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.