Second grade continues to learn from the past as they look ahead to creating the kind of world in which they want to live.
While the students were not able to open their classroom to community members for an interactive gender-neutral toy store this year as they have in years past, the lesson continued as 2nd graders once again were able to learn about gender stereotypes and the ways toy marketing often perpetuates stereotypes. To counteract what they saw as gender-segregated advertising, the students worked in teams to develop their own marketable toys that could appeal more expansively. Danielle Bernstein’s class made a collection of promotional materials for their toy prototypes, including a “pegasus stuffy.” (Watch their videos.) They also drafted a vision statement* (below) describing both the kind of class they want to be and the inclusive kinds of advertising they appreciate.
At the same time, students have been learning about role models and changemakers, current and historical, who inspire them. As these biography projects took shape in parallel with students’ learning during Black History Month, many students chose to learn the stories of Black changemakers. In the introduction to her essay, Sarah ’31 from Sasha Shahidinejad’s class explained that she’d focused on “people identifying as Black devoted to their/our country.” She chose to study Mae Jemison, Michelle Obama, and Nelson Mandela. When asked how she chose those three subjects, she said, “I really like the Obamas. I didn't want to disappoint my space-loving sister (by the way Perseverance landed on her birthday!) so I learned about Mae Jemison. And Nelson Mandela is just so important because he was president of the African National Congress and president of South Africa. He also grew more powerful while he was in prison, which is a pretty rare thing.”
Teachers also kept students’ learning timely with mini lessons responsive to people making an impact right now. This week, students learned about Maia Chaka, the first Black female NFL referee, her training for that job, and some of the virtues she displayed, including “self-discipline, honesty, enthusiasm, and respect.” They also discussed the stereotypes she faces in her work because she is both Black and a woman. Class notes on Chaka joined a “Yes She Can!” bulletin board of inspiring women just outside the classroom, which included luminaries such as Yayoi Kusama, Katherine Johnson, Hillary Clinton, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Kamala Harris, 2nd grade teacher Azureé Harrison, and “my mommy.” Each student identified virtues exemplified by the woman they chose to write about for the board (generosity, justice, courage, truthfulness, etc.).
Looking ahead, students will be boosting their own agency and sense of self-confidence (as well as their writing skills) as they develop expert “how-to” instructionals to share with the community. As they communicate their expertise to the community, we can observe not only their developing expressive language skills, but also their growing abilities to identify and solve problems, to organize and present a complex topic, and to engage an audience of lifelong learners in partnership.
*The Kind Dragons’ statement:
“In Social Studies we are studying gender as part of our identity project. We learned that there are many ways people identify, not just boy or girl. We also learned about gender stereotypes. We feel it is important to break gender stereotypes, so that everyone feels comfortable doing whatever brings them joy. We saw a problem in the media. Many advertisements show gender stereotypes. We made toy commercials advertising toys that are appealing to all kids. We made sure our commercials are breaking gender stereotypes!”
-The Kind Dragons
(Danielle’s 2nd Grade Class)