After attending a Zinn Education Project workshop on Reconstruction at the National Council of Social Studies annual conference in the fall of 2017, Esther Honda, a San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) librarian, was excited about the possibility of bringing a people’s history workshop back to her district. Honda explained,
If librarians learn people’s history content and methods, we can share it with teachers in our schools because we regularly collaborate on content-area instruction.
The Zinn Education Project was pleased to send Organizer/Curriculum Writer Ursula Wolfe-Rocca to lead a workshop with all district librarians at the start of the school year.
SFUSD requested a workshop that would be timely and relevant to ongoing debates about U.S. policy at the border with Mexico. The workshop’s centerpiece was Bill Bigelow’s lesson, available at the Zinn Education Project’s website, U.S. Mexico War: “We Take Nothing by Conquest, Thank God.”
Through a role play, Ursula introduced participants to a wide variety of individuals who witnessed or were part of the war. By taking on the perspective of a historical figure, and by talking with other characters in the room, participants learned about the war’s disputed origins, its connection to the question of slavery, its impact on soldiers and civilians of various nationalities and positions, and its role in redrawing the border between Mexico and the United States.
Below are a few of the comments from participants about the workshop:
I really appreciate this in-depth work focused on history with a social justice slant.
Love the variety of perspectives we got to be part of in our ‘mixer’. . . So glad we have you to help us.
I thought the presenter was great!
Can’t wait to do this with my students!
I really enjoyed learning from my colleagues when we became a character in the U.S. war with Mexico. . . Rethinking the information in our textbooks.
I learned a great way to introduce a unit or topic. The character mixer was amazing.
I will use the information I learned today to challenge students to think critically about what is told to them in their social studies and history textbooks.
The topic of borders (and U.S. and Mexico War) was perfectly relevant. I feel like the lesson idea is applicable to many different classes.
Last year the Zinn Education Project also offered workshops in Charlottesville, Virginia, Indiana, New Jersey, New York, Portland, Oregon, San Francisco, Vancouver, British Columbia, and Washington, D.C.