by Maddy Wegner, NYLC Director of Engagement
There’s nothing like a group of social studies teachers, in the midst of African-American History month, in Greensboro, North Carolina, to make service-learning sing.
Twenty-seven indomitable educators attending their state social studies conference Feb. 7-8 tackled the service-learning IPARD cycle and social and emotional learning in less than an hour. Driven by the “big ideas” they teach with implicit or explicit civic engagement outcomes, they brainstormed possible project ideas, then connected academic, civic, and social/emotional outcomes to each step in the cycle, with an eye toward the formative assessments that would help them track their students’ understandings.
- The big idea of the Bill of Rights framing American ideals became a youth review of a student handbook vis-a-vis the Bill of Rights, with student surveys and school board presentations driving the action.
- The big idea of poverty as the root of many societal challenges became a youth-led resource bank of post-secondary options for students, with avenues for financial support as part of the research and deliberation phase of the inquiry cycle.
- The big idea of civil rights issues shaping societal norms became an exploration of movements and activism, from the 1960s to present day, with ideas for English/Language Arts assessments and self-awareness leading to social awareness interspersed throughout the study.
As one teacher mused at the end of the session, “What if social/emotional learning were a part of the state curriculum?”
“Can you mandate empathy?” she wondered.
Perhaps you can in a state with such a rich sense of living history. Certainly, my understanding of the impact of the civil rights movement increased when I met a brother of one of the “Woolworth Four” who was staff at our hotel. As he could attest from his sibling’s (Ezell A Blair, Jr.) refusal to leave the “whites only” Woolworth counter in downtown Greensboro in 1960, “Food just tastes better when you can sit down.”
These social studies teachers may be inspiring the next Woolworth Four by supplying their students with the tools for not only reading history, but also making it.