Bringing social justice into the classroom

*This post was written by Caitlin Cheung, a MT student in the Primary/Junior stream.

My last and final practicum really blew me away. As cliché as it sounds, but its like the practicum gods “saved the best for last.” One my field experience day, the students gathered to tell me about their recent project. And let me just spoil it for you…I was amazed.

So most of my students live or play near park called Campbell Park. Metrolinx, a local transit company, has decided to build a train line through that park. Many of the students saw the news and did not like the idea that their park may be shut down during construction and that half of the park may be under the bridge infrastructure. Instead of a bridge, students suggested to build a tunnel in the park. My AT guided the students inquiry into this social justice issue. When I was visiting on my field experience day, the students were about to survey some of the classes to see if they knew that Metrolinx were building a bridge in their park. They developed a speech, and questions to ask their peers. They really amazed me how well they could articulate their problem and research if their peers knew about this social justice issue in their community.

Here is a clip of them surveying a neighbouring class:

Students took the data and compiled the numbers. They represented it in t-charts and bar graphs and figured out what all the data meant. The students even created a huge buzz that we had our own town hall meeting in our classroom. A Metrolinx official, parents and teachers came in to hear our students’ concerns and answer any questions that we had. In the end, the Metrolinx official was not “convinced” to build a tunnel even though our students were able to debate and provide detailed answers.

I was able to bring in small conversations of social justice during my Air and Water unit for science. We learned how air and water pollution affect the water cycle and inquired how they could be agents of change. We sorted ideas that could be done in the classroom, in the community and in the global community.

Some ideas were as follows:

-Create posters for recycling, garbage and compost

-Write letters to their parents to help conserve waterPlanting a garden to help create more clean air

-Make a movie about factories

-Clean up the trash in our community

I also read the book, If Kids Ran the World, and discussed what they would change if they were given the power to change the world. It helped children become agents of change and feel empowered to take social action in their community.

There are different approaches to bringing social justice in the classroom. It really amazed me that my young students were able to have these conversations at a young age. Never limit what your students study because they are able to engage in social justice issues if you give them the opportunity to.