I have used so many materials from ZEP and Rethinking Schools during my decade as a classroom teacher and for the past two years as an instructional coach and administrator. I LOVE the teaching activities that support U. S. History curriculum, especially role plays (i.e., Potato Famine, Constitution Convention, Reconstructing the South). I modified The People vs. Columbus et al. for my 5th grade students, and together we put Columbus, his soldiers, and the European value system on trial for the genocide of the Taíno.
Inspired by the success of the trial of Columbus, I worked with my 6th grade social studies colleague to put “fast fashion” and sweatshops on trial as well! We read Rethinking Globalization, watched documentaries, and listened to Rebecca Burgess talk about the Fibershed movement in Northern California, and then we created roles based on the real people featured in the documentary “The True Cost.” At the end of their unit on trade in the ancient world, students read about the human impact and environmental devastation caused by today’s fashion industry, and then they put multinational corporations, U.S. consumers, the government, and capitalism on trial.
Finally, I’ve leaned heavily on and been inspired by Bill Bigelow’s People’s Curriculum for the Earth. I modified the Climate Change Mixer for my 5th graders. It was the culmination of our science unit on the carbon cycle. I rewrote each role so that the roles were accessible for lower age readers. Students’ culminating projects were to identify and advocate for one change we could implement at school to reduce our carbon emissions. One student wrote a persuasive letter to our principal outlining new policies about how and when to use electricity in our classrooms. Another student organized a symbolic protest – they advertised a day of wearing green to represent a commitment to reducing carbon emissions through morning announcements, posters, and word-of-mouth.
My teaching and instructional coaching is informed by so many of the activities and publications I’ve found on the Zinn Education Project website! Thank you so much for helping me bring a critical pedagogy to students as young as ten!