I teach fifth and sixth grade Science at Nathan Hale School in New Haven, Connecticut. My classes represent a diverse, multicultural community of learners that encompass a wide spectrum of achievements, interests, learning and social needs. Children learn and progress best when they can apply the skills, they learn in a manner that befits their abilities and talents. This happens when they participate in interdisciplinary curriculum that not only involves choice but encompasses various learning and assessment strategies that celebrate how they learn. As mentors and role models for children it is extremely important that we integrate and connect their learning to the world around them. This then invites students to be more engaged and take ownership of their learning as it opens up the notion that their understanding and actions affect not only how they live in the present, but also their future.
This unit will teach students about Ethnic Studies, its history and its role in our lives. Students will experience the relevance and need for this common understanding through its integration into curriculum. According to ‘Rethinking Ethnic Studies, A Rethinking Schools Publication,’ “Ethnic Studies purpose is to respond to students by developing their critical understanding of the world and their place in it, and ultimately prepare them to use academic tools to transform their world for the better.”1 It is the study of the histories, experiences, cultures and issues of racial-ethnic groups.
This unit will provide a deeper understanding that while ‘race,’ as a cultural, social and historical concept has real life consequences, it does not describe human biological variation from a scientific perspective. Students will learn the history of the concept of ‘race’ from a social context and what scientific researchers have to say about it.
It is my hope that through this unit, students will gain a deeper understanding that individual humans are genetically the same, by demonstrating how the idea of ‘race’ fails to represent biological variation and furthermore how culture shapes how we see the world, and how these conceptions have changed over time. Given this foundation, students will see how ‘race’ and racism is embedded in our lives and can affect our everyday thinking and relationships.