At 3 p.m. on Wednesday, March 8, the corner of Marlborough and Clarendon streets came alive with a crowd of elementary school students holding mini “picket signs,” each marked with something new that the children learned about women, stereotypes and inequality.
This was the culmination of The Learning Project Elementary School’s first-ever “teach-in,” with the entire day being devoted to learning about women’s history, gender and the inequality of opportunities that confront women across the globe. Each and every student at the school (kindergarten through sixth grade), as well as each staff member, participated in the daylong event in honor of “International Women’s Day.”
This idea, and the plan, was the work of tremendously talented women in The Learning Project community. Faculty members, Lizzie Barcay and Mikah Farbo, in addition to the school’s Academic Director, Martha Cesarz, collaborated to put together the concept, program, and collection of activities and lessons to advance students’ understanding of key historical and life issues.
Over the course of the day, Learning Project students engaged in school-wide activities, cross-grade discussions, and grade level lessons based on a variety of themes, such as: “Gender stereotypes and how the ones about girls tend toward weakness”; “How women are described and treated in literature and media”; “what it means to stand up for something”; and “Title IX: Why do we need this?’ Children were challenged to stretch their thinking about choices and personal biases; to connect new learning to their own lives. Then, at the end of the day, Learning Project students spent time creating the “picket signs,” which were held aloft with pride as children marched out of the front doors at the end of the school day.
“I think it’s incredibly important that we are acknowledging the many, intersecting forms of injustice that exist in the world, and giving our students the language to talk about them,” said third-grade Head Teacher Lizzie Barcay. “Pretending that issues of inequality don’t exist does not protect our children from them — but actively providing our children with information empowers them, resonating with their deep sense of what is fair and right, to work towards making change.”
The Learning Project is a private elementary school serving 118 students in the Back Bay. The school’s mission is based on character education, and its liberal arts curriculum includes numerous units based on equity and social justice. For more information, visit www.learningproject.org.