There is a longstanding tradition during the last week of classes before March break for Sixies to engage in an interdisciplinary, experiential curriculum around identity. For the last several years, it was called Identity Week, and included an overnight and a day in Boston, meeting with community leaders. The project is now called “Who We Are” (WWA) as a follow-up to the Sixies’ earlier project, “Who Am I?” Multiple factors have reshaped the original curriculum, from an ever-growing awareness of complexities around identity and our country’s systems, to restrictions on what teachers and students could do because of Covid.
Seventh graders immersed themselves in a mind-expanding curriculum co-designed by English faculty member Clara Brodie and math and diversity, equity and inclusion faculty member Efe Osifo. Five different student cohorts, each led by a team of faculty members, explored housing, food, healthcare, environmental justice and education through an interdisciplinary lens of critical thinking and problem-solving. Osifo and Brodie spent hundreds of hours this year doing research, honing pedagogy, designing lessons and gathering resources to develop the WWA curriculum. They also met regularly with colleagues for months beforehand to train them, share information, and fine-tune the curriculum.
Over the course of the week, students examined their own identities and the intersectionality of different facets of those identities. They teamed up to design and then present their own utopias to the entire grade. Each cohort learned about and discussed the history and current day issues with their area of study. Students also heard from community leaders and experts in their sectors via Zoom, and gained interviewing skills they then applied with those individuals. With a now-deeper knowledge of dilemmas and inequities across their sectors, pairs of students from each cohort created artifacts to educate and inspire action, either a visual art piece, a social media campaign, a rap, or a public service announcement. Final presentations united teams from each cohort to share their work, so that every field of study learned important lessons from the other four.
Each year, this week-long interdisciplinary curriculum about identity, community, and important national issues inevitably evolves. The resounding sense across all Sixie classrooms last week was an understandable feeling of frustration and being overwhelmed about many of the obstacles we now face as a nation—but with it, a strong sense of hope, and a commitment to setting the path right for future generations. Brodie said of the project with Osifo, “Working on this week was a great way to put our mission into action! It was so inspiring to watch the kids make connections between the material they have learned in their academic subjects, their seminars during WWA, and their own lives. Their solutions for how to solve the problems of today were truly inspiring.”
Sixie Lauren Peloquin, who was in the environmental justice group, ended the week with this observation: “Something I found surprising is that a lot of times the media talks about how we should take action individually, like get an electric car, or turn off the water when you’re brushing your teeth. That does make a change, but it’s not a big change. I did not think about that at all, but now I will. We need to be implementing laws, we need to be making sure that, internationally, there’s some ways to make environmental change. …there are so many inequalities and they’re all interconnected, because history has created these inequalities for certain groups or minorities, and it’s just not fair. There should be more laws that are trying to make a difference.”
Osifo said of the Who We Are project, “This week has been an awesome opportunity to have fruitful discussions with our students. The co-curricular work that our teachers did to deliver really important content helped our students make connections all over the place. I think it was just fulfilling to see our students engaging in this type of work and living up to our school’s mission of developing leadership for the public good!”