Representation and Marginalization in History: Fourth Grade Exploration


Students at Mundo Verde explored representation and marginalization in history with their fourth-grade teacher, Dani McCormick, on Thursday, February 7 during the Black Lives Matter At School Week of Action.

After decorating the wall with art representing the 13 principles, the students broke up into five groups. Each group read a biography of one person who seldom appears in elementary school history lessons: Josephine Baker, Marsha P. Johnson, James Baldwin, Shirley Chisholm, and Dorothy Height.

After they read and discussed in small groups, McCormick gathered them for a large group discussion and the students introduced their historical figures to the rest of the class. They explained what the figures were famous for and explained how they connect to the Black Lives Matter principles. For example, James Baldwin was a writer connected to the principle of "empathy." Marsha P. Johnson was a performer connected to principles like "transgender affirming" and "queer affirming." Shirley Chisholm was connected to "unapologetically black" and "black women."

One student compared them to the "hidden figures" women of NASA: people of color who accomplished great things but are not often taught about at school.

Finally, McCormick prompted them with the essential question: why is it important to learn about diverse experiences in history?

Students responded thoughtfully. A few explained that different kinds of experiences make it more interesting to learn about history because they show history isn't just about one person's life or one person's importance. Other students commented:

When we read about people like Shirley Chisholm, she didn't just tell people that a Black woman could run for president. We SEE that we can be in politics, too. Women and Black people can be in Congress, too. We can be president.

Seeing all kinds of people in history helps us understand that everyone is important. We all have the right to be seen. All of us can help.

When we learn history from multiple perspectives, we can better practice empathy.

When we really feel people's feelings, we better understand their experiences, which changes the way we think and act in the future.

McCormick's class is just one at Mundo Verde that is participating in the Week of Action. In other classrooms this week, students are exploring what it means to be "unapologetically Black" by reading Hidden Figures, learning about Afro-Caribbean experiences, and more.

Thu2019Mykella Palmer