Since the release of Pope Francis's encyclical Laudato Si in 2015, many schools and classrooms have started to work together to think about what it would look like to integrate his themes on caring for our environment in the classroom. With the spring beginning, I thought I'd post these resources for student challenges, classroom lesson plans, and other stories that have involved the use of Laudato Si in schools. If your school does specific work related to this encyclical, we'd love to hear it! Send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org!
We've all been suffering through these March Nor'easters and tonight/tomorrow are preparing for what the Boston Globe and others have dubbed the "Four'easter." But why not take these weather crises and turn them into opportunities in your science classes? Have your students answer the question: Why have these storms been happening this year? Find a way to create a science lab for your students that has them explore weather and climate patterns, collect data about average snow fall and compare them year-to-year, or have them write informed letters to other children in the school about why these nor'easters have been happening. Pull on resources to help guide students' exploration. For example: here's a detailed explainer that contains several links to help explore the phenomenon of this recent climate pattern. If you end up doing a lesson on the nor'easters, don't forget to tweet @csoboston or @RCABAndrew!
Have your students expressed an interest in the new movie Black Panther? Not only is the movie a great action movie, but there are many curriculum connections to be made particularly at the middle levels for World History, Geography, Social Studies, Economics, and Literature. A teacher from the Chicago Public Schools (Tess Raser) created this set of lesson plans and activities for middle school students to go along with a viewing of Black Panther. If you have students who have been engaged in the themes and topics brought up in the movie, I highly encourage you to look at and adapt these resources for your use. Here's an article in EdWeek about Raser's plans and the importance of connecting cultural moments to our students' lives and the daily experience of the classroom.
What does it take to provide an equitable, just, and moral education to all of our children? One of the ways we can do so as educators is to work toward closing the opportunity gaps present for our students. In this recent article in Phi Delta Kappan, several high schools that have had success with closing opportunity gaps. What are they doing? Two somewhat straightforward things: "broadening and enriching learning opportunities (in particular, enrolling all students in challenging courses) and creating and maintaining a healthy school culture (including the use of discipline approaches that resist the trend of pushing students out of school)." These are things we want all of our Catholic schools to be doing, not just because it will make our schools high quality but because it is the morally right thing to do for our students, our children, our communities. Check out the Schools of Opportunity site described in the article for more information on successful schools engaged in these practices.
Finding resources for high quality early childhood classrooms can be challenging. Recently, the Boston Public Schools has implemented changes in the way they approach early childhood, focusing on student learning needs and developmentally appropriate experiences. The change was covered locally on WBUR and picked up by NPR nationally. Here is a link to the BPS site that contains lots of information about how you might think of implementing high quality, learning-forward early childhood classrooms.
Oftentimes, we receive great resources from schools. Here is a plan developed by two teachers at St. Columbkille Partnership School in Brighton, MA.
Created by Margaret Betts (Grade 2) and Anne Krane (PreK), St. Columbkille Partnership School, Brighton, MA
Violence in schools and in neighborhoods in our country has been a constant conversation, and we have been looking for something we can do to help teachers, families, and students feel a little less helpless and a little more empowered. This can be especially challenging in the early childhood, elementary, and middle school levels. We want our schools to feel safe. This plan centers around a prayer service planned for March 14th of this year. Our hope is that this plan would minimally interrupt the routine, meet students at an appropriate level and still have a positive impact on our community. Early childhood would focus on peace as a self management skill, elementary ages would focus on peace and activism, and middle school would focus on peace and nonviolence.
The plan in its entirety can be found here, but there are four major parts to the St. Columbkille Peace Plan!
All grades: Pieces of Peace - Students will each be given a large puzzle piece to take home over the weekend. These will be filled out by families and returned to school the following Monday and Tuesday. Along with the puzzle pieces will be a description of the events and activities leading to Wednesday, March 14th, so families are informed. These peace pieces will be collected and formed into large peace sign posters to be hung on each level of the school. (We will send this template to you when it is ready!)
All grades: Peace Project - Each grade will do one short activity that focuses around peace on Monday 3/12 or Tuesday 3/13 in their classrooms. It could be a book, a short movie clip, a writing project, a prayer. A few ideas are provided to give inspiration, but if you need more help or a more concrete plan, please let us know and we are happy to help out!
All grades, staff, families, friends of school: Posts for Peace - All will be invited to participate in posting pictures, videos, photos, poems, quotes, songs etc. on our social media, or their own social media on 3/14. Using the hashtag #stcps4peace and #postsforpeace . Anyone is invited to post something that they feel will inspire others towards peace. (How do you work, sing, share, inspire for peace?)
All grades: Peace Prayer Service - Students will participate in a 17 minute long prayer service on March 14th at 10 AM.
In the spirit of Catholic community building and collaboration within the Archdiocese of Boston, we've attached the full plan here in hopes that you may share it with other schools whose teachers may be looking for a resource or a way to address the violence with a Catholic foundation at the early childhood, elementary, and middle school levels.
Today's resource (hat-tip to the CSO's Livia Ramos for bringing this one to light): an article on the importance of empathy in the classroom. Especially in light of recent tragedies, this is the perfect time during this Lenten season to recenter ourselves and focus on empathy with our students. One key quotation from this article: "There is no paint-by-number approach to developing and practicing empathy as a basis for living, working, and decision making in our varied schools. Still, there are outcomes that we might expect as focus shifts. Among other expectations, it is reasonable to assume that understanding, appreciating, and addressing people's feelings, needs, and perspectives could lead to more opportunities for teachers to share successes and concerns with colleagues and leaders; more collaborative relationships between teachers and parents; greater student voice; fewer incidences of bullying; and a curriculum and instructional style that foster a love for learning." I would add, our Catholic mission and educational vocation calls us to engage in this kind of empathy with our students every day.
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