The students I teach at Fair Haven Middle School live right in the midst of a wonderful learning lab, the city itself. New Haven has a rich and interesting history, a vibrant present, and a future that holds promise and opportunity for these young people. This unit of study will look at all three periods of time while providing lessons in reading comprehension, writing, vocabulary building, map reading, and grammar. By using the city of New Haven for these lessons I hope to gain the complete attention of my students, because we will be talking about people, places, and things they can identify with, know, and care about. I hope, also, to see a growth in their sense of self-importance and ability to do anything they want to do, because the subject matter will show them what has been done, is being done, and can be done by people, New Haveners just like themselves.
The unit is written for 7th and 8th graders although it can be used with some modification for any age students in the New Haven schools. The important factor is that because students live in New Haven they can identify with and have an interest in the subject matter, and that will sustain their enthusiasm. Some of these students have also lived and suffered the hardships of ghetto or “project” life either directly or indirectly, so they can better appreciate the progress made by many of New Haven’s ancestors.
The unit will encourage students to learn and develop varied skills They will develop their abilities to think, listen, and read critically while studying poetry, films and slides, statistics, and prose. They will develop better map reading skills by using various maps of New Haven for class work and for assignments. They will also use research skills and their powers of observation while looking at photos of different buildings and sites of New Haven provided in this unit and writing about them. Students will visit some landmarks and listen to lectures. They will develop their vocabulary and will use these words in a variety of assignments. They will have to write poetry, essays, and a creative short story about how New Haven will be in the year 2020. The unit will explore accomplishments made by our predecessors, with a specific look at the contributions by Italians and African Americans. Students will learn of the sacrifices and struggles, the networking among these people to form support systems, the contributions and achievements these groups made to the city and to their own lives. By studying these two groups I will be touching upon the ancestry of more than half my students. The subject matter should make them feel proud and should at the very least give all my students a sense of hope. All the students should, as a result of the study, conclude that New Haven can and will provide opportunities for them as long as they study and work hard.
I will stress that living in the United States and more specifically New Haven means living in a pluralistic society. It means that contributions from all ethnic groups helped to create an American culture, a city named New Haven that is unique and noble. I will stress that New Haven is an example of Thomas Jefferson’s dream of an American society—that is a society based on merit rather than race or class. Examples of this pluralism will be taken from New Haven’s history and its present day life. The conclusion I want the students to draw from this part of the unit is a sense of belonging, of being important, of being able to make a difference. I want the students to accept the fact that New Haven belongs to them and they are its future. It is their responsibility to keep her strong and vibrant, and it is their right to partake of her riches which include education, jobs, and entertainment.
I will teach the curriculum unit during the month of March and the first two weeks of April every Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday The sessions will be approximately 40 minutes per day.
WEEK 1—The Need—Students will be introduced to New Haven in a whole new light. Rather than discussing their city from the narrow viewpoint of neighborhood, they will be given an overview of the whole city in all her splendor. What makes a city will be discussed. We will look at New Haven’s attributes: location, educational opportunities, transportation, industry, services, her cultural and social offerings, and her population. Students will have opportunity to add their ideas and thoughts about other factors unique to New Haven. I expect there will be negative things brought out by the students We will take the time to examine these things to determine whether they are unique to New Haven or rather some of the ills of all cities of the ‘90s in the region, the United States, or the world.