NCCL School understands the need for awareness and advocacy in our society. We guide our students to become educated, empathetic, brave supporters of marginalized groups, as well as of causes close to their hearts.
NCCL School has made a commitment to go further with our Social Justice Curriculum in the 2020-2021 school year. Please check for curriculum updates below.
Update: Adoption of Social Justice Standards
We've adopted the Social Justice Standards: An Anti-Bias Framework for guiding our social justice curriculum. These standards were created by Teaching Tolerance, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Group 1 (Grades K-2)
In keeping with our developmentally appropriate, thematic approach to teaching and learning, we have a purposeful year-long approach to our Social Justice curriculum. This year we have been able to expand our social justice library and have found books with more diverse illustrations and to address current social justice issues.
We began our school year with our overarching theme “We Are All Alike, We Are All Different.” The title of this theme comes from a book we read in the beginning of the school year. Our beginning conversations revolved around the fact that we are all different (inside and out) and that’s what makes the world a better place. “The world would be so boring if we were all the same!” Not only is this idea crucial to Group 1 children developing empathy and understanding of one another, it also translates to how Group 1 children look at the world. This year Group 1 children wrote books about themselves writing about their unique characteristics and experiences that make them- them! This project allowed for Group 1 children to look at and celebrate themselves, and their fellow Group 1 community members. Being a good community member is deep rooted in our school’s philosophy, and even in our isolated COVID cohorts, Group 1 children have demonstrated acceptance and empathy.
After solidifying, within our classroom, what a helpful, accepting, empathetic community looks and feels like we open the conversation up about the importance of being a leader and using your voice to try and correct injustices you see/feel/experience. We devote most, if not all, of the month of January to social justice in relation to racism and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. We honor MLK Jr., Rosa Parks, and more who peacefully protested to make change. We first read a book called Your Skin and Mine by Paul Showers. This book is accessible to Group 1 children as it scientifically breaks down what skin is and that melanin is what creates different skin colors. When we introduce MLK, Jr. Group 1 children are able to use their knowledge of what it means to be a good community member, that we are all alike and all different, and why skin color is different for each of us.
Group 1 children need outlets to know their voice is heard. This area of our curriculum is forever changing with the children that pass through Group 1. Group 1 children have taken Peace Marches, baked a huge bus cake in honor of Rosa Parks and the Alabama Bus Boycott for the whole school, fundraised for telescopes, collected for food drives, and written letters to the city about trash receptacles for cigarette butts at the local park near our school. The greatest way for Group 1 children to put their advocacy into action is within our community. Issues arise within our community and we address them in an open discussion. Group 1 children are thoughtful and communicative in problem solving because of the devotion to community that takes place in the beginning of the year.
Group 2 (Grades 3 & 4)
Social justice is always a constant with Group 2. Our focus is on a broad view of history with a strong effort to examine happenings that include the different perspectives of all people. This year we are working on a specific curriculum that centers around Black Lives Matter. We have been dedicating Thursday to whole group discussion and the presentation of historical information that helps the children understand the context of the Black Lives Matter movement.
We have had and will have some speakers. It has been important that these speakers are also school community members. We think that it matters that familiar figures can explain to children how they have endured discrimination because of physical characteristics like skin color.
On Thursdays, we highlight important people and discuss what has happened to them and how they had to overcome discrimination to achieve their goals. We try to include many historical people as well.
NCCL has always had a celebration of Martin Luther King near his birthday and, despite distance learning, we have continued to do so. This year children listened to information about the Civil Rights Movement as they created posters. We will publish them online, but they will bring them to school to put up in the tent when we return in-person.
February is our month to focus on the BLM movement. Our letter-writing unit will be dedicated to writing to our local government to show support for this movement and to articulate changes that we think will make our community stronger.
We read many books about many black men and women. While we always include a variety of different groups and their history, our strong emphasis this year is the life of various black people.We discuss current issues and events. As teachers we often start with a statement about events and then open the discussion up so the children take over. Their concerns and questions guide us toward a meaningful and age-appropriate discussion.
We will end February with an on-line ‘play’ where children will take the role of an historical or current person and describe their lives. Perspective taking is developing in Group 2 and this will be an explicit way for children to understand lives different from their own.
Group 3 (Grades 5 & 6)
We have created a specific curriculum in the 2020-2021 year focusing on social/racial justice with an emphasis on black lives matter.
We have engendered constant discussion among the students, led BY the students and mediated by teachers. The topics we have covered range all over the place, including racially-motivated police violence, appropriation of black culture, slavery, segregation, and civil rights movements starting from early 18th century America to the present day.
We have had (and will have) guest speakers with personal experience, who have led discussion with the students. Our guest speakers are drawn from our community and are either people of color with direct experience with racism, or they have directly participated in civil rights issues in a major way.
We have read multiple articles in the current news, covered the 2020 election and attack on the US capitol, and we have read historical articles related to racial injustice.
Our culminating activity is a photojournalism project where the students will work together to take photographs of things in the world around them: signs, situations, buildings, etc. that they believe represent our country’s current struggles with racial justice. As part of this project, each student will be writing a personal statement reflecting on what racial justice and Black Lives Matter means to THEM: personally, in the world around them, what they believe needs to change, what action they need to take, etc.
In addition, race and racial injustice is a through-line in most of our social studies units.
Group 4 (Grades 7 & 8)
Social justice is the main theme for all of the social studies units in Group 4 over the course of the students’ 7th and 8th grade years.
We cover current events, in particular issues around discrimination: racial, cultural, gender and sexual identity, are common areas of discussion.
We continually look at the big themes of inequity and discrimination throughout history and make connections to events from the past up through current day. Some regular units covered in our history classes are: Japanese Internment, The Holocaust, The Abolitionist Movement, Civil Rights Movement, Worker’s Rights, Immigration issues, the treatment of Native Americans throughout history, and social justice movements throughout history.
Our units are covered through role plays, field trips, guest speakers, documentaries, reading, writing, and presentations by students.
Currently Group 4 is closely watching, reading and discussing what is happening with the current political landscape.
We have been covering the Black Lives Matter movement through reading articles in the NY Times for Education and listening to guest speakers. This will be ongoing throughout the year.
We will be blending learning more about transgender issues as well as how students can get involved with making a difference when Sarah McBride comes to speak with our class. This is an extension of work that we have already done through conversations, and letter writing campaigns to change makers by students on issues about which they are passionate.
We will be working on a speech writing unit, which was a student request and was inspired by speeches made during the certification of the electoral votes. We will be looking at speech writing as a genre, and using this opportunity for students to acquire skills and tools to speak up about issues that concern them, now and in the future.
We will be working with The Newark History museum to help them acquire artifacts from a particular historically black area of Newark to help better represent that community.
Every other year the students do an extensive study of social justice issues presented through picture books. The students all identify areas where they would like to see education and change happen and write, illustrate, and publish their own picture books. The following issues are just some of which have been covered: racism, sexism, gender identity, sexual orientation, bullying, and poverty.
During this year, the students work on a project called The Big Give, where they are given seed money and asked to make a difference with an issue that they care about by pairing with other organizations or starting their own unofficial non-profit organization to address a real-world need. Kids learn how to write a mission statement, write letters asking for donations, raise money, and speak with professionals about issues through phone calls and meetings. The culmination is the presentation of donations to an organization.
Throughout each year, the NCCL Art Community explores the works of underrepresented artists from across the world. In the past, we have highlighted works by Jean Michel Basquiat, Yayoi Kusama, Joyce Scott, Kehinde Wiley, Amy Sherald, and so many more important women and BIPOC artists.
This year, our art teacher, Caroline is very excited to be featuring the African American artist, Alma Woodsey Thomas across all the Groups. Woodsey Thomas was the first African American woman to graduate from Howard University with a degree in Fine Arts. She became an art teacher and taught for 30 years in Washington DC public schools. Additionally, Thomas walked in the 1963 Great March in Washington DC, watching Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as he gave his “I Have A Dream” speech. Caroline always enjoys sharing Woodsey Thomas' art with students because there is so much to discuss about her use of color, pattern, and rhythm to express her love for the world around her. During her life, she had a great impact on young people through teaching art.
In 2016, she was the first African American woman artist to have her work displayed in the White House. The work of Abstract Expressionist painter, Alma Woodsey Thomas continues to be a springboard for young people to express their emotions through their own creativity.
In Spanish class we will be exploring the influences of the Afro-Latino culture through the lens of music and dancing. Groups 1 and 2 will be reading the Afro-Latino Alphabet and learning about Celia Cruz and her music. Groups 3 and 4 will be learning about dances like Puerto Rico’s Bomba and its connection with the African Diaspora.