Social Justice Teach-In 2017

Middle School
Did you know that eighth graders taught yesterday's classes? They did.
The eighth grade students lead workshops all morning for their fellow middle schoolers in our annual Social Justice Teach-In. This moment is the culmination of significant inquiry and hard work. Eighth graders chose a topic and then spent months immersing themselves in it by researching, investigating, questioning, interviewing and collaborating with activists in that field. In so many ways, this project embodies the essential spirit of LREI: a commitment to what’s right, the value of engagement, and going beyond the walls of the school to both learn and to get involved. More than ever, I was impressed with the poise and the preparedness of these students as they lead their younger schoolmates in engaging and deep lessons. The eighth graders were giddy yesterday. One after the other exclaimed, “I was so nervous, but this was so much easier than I thought.” They were well prepared. But also, this is a class full of excellent teachers. I am so proud.
I hope you had a chance to talk with your child about their experience. If not, please find a moment to ask them about it. Here is what some of the fifth, sixth and seventh graders had to say:
Wyatt (7th): I went to the prison reform workshop. You can see how different it is in other countries. I was so surprised people are treated terribly and they return back to prison, more than three quarters of the people. While in Germany they mimic outside life as much as possible and less than ten percent of the people return.
Margaret (7th): I was in women in the media. We looked at a bunch of magazines and barbie dolls that were really stereotyping towards women. Then we looked at magazines that were supposed to be less objectifying. But even those magazines had things, like a perfume ad, that make it seem like if you have this perfume men will like you. And it made me realize how much objectification is in the media even today.
Marlo (7th): The teach in was a great learning experience, to learn from your peers. I went to the reproductive rights workshop. I found out that there's no complete access to abortion in any of the fifty states.
Kaya (7th): I went to a workshop about gun laws. It was really interesting. We made posters that we put up around the school to raise awareness. I learned that more than 82 people die per day from gun violence.
Grace (7th): I learned how physical education improves academics. In between every long period of explaining, they made you stand up and do jumping jacks. It shows that you need physical activity if you're concentrating. They said you can only concentrate for five times your age without any break. I like how they used examples and did reenactments. It helped us understand, especially if it was your first year here.
Landon (6th): They did a good job of putting each story in perspective. I could get it from a kids perspective. I was also in the sports for people with disabilities. I got to play dodgeball on one leg, or with just one arm. It was way different and I got to witness what it felt like.
Drew (6th): Social justice is standing up for what you think is right. It’s important for kids to do it too.
Lucia (6th): It was very interesting to do the hands-on activities. We made edible water, which was gelatin blobs of water. It was great that they didn't just explain the problem but came up with a solution for it. It's important that they do research, but not just do research.  They talk to experts and help the cause.
Liam (7th): I not only learned about the still-apparent sexism and homophobia of our society, but also learned that women in the media are actually put in danger because they’re under pressure to look what the media thinks is perfect, which actually causes health problems. I loved the how the eighth graders could connect with us because they're kind of our age.
Dylan (5th): I learned about the disabilities in sports group. It was really inspiring because all these people with missing limbs still work through it. It's like nothing happened. For us it seems so hard. But for them it's like their regular life. I liked when Kitty [Lunn] talked about her life in a wheelchair. It was very inspiring because I'm a dancer also. I've never thought about being dancer with a disability.
Layla (5th): I was in the women in the media. We were at separate tables and i was at the barbie doll table. It's sad because they want to be models and barbie dolls when they grow up. That's unhealthy. The eighth graders were kind of like teachers. They were like, do you need help?
Kate (5th): As soon as I walked in, I could tell they were being serious with all their answers. And with their slideshows, you could tell how much work went into it. I was in the LGBTQ rights group. You could tell how much they had researched. They showed us how gay couples aren't different. They showed kids and that we shouldn’t think that it's any different the way they grow up if its two moms or two dads. They had this awesome project with a tree where we put inspiring quotes about LGBTQ rights. They looked really happy when they did it. Now I'm excited to be in eighth grade.

Please visit the social justice blog for more information about each of the social justice groups, including details about their topics, fieldwork, partner organizations, activism and their workshops.
None of this would have been possible without the inspiration and hard work of the eighth grade team. Humanities teachers Sarah and Elizabeth stewarded the students through this process. Rohan helped them create the PSA posters now on display in the lobby. All the teachers supported, advised, and strategized over the past several months. It was a group effort and an experience these students are not likely to forget. Indeed, I have hopes that this experience will help propel them into the rest of their lives as fierce seekers of justice, no matter their profession.