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Natalie C. Jones (February)
Each month, a different member is the guest writer for the NAEA Monthly Mentor Blog. Natalie C. Jones is an artist, small business owner, and the director of education at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture. She has 10 years of experience working as an art teacher and teaching artist throughout the east coast and the Midwest. Click "GO" to read her full bio.

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« Supporting LGBTQIA+ Students in the Art Room | Main | Your existing curriculum CAN be a social justice curriculum Part 2 »

June 23, 2020

Your Existing Curriculum CAN Be A Social Justice Curriculum: Part 1

Student critiqueHow can we adapt our existing curriculum to reflect social justice issues?

It can be overwhelming to try to revamp your curriculum to ensure it is more equitable and representative. As teachers, we have spent countless hours carefully choosing artists to study, writing lesson plans and assessments, and creating exemplars. It is tempting to want to take a break from all of that and just continue using what we already have. However, just as we assess our students, we also need to continually assess ourselves and our materials. Have you ever finished teaching a lesson and immediately thought of half a dozen things you would do differently the next time you teach it? Lessons are dynamic and evolve as we work with them and groups of students; we take note of what’s working and where we need to better support student understanding. Adding social justice to your curriculum should be another aspect of this assessment, and it is easier to do than you might think.

Social Justice Standards

Teaching Tolerance launched their Social Justice Standards in 2016 as an anti-bias framework for teachers that is designed to be embedded into the curriculum. Rather than creating lessons specifically to address social justice issues (which you absolutely can and should also do!), these standards can also be a way to evaluate your existing lessons to find opportunities to have discussions about inequity and bias. Based on Louise Derman-Sparks’ four goals for anti-bias education, the 20 anchor standards are divided into four domains: Identity, Diversity, Justice, and Action. The standards are scaffolded, and examples of outcomes and scenarios are offered from Kindergarten to 12th grade. This matters because how can we expect high schoolers to have an understanding of the ways in which group identity plays a role in unfair treatment if they have never been asked to consider what social and cultural groups they belong to? Just as we would not teach algebra to students who do not have a basic mastery of mathematical equations, we should approach social justice education as a strand of developmental progression that carries through all grades and disciplines.

PrintmakingAny project can be a gateway to discussions on equity and justice when the right questions are asked.

Think about a lesson or unit plan that you currently teach and that both you and your students love. In my next post, I will be showing you how to create essential questions for each of the four social justice domains for the lesson of your choice. Stay tuned!

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