I am currently developing and teaching an American Studies course with a colleague in the History Department. Since the course is comprised entirely of juniors, I will be able to use material from the "Cityscapes and the American Identity" unit with my other English 3 courses (also made up of juniors) as we focus on American Literature. The student body at the Sound School is pretty diverse. We are an aquaculture and agriculture magnet high school with a student body made up of individuals from communities surrounding New Haven as well as New Haven itself. Although the student make-up is diverse, the school is rather small, about 300 students, and offers a supportive, close-knit environment. Because of the aquaculture and agriculture focus, history and English are not always the passion of the student body. The school, in general, attracts active students that like real-world connections to their learning.
The guiding questions for American Studies are: What personal and civic questions do Americans face? How do our changing landscape and civic responsibility define our individual identities? Each quarter of the course is guided by a central concept and essential questions derived from the main themes. The first quarter's central theme is cityscape, the second workers, the third family, and the fourth arts and media.
As we explore the New York cityscape in the pursuit of understanding the changing community, I will infuse poetry, literature, and film. Periodically, I hope to introduce class with a quick poem about the New York landscape. There is a list of some potential poetry at the end of the unit. It will be a quick way to introduce students to voices of various ethnicities and from various time periods and various places in the city. Students can read the poem aloud and to themselves before having a brief discussion about the stylistic choices the author uses to convey his or her particular message about New York. The poetry will be tied to the landscape of New York City and the content of the unit.
Aspects of the New York City landscape will be explored like tenements, parks, businesses, facilities promoting the arts, the UN building, etc. to help us to understand the place, the people, and the time.