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Discover, Inquire and Wonder: Social Justice

Author: Jane Rothschild, 2nd grade teacher

Dear Families,

As part of our observance of Black History Month, we talked about the Black Heroes and Leaders we have studied as a class thus far: Wangari Maathai, Isatou Ceesay, Emmanuel Yeboah, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, and Ruby Bridges.  Second graders talked about what we have learned about these important individuals and  explained how their work and sacrifice helped improve our world.

This week, we added to our list of Heroes and Leaders, and learned the life stories of Maya Angelou and Mae Jemison through reading two new books:

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Mae Jemison’s story inspired us to think about our Noble Quality of “persistence”, and about  our own ambitions and dreams, while Maya Angelou’s story reminded us of the importance of words and language in the struggle for justice and equality.

A video of Maya Angelou’s reading of her poem, On the Pulse of the Morning at President Clinton’s inauguration is linked here. And, despite the length and complexity of this poem, the children watched and listened,  transfixed by Angelou’s image and voice.

As we continued our Inquiry work, students engaged in some remarkable deep thinking and questioning.  For example, we examined a painting showing an encounter between  between Native American people and European explorers through a “See Think Wonder” exercise.

These words and images inspired students to raise nearly 50 questions for us to consider in our Inquiry study. First, the children wondered about the lives of the Potawatomi:

“What did a Potawatomi Village look like…How did they travel from place to place… What types of homes did they live in…Did children have toys… How did they get their food…How long did the Potawatomi live here before they were removed, and, where did they go?”  

Then, they they asked about the European  explorers and settlers: 

“How did the Europeans get here and why did they come… Did someone tell them to ‘remove’ the Potawatomi…Did they think it was their right to take over the Potawatomi land.  And, connecting to the Noble Qualities, once again, this question: …”Didn’t they have empathy for the Potawatomi?”

During the week, we answered a  few of these questions. We learned that the Potawatomi lived in homes know as “Wickiups”, and we imagined what the interiors might have looked like.  We discovered that the Potawatomi were farmers and hunters and we thought about the forests filled with game, as well as other foods. Looking at maps, we saw that places familiar to us — Canada, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Indiana — were home to Potawatomi people for hundreds of years before they arrived here in our area.  We have so much more to learn and discover!!

Finally…we spent  time on Friday thinking about these words, which are the mission statement of one of the groups of Potawatomi people:

“We must all work together to create an environment where each individual spirit may grow. ”

What we asked, did these words mean?”

Here were some thoughts of the second graders:

“We should let people fit in”,

“We should stand up for one another and ourselves”,

“We don’t all have to look, be,  or feel the same”,

“We should have empathy for each person…

And… “ Your spirit is what’s in your heart”.

Have a wonderful weekend.

All the best,

Jane

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