning styles, learning needs, growth mindset, and equity and with respect to learning. In music, students study world music and learn about political music from artists like Bob Marley or Fela Kuti.
11/12s (Sixth Grade)
Loudness in the Library: Empowering Students to Think Critically About Identity & Bias is a highlight of the 11/12s year. Students examine the implicit and explicit messages in children’s and young adult literature, advertising, TV, movies, and other forms of media to understand the effects of those messages on how they think about race and gender. Students learn to think critically about messaging, whether it is positive or potentially dangerous, and why.
We delve into the history, beliefs, and practices of major world religions: Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism. Students study different religious practices to understand the similarities and differences, as well as some interactions between different cultures and religions. They learn of the origins of each religion and the traditions/beliefs each holds; this is reinforced with visits to places of worship for each of the five major religions. They examine the historical basis for various religious practices, and how traditions are maintained and adapted. There are also opportunities for students to reflect and to write about their own values, within and outside religion.
In Woodshop, students create figure sculptures—self-portraits or superheroes, in the gesture of how they are making the world a better place. In music, the students learn about the history of American popular music since 1955. There are frequent discussions about how music intersects with culture, history, and social justice. Racial and gender issues often come up in class as the students learn about different musicians.
12/13s (Seventh Grade)
In social studies, students study American history by engaging with the diversity of our country’s story every day. Students learn about the tapestry of multiple perspectives in viewing our nation’s history, concluding with an essay to discuss the access to freedom and rights for different groups over time.
The Science curriculum includes a unit on Human Sexuality and Reproduction. Students discuss diversity of gender, sexual orientation, and anatomy.
In the spring, the 12/13s learn about jazz in music class. The history of the genre and its unique place as an American art form created by people of color is paramount.
13/14s (Eighth Grade)
Over the course of 16 weeks students engage in four major themes of study, which are Peer Pressure, Racial Identity, Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation, and Advocacy. In addition to their own explorations of self, students are taught to see and confront injustice, to be upstanders (individuals who recognize when something is wrong and act to make it right) rather than bystanders, and to engage difference through curiosity, decency, and respect.
Students study gender. In French class, they watch movies such as Tomboy and analyze the characters’ emotions and family structure and offer their opinions. They discuss grammatical gender in the French language versus biological gender. Students engage in cultural and historical studies that are geographically and/or temporally distant and compare and contrast these studies with their own experiences.
During the winter term—January and February—a comprehensive civil rights unit is taught, spanning Reconstruction to the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Students examine the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments, seminal Supreme Court decisions, legislative actions, executive orders, and highly orchestrated protests to learn the twists and turns of a century-long struggle to secure equal rights for black Americans. There is special focus given to the role of ordinary people and extraordinary leaders in initiating coordinated and long-term campaigns for lasting social and racial justice. Three overarching questions guide the unit: What are the ideals or promises about freedom and justice that the United States makes to its citizens? How are these ideals, rights, and promises different from the reality for many groups of people? What are specific actions people can take to protest inequality and injustice? Over the course of the unit, students come to appreciate that the civil rights movement was a primary force for the expansion of democracy for all people.