August 11, 2014

Culture, Dignity and Identity

It's here!

Chicago Public Schools has finally launched the Interdisciplinary African and African-American studies program.  This new program was developed to heighten students’ understanding and awareness of African and African-American history and culture, while also fulfilling CPS’ commitment to ensuring that students are 100 percent college ready and 100 percent college bound.   

The curriculum is also grounded in the Common Core State Standards as well as other national, state, and local standards.  It is aligned directly to the CPS Content Area Frameworks.  The Illinois House Bill 2859 and ISBE mandate that every public elementary school and high school include the instruction of a unit of African-American studies.

CPS teachers can access additional materials
through the Knowledge Center.
The four hour training session for CPS teachers was held at the historic Du Sable Museum.  The museum was founded in 1961 by teacher and art historian Dr. Margaret Burroughs and other leading Chicago citizens.  This museum is one of the few independent institutions of its kind in the United States.  Developed to preserve and interpret the experiences and achievements of people of African descent, it is dedicated to the collection, documentation, preservation and study of the history and culture of Africans and African Americans.   


The training session began with greetings from Pemon Rami, Du Sable Museum's Director of Education and Public Programs educating the audience about the importance of students receiving universal lessons about learning about oneself.   There was also a discussion about Dr. Burroughs famous poem, "What Will Your Legacy Be?" and challenged all teachers and administrators to celebrate the importance of culture, dignity and identity through the curriculum.
Chicago Public Schools Knowledge Center

The 157 page curriculum guide includes lessons plans and websites for study.  Additional material can be accessed by CPS teachers through the Knowledge Center where there are tons of downloadable materials.  
Discussion about the Montgomery Bus Boycott
The keynote address was excellent!  The presenter provided a 'sample' lesson of how to tie in multiple events in African-American history to produce a successful lesson that the students would enjoy.   Using the Montgomery Bus Boycott as an example, the presenter discussed how so many 'quiet' activists played a major role during this important event in American history.  It was really interesting to connect the names with the faces of the tireless activists and hear about their stories of courage.  

The first break out session was delivered by King High School's, Angela Davis.  Her presentation about 'Africanisms in America' provided attendees with an in depth view of culture and how it influences us as individuals and people.   She modeled a short lesson that used music, the black church, art and architecture as examples.  One thing I would like to note is the book list she provided for attendees is excellent and I hope it will be shared so that all CPS students can access it and enjoy.  

The next breakout session was supported STEM education and was just plain fascinating.   CPS teacher, Kwadwo Oppong Wadie discussed how students can use tools and technologies developed in Africa to investigate the Earth and Solar System.   It was fascinating to learn how stellar bodies, their characteristics and attributes are integrated into African cosmologies. 

While listening to the lectures today, I downloaded 'The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks' by Jeanne Theoharis. The book highlights Parks' great personal, financial and psychological sacrifices she made in her personal life. In addition, it was interesting to learn that her grandfather and Malcolm X father were both Garveyites and active members of the movement.   

Overall, this is one of the best professional development session I've attended this year.  If you are a CPS teacher, you can access the copyrighted curriculum designed by CPS teachers at the Knowledge Center.  Within a couple of months, the Latin American Curriculum will be released.    Stay tuned!


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