As part of our social studies curriculum, we’ve been studying Manhattan Country Sschool, both in terms of the physical space and in terms of the people we find here. As members of the MCS community, the 5-6s have been exploring what it means to be part of this larger community. The 5-6s have a lot of ideas about our school and have been very excited to go exploring. We began on the first floor, a floor many of the children are familiar with through their everyday experience as well as their time in the 4-5s. We looked around and carefully observed what we saw and heard. We did the same on the second floor before break, and children discovered that there was a surprise room on the second floor! Many of the 5-6s consider themselves experts on the second floor, since they spend so much of their time there, and confidently asserted that we would find the Music Room, our own classroom, the kitchen, a hallway and a bathroom. Imagine our surprise when we discovered that School Psychologist Ilene’s office is also on our floor! It’s tucked away near the Music Room, and children were excited to make this discovery. When we went to the third floor, children were surprised to see how many rooms for grownups there were: the Meeting Room and the TFO (Third Floor Office), which houses admissions and high school placement). As we go up and up, children are excited to see what we will discover.
Another part of our social studies curriculum focuses on our membership in an even larger community, the community of activists. As part of our school’s social justice mission, we’re learning about workers and their struggles. Sunday was the birthday of Dolores Huerta, an activist who worked with Cesar Chavez to gain rights for farmworkers in the western part of the United States. We read Side by Side/Lado a Lado to give children some background on one aspect of the struggles for workers’ rights. The children listened intently, and asked excellent questions. “Why didn’t the owners want to pay the workers enough money?” “Why did they use chemicals that made the workers sick?” They also made incredibly thoughtful connections. “These people [Dolores and Cesar] were like Martin Luther King.” “They wanted things to be fair and they had marches, just like Martin Luther King.” It’s inspiring to see such young children make such important connections.
I, Laleña, want to share what was perhaps the most special moment for me: a child asked, “Did Cesar work with Martin Luther King?” As their teacher, I was pretty sure that they had not, but, then again, I wasn’t positive. “I’ll do some research,” I promised. “I’ll let you know what I find out tomorrow.” I did some research, and found that, though they never met, Dr. King did send a telegram to Cesar Chavez, commending him on his work (you can see a photo of it here: http://www.thekingcenter.org/archive/document/telegram-mlk-cesar-chavez#). It was really special to me to get to learn more about the intersectionality of past movements, something I care deeply about, as well as to share my personal process as a lifelong learner with the children, particularly in such an organic way.
We then made a list of workers, and children were very thoughtful about thinking of the people whose work they may not see, but who make all of our lives better. Firefighters, farm workers, hospital workers, bus drivers, teachers, truck drivers, factory workers, “people who put drinks on trucks so they can come to the store” and “the people who take the trash so it’s not all over the city” are just some of the workers the 5-6s came up with. You can find the complete list in our classroom.