As a primary-level teacher, I am responsible for creating a classroom that operates as a community, with everyone’s voice included in the day-to-day environment and provides opportunities for students to learn through literature, science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics. Key components of our school theme include equity and inclusion making social-emotional learning integral to any academic learning that takes place throughout the day. This unit will provide my students the opportunity to build an understanding of how we are all important to help make positive changes the world in the ways that we can.
I teach in a self-contained classroom at Edgewood Magnet School in New Haven. I find the neighborhood/magnet setting a rewarding environment, with students coming to school each day from a variety of home circumstances and with differences in academic levels. As a result of these variables, the young children have differing levels of background knowledge and life experiences. The classroom is a mixture of varied ethnicities, economic strata and social and emotional strengths and weaknesses. The use of collaboration allows all students at all levels to learn in an inherently differentiated environment, learning new concepts and experiencing the hands-on practices and demonstrations in this curriculum unit on understanding how we will all work together. Throughout the school year, the Kindergarten curriculum focuses heavily on social development. Our school staff is currently mandated to develop rich curriculum that supports our new S.T.E.A.M. focus, with support through social/emotional programs. This unit will be in direct alignment with my responsibility to design curriculum that helps our students learn social and community responsibility and understanding.
Young children often have a natural curiosity about people around them. They are fascinated to learn about what “grown-ups” do for jobs and somehow can easily see themselves in those roles. In the curriculum unit, students will explore the lives of a number of men and women who, through the course of history, have accomplished similar goals amid a variety of obstacles.
Within the set of compelling questions in the Connecticut Social Studies Framework for young learners are: How do we learn about people from the past? How do past actions of people in our community still influence our community today? What historical sources can we study from the past? Teaching younger students about our world’s history and how the past influences the present and future is a bit lofty and challenging, but some basic questions can help them think it through include: What makes a good leader? How do members of a community help each other? What can we learn from each other that that helps make ours and others’ lives better?
I will use the picture book, Little Dreamers: Visionary Women Around the World by Vashti Harrison as a foundation for this unit. This text highlights the life histories and achievements of 36 curious and resourceful women, both living and deceased with some more well-known than others. These daring women from around the world are presented in one-page biographies that describe their challenges and triumphs with illustrations that include the tools of their trade or objects of study. From this beginning focus, the students will learn about a set of partners, one male and one female, who have achieved success in their field. By partnering like-minded men and women, I can demonstrate that success can come from passion, hard work, timeliness, and sometimes, good luck. The parallel accomplishments of the women and men we study will encourage my students to view the world as a place that both men and women are equally capable of leadership roles.
My students will use the lives of these brave and brilliant figures to consider ideas and goals for becoming an expert in their own futures. They will use the biographical format of the Little Dreamers text as a model their own plan – what area of expertise would they choose and who might benefit from any advancements, what would they wear for their specific type of work, and what tools or materials would they need to do their work.