The Curriculum Makeover Inside Our Community

The Curriculum Makeover Inside Our Community

“When am I ever going to use this?” We’ve probably all heard that from students. To engage today’s tech-savvy kids, many schools are reaching for the latest technologies. While potentially valuable, technology-based “innovation” overlooks something much more basic: the content of the curriculum Creating a “curriculum makeover” does not depend on gadgets or gimmicks. Rather, it is based on one powerful idea: that students’ lives and communities should serve as the basis for inquiry. I’m not talking about one-time service projects or feel-good lessons assessed by the size of the group hug. I’m talking about the rigorous, culturally relevant learning experiences that all students need and deserve. Let’s take a look at the elements of a possible unit. You’ll see that these basic ideas can be adapted for a variety of ages, and that opportunities for meeting standards are (in the words of one superintendent) “jumping off the page.” Consider these guiding questions to drive the inquiry: What social and ecological communities am I a part of? What makes a safe and healthy community? Who makes decisions in our community? Why factors shaped our community’s demographics? What I can do to ensure the story of my community’s future is positive??  These big ideas define content-rich learning outcomes: Cultural, linguistic and ecological diversity contribute to community resilience. Changes in a community can be driven by economic, cultural, and environmental changes. Zoning and land use policies have environmental and social justice implications. Here are just a few sample activities for different disciplines: Social studies: Mapping students’ origins and languages; researching historic settlement patterns in the community; engaging local leaders to shape...