Social Justice, Empowerment & Advocacy Curriculum

I believe and it seems consistent with our school philosophy that an important part of helping our students become empowered to create and maintain sustainable communities is helping them acquire advocacy and group interaction skills.

A number of projects which reflect these priorities could be incorporated into the types of "Our World" exploration projects that will take up the afternoons and be the center of the curriculum.

I think empowerment involves both appreciation and constructive criticism of ideas and institutions.

Communities & Citizenships
Perhaps our curriculum should include references to how students develop confidence in and a critical perspective toward:

  • Their selves and their own actions
  • Interactions in small groups
  • The Groups/People They See Every Day such as
  • Family
  • Peers/Friends
  • Classmates, etc
  • People In Local Communities
  • School
  • Neighborhood
  • City, etc
  • Larger Communities
  • State
  • Country
  • Region
  • Global

In reading that I have been doing about service learning, one of the things that struck me most (because it is not often done well) is the necessity of making community-based learning projects collaborative (rather than just one side 'giving to' or 'doing charity for' the other. In community projects that we plan, I think it's important to make sure that both sides are learning/benefiting and giving/helping in relatively equal measure.

(Things like collecting oral histories while talking to people in nursing homes or soup kitchens or whatever or having professionals come in to listen to presentations of students' research come to mind.)

Skills To Be Cultivated In Students include:

  • Open-minded curiosity toward people, communities, events and phenomena
  • The ability and tendency to identify possible strengths, resources and challenges
  • Familiarity with and Competence in Brainstorming Solutions/Actions
  • Including the consideration of different types of actions: direct, fund-raising, advocacy, education, etc
  • Finding and evaluating relevant information
  • Arguing for, revising, constructively critiquing proposed approaches
  • Turning ideas into action
  • Consistent action and ongoing reflection

Possible Project Themes
Some Themes Around Which Projects That Could Involve The Various Skills We've Talked About (and subjects which they might draw on) Might Be:

'Who we are and where we come from'

  • Evolution
  • Archeology
  • History (including of family and community)
  • Immigration
  • Almost anything in social studies
  • Human physiology

'The Languages We Use'

  • Bilingualism and the history of language policy
  • Appropriate ways of speaking in different situations (including dialects of English and Spanish, different kinds of slang, the jargons of different professions and other communities)
  • Social conventions of different professional groups/ subjects
  • Writing and speaking for different audiences
  • Letter to congressperson, education campaign for younger students, poem for talent show, etc
  • Different kinds of languages as understood in a wider sense to include forms of expression such as music, dance, mathematical notation, art, graphic representations of data, etc

'The Places We Live'

  • Human and Animal Habitats
  • Including water issues, global warming, etc and how they affect the way people live in different places -Different roles that people and groups/ institutions have in different communities
  • Learning about sustainable business and corporate social responsibility
  • Garden
  • Sustainable art, canvas bag making, etc

Each of these areas could be developed by our diverse and professional teaching staff to incorporate high level academic skills from a variety of content areas, including the state standards and the additional expectations that we have for students in our ideal school.