A tony private school in Washington, DC posted a clip on Instagram showing kindergarteners marching through the school carrying protest signs and chanting "black lives matter." The children, wearing face masks, carried signs while mimicking a BLM protest. This was during the "DC Area Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action."
The Lowell School, which charges nearly $40,000 per year for kindergarten, takes great efforts to teach the children of America's elite about social justice. The kindergarten curriculum has a focus on "identity, social justice, and activism." The school touts its dedication to being "an inclusive community."
Part of the school's diversity, equity and inclusion statement is "we believe that the foundations of advocacy begin in childhood and early adolescence. To dismantle systems of oppression, exclusion, and inequality, a child must fundamentally value the worth of all people as equals from the youngest of ages."
The school website notes the importance of teaching children to "engage in fluent conversations around identity, equity, and inclusion." In a talk given to the National Association of Independent Schools in 2017, representatives from the Lowell School stressed the importance of teaching children about their "social and cultural identifiers."
"Social justice and activism" lessons are also on the curriculum. The Lowell School writes that "Part of helping children develop a strong sense of self includes showing them that they each have a voice and they can use that voice in service of a cause they are passionate about. This lays the groundwork for teachers to begin addressing issues of 'fairness' and ways that children can make a difference in the world."
Activities in support of this goal include the "News Share activity," in which "Kindergartners explore what is fair and unfair in the world around them. They begin to learn important questions to ask such as Why are things the way they are? Are they fair? What would that feel like if it were me? How can I help?" Kindergarteners also engage in a lengthy project that highlights their identities. "Family photos are shared, and children create self-portraits and an 'All About Me' book to highlight various aspects of their identities."
First graders learn how to be "a hero." "In 1st grade, students study community heroes and think about how they could be a hero. They set personal goals and identify ways they can take action to help their communities—for example, reading to Pre-Primary children, participating in the Peace March, or cleaning up the front field."
First graders are also subjected to lessons on "Teaching Tolerance," a series of lessons brought forth by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has been renamed "Learning for Justice." As part of this, "First graders explore the origin of their names. In a lesson adapted from Teaching Tolerance, they identify the different ways they learn and what their bodies need in order to do their best learning. In the model town unit, they answer the question. Does our community work for everyone? and consider how their town could meet the needs of people who rely on public transportation, have disabilities, or who don’t have housing."
Second graders are taught to tackle "big problems" with their activism. "Second graders identify 'big problems' (global warming, natural disasters, homelessness, cyber hacking, people hurting people who are poor) and are asked to consider Which of these big issues do you think that you, as a 2nd grader, could use your voice to do something about? Teachers then support children in taking the next steps to raise awareness about the issue or make a positive change."
Students in second grade also return to detailed explorations of their own identities. "In 2nd grade, children review what they have learned about identity in Kindergarten and 1st grade. Several of the major social and cultural identifiers are named and presented as categories for more specific identifiers. Students then create self-portraits that highlight various aspects of their identity, touching on at least four different categories of identifiers."
The school hosted Isabel Wilkerson, author of Caste, for virtual sessions in January to discuss how American society is a "caste system." A social studies teacher praised the virtual visit, saying that "This text aligns especially closely with the 7th-grade curriculum."
"Social studies in 7th grade examines human rights around the world through the Holocaust, the Civil Rights Movement, and modern-day China," the Lowell School writes. Wilkerson is working on writing a version of her book for younger children.
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