Inspired by her participation in the NAIS People of Color Conference in Seattle in December 2019
, Grade 5 teacher Jamie Parrott began to reimagine how units of inquiry in the classroom could be enhanced by a deeper understanding of multiple perspectives and voices. Grade 5 colleague Malcolm Davidson was equally inspired by the book "Being the Change
" by Sarah K. Ahmed and its focus on identity, so as the two embarked on this year's initial unit "Voice can invoke change," the question of how we express ourselves opened the doors to that very opportunity. Guided in part by a Pollyanna
curriculum unit "How one voice can change the community" along with resources and tools from both the Teaching Tolerance
curricula, Ms. Parrott and Mr. D encouraged students to read, listen, learn, and reflect.
After exploring the lives and lessons of youth activists Marley Dias
, Malala Yousafzai
, and Xiuhtezactl Martinez
, reading "The First Rule Of Punk
" by Celia Pérez, and recognizing a common thread around Ghandi's concept of being the change we want to see, students embarked on their own exploration of little-known activists ("activists people don't know about, but should") across a variety of issues and interests. Exploring identities, different world-views and perspectives through these core questions: how they developed their voice, how they persuaded others, and what action came about, encouraged students to practice expressing themselves, too. Using their own voices, Grade 5 students created presentations to share with parents and each other, concluding the unit by exploring why using our voice is important, how they foresee using their own voices, what surprised them about their research, and what causes they care deeply about. This exploration will carry them forward into future units and, ultimately, the year-end Grade 5 exhibition.
There is something so very powerful in learning that our voice matters, that self-advocacy and advocacy for things we care about are not only valuable, but possible at any age. Creating opportunities for our students to do this in spaces where they are supported and encouraged to be themselves thoroughly and authentically is core to what our Annie Wright Schools experience seeks to achieve.