Weekly David Cluster Newsletter Blurb:
After break we will begin learning about the colonization of Africa. I am always excited going into this unit. Our study of colonial Africa marks the first time we think about regions of the world as not just ancient civilizations, but modern nations. In the process, many challenging topics come up. After break we will start by talking about complicated history of Africa (after thinking first about geography and natural resources), and we will have discussions about African contact with Europeans, about slavery, colonialism, and imperialism.
In a couple of weeks we will do a case study of Nelson Mandela and apartheid in South Africa, and of the civil war in Sudan and South Sudan. The students often ask some difficult but important questions about race, inequity, and segregation, and for some, the questions and answers feel uncomfortable. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if any of social studies class spills into home, and if there are still unanswered questions.
Our Essential Questions
How does where you live affect how you live?
How can we understand multiple values and beliefs?
How are people and places shaped by their history?
How do activists promote change?
In what ways are we Global Citizens?
What is Civility?
Civility is claiming and caring for one's identity, needs, and beliefs, without degrading someone eles's in the process
-Institute for Civility in Government
Resources for parents of 6th grade social studies students:
The following is a compilation of resources that you might find interesting as a way to connect with your sixth grader around the curriculum they are studying. They also lend themselves to great discussions at the dinner table!
BOOKS FOR ADULTS: (topics of interest and study; books are only appropriate for adults)
Note: We have viewed most but not all of these. All come highly recommended from credible sources.
BOOKS FOR KIDS: (we will read some of these in class)
TED TALKS AND THE LIKE:
8th grade information for parents:
EIGHTH GRADE SOCIAL STUDIES
I. In social studies this year we will be answering two essential questions:
II. Goals of 8th grade social studies:
III. Curriculum outline:
Unit One: Foundations of Justice
In this unit we explore the important roles governments play in establishing justice. We discuss the idea of "unalienable rights" through a close examination of the Declaration of Independence. Then, we study the layout of our national government. Finally, we learn about the Bill of Rights, paying close attention to the First Amendment. In this unit, we will debate a number of Supreme Court cases involving the rights of adolescents.
Unit Two: Fighting for Justice
In this unit we explore the ways activists have worked to create just communities. We begin by the unit by learning about the struggle for women's rights. We study the events at Seneca Falls, look at the struggle for suffrage, and explore the second wave of feminism. Then we will shift gears and examine how young and old activists fought against racial discrimination, including an exploration of the philosophy and practice of nonviolence. We’ll end the unit by looking at the struggle for equal education, including an in-depth comparison of the integration in Little Rock’s Central High School in 1957 and Boston Public Schools in 1974. In this unit, we’ll be reading the novel The Rock and The River about a young man in Chicago, who must choose between using nonviolence and following a more extreme path towards justice. We’ll end the unit by analyzing how people memorialize the fight for justice. This activity will help us prepare for our trip to D.C.
Unit Three: Justice Denied
In this unit we explore the role of ordinary people in fighting injustice and creating just communities. We examine what happens when governments and citizens fail to protect the rights of people. Our primary focus is the Holocaust, the systematic murder of six million Jews by the Nazi government and its collaborators. Our goal is to wrestle with the complex moral question surrounding this tragedy. We study the origins of anti-Semitism and the rise of Hitler. Together, we will try to understand why many Germans supported the Nazi party. Through reading a work of historical fiction called The Boy Who Dared, we will also examine the ways in which some men and women resisted the Nazi powers. Finally, we will ask who bears responsibility for the Holocaust.
IV. Assignments and assessment:
I believe grades serve two important purposes in school. First, they offer students feedback about their progress and achievement. Second, they can motivate students to work harder and learn more. Each quarter students’ grades will be computed using a total points system. I want students to master all of the skills and concepts we are learning together. Therefore, students may revise all projects in social studies class until they demonstrate that they have mastered these skills and concepts. I will only record the highest grade in my gradebook.
The most significant part of grades will be students’ performance on projects. I have found that written projects are the most effective (and most engaging) way for students to demonstrate that they have mastered teach topic we cover. Some of the projects students will work on include
8th grade newsletter:
Last week, we explored the concept of nonviolence in depth. We analyzed Dr. King's 5 principles of nonviolence, using excerpts from his essay "Nonviolence and Racial Justice." Many students were surprised by King's insistence that racism itself, not racist people, were the opponents of the Civil Rights activists. We examined the history of the sit-in movements in Nashville, to see what the 5 principles look like in actions.
We spent two days this week continuing work on students' long-term "Activism Project." At this point, students, working in groups, have identified a specific problem they want to address. They've brainstormed what they know about the problem and have begun to develop possible responses. I've been luck to work with WHS teacher Jay Moody, whose background in innovation and design has helped students push themselves to consider creative responses. We'll be returning to this project periodically throughout the coming months. I anticipate students will complete work before our trip to DC in May.
Finally, at the end of this week, we began a brief exploration of the Black Power movement. We viewed an excerpt from the series "Eyes on the Prize" about the March Against Fear in Mississippi. We'll return to this topic after break and I'll be asking students to consider if Black Power represented a change in tactics, beliefs, values, or tone.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
1) Please consider checking in with your son/daughter about our Activism Project. Can they share a few of their initial ideas? What inspired them to address this particular problem and consider these particular responses? This may also be an opportunity to share the strategies that you use professionally when working with a group or a team. What helps a group be productive? In your experience, what types of groups generate the best ideas?
2) When discussing King's approach to nonviolence, I used the metaphor of an illness. Nonviolent activists would, I believe, state the following "Racism is a disease. [Many] white people are sick with this disease. Nonviolence is the only treatment that works." This metaphor elucidates King's principles because it implies that we must address the underlying causes of the disease, not attack the symptoms or the patients. Does this metaphor resonate with you? Is there a different way to that you have conceptualized racism?
3) Finally, please encourage your children to keep up with their independent reading over break. The practice of daily reading supports kids in all academic areas. Our Library and ELA department has launched a "Reading Without Walls Challenge" encouraging students to read a book "about a character who doesn't look like you or live like you." Why not join the challenge?