Social Justice Curriculum Overview

The Corlears Social Justice Curriculum is centered on the following anti-bias goals and frameworks: 

Anti-Bias Education Goals (Derman-Sparks & Olsen, 2010)

  • Each child will demonstrate self-awareness, confidence, family pride, and positive social identities. 

  • Each child will express comfort and joy with human diversity: accurate language for human differences; and deep, caring human connections. 

  • Each child will increasingly recognize unfairness, have language to describe unfairness, and understand that unfairness hurts. 

  • Each child will demonstrate empowerment and the skills to act, with others or alone, against prejudice and/or discriminatory actions. 

Teaching Tolerance Framework 

  • Identity: Students will develop positive social identities based on their membership in multiple groups in society. 

  • Diversity: Students will express comfort with people who are both similar to and different from them and engage respectfully with all people. 

  • Justice: Students will recognize stereotypes and relate to people as individuals rather than representatives of groups. 

  • Action: Students will express empathy when people are excluded or mistreated because of their identities and concern when they themselves experience bias. 

2s — Self, Socializations and Family 

3/4s — All About Me and My Family Identity

K — Identity and Community

6/7s — Identity, Community and Our Diverse World

8/9s — Identity, Stereotypes and Activism

 10s — Identity, Social Justice and Action

2s — Self, Socializations and Family

In the 2s, we begin our Social Justice Curriculum by exploring ourselves, gaining self-awareness, confidence and family pride. We share our likes/dislikes, what we are drawn to, what makes us unique and what connects us to others. As the 2s engage in a community that is often more complex and multi-dimensional than what they’ve experienced before, students are supported in navigating and connecting with one another in meaningful ways. At this age, the modeling and acquisition of appropriate language supports children in talking about themselves, asking questions of each other and advocating for their needs and wants. Through the creation of family books, 2s learn about the variety of family structures within the class, and what makes each of family unique. At this age, representation is important as children are learning about the world around them. We are intentional about the books and materials we use in the classroom, including a diversity of figures in the block area and babies in dramatic play; and stories that include characters from a variety of racial, ethnic and social backgrounds.

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3/4s — All About Me and My Family Identity

In the 3/4s, children begin exploring the physical world, celebrating ourselves and identities, including our skin colors. This is a collaborative process involving teachers, the children, and, of course, their families. We begin this journey by creating family books and continue through the exploration of our five senses and our skin colors. We notice and examine the colors of our own skin, as well as discussing similarities and differences in the classroom community through hands-on, concrete activities. Parents become active participants in this study, accompanying their child in finding items that match their skin color. We also approach this topic from a scientific perspective, exploring how our skin color is derived from the sun’s interaction with the melanin in our skin. Many read alouds accompany this curriculum such as The Skin We Live In; Same, Same, but Different; Happy In Our Skin; All the Colors We Are; and Skin Again.

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K — Identity and Community

In Kindergarten, the Social Justice Curriculum is designed to actively build a positive sense of self, and expand students’ social awareness, in an effort to create an open-minded inclusive community that celebrates diversity. Classroom discussions and activities aim to examine the roles we play in larger groups and the impact we can have on the well-being of our peers in the classroom, as well as the larger community. We encourage kindness, social awareness and empathy by discussing what people in a community need to keep each other safe, care for each other, and make everyone feel that they are an important member. We agree to be aware of how our words and actions can impact others and discuss strategies that we can implement to assure that everyone feels respected and valued. As we explore what makes each of us special and unique, we ask the questions, What does identity mean and what is my identity? We discover that we have a lot of similarities and same interests, while appreciating and honoring the differences among us. The children begin to notice many different skin colors that they want to describe, and from this curiosity we read The Colors of Us. Through exploration, the children seek out their skin color and proudly identify their shade of brown, discovering the name of their skin color and taking ownership of this part of their identity. Using real-life experiences and inquiry, art explorations, and a variety of picture books and reflective discussions, Kindergarteners develop more clarity around who they are as individuals and how to understand and embrace difference, with the binding force of humanity being love, and our capacity for respect, kindness, acceptance and empathy.

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6/7s — Identity, Community and Our Diverse World

In the 6/7s the Social Justice Curriculum continues to expand on students’ social awareness. We continue to explore identity and the ways community and culture impact and influence how we understand ourselves and others. Beginning with family and branching out to our neighborhood and our city, the 6/7s explore the diversity of people who live in the world. This exploration offers students the opportunity to venture outside of their school experience and begin to develop a deeper understanding of diversity. The children explore big thinking questions like: How does our community shape our identities? How does our identity impact our community? Aspects of identities will be explored such as our names, neighborhoods, and cultures/ethnicities, with the goal of developing a sense of pride and positive awareness of others. By investigating aspects of daily life around the world – housing, clothing, hobbies, traditions, family, food, etc. – students understand the interconnectedness of humans, the environment, and how our physical and cultural spaces shape who we are. With a focus on celebrating differences, and recognizing similarities, an ultimate goal is for students to apply a lens of inclusivity while expanding their sense of self and awareness of our larger world – which is a big, diverse place, filled with beauty and commonality.

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8/9s — Identity, Stereotypes and Activism

The 8/9s use the exploration of our own social identities as a starting point to recognizing stereotypes in society. Once we have built an understanding of what stereotypes are, and how they affect people, our focus then shifts to thinking about ways to challenge stereotypes. Students also think critically about where stereotypes, prejudice, discrimination and injustice occurred throughout history within our social studies contexts: Immigration, Harlem Renaissance, The Lenape & New Amsterdam. Our social studies work often features a piece of action-based writing, in which students use their voices to advocate against injustice. In all social justice based work and discussions, we support students as they expand and deepen their understandings of identity. By featuring stories from around the world, focusing on the voices of people who have felt different, “othered,” discriminated against, and/or persecuted, and the various ways people have responded to their situations, students unpack concepts of agency, individual and collective empowerment, as well as personally relevant and applicable ideas like fairness, courage, and friendship. At this age level, classroom dialogue moves into more sophisticated, mature topics relating to prejudice and discrimination. Students also explore the counter concepts of cultivating acceptance, and the importance of building and bridging diverse communities. Ultimately, students discover the power of an individual action or voice, and that when we work together we can be stronger agents of change.

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10s — Identity, Social Justice and Action

The 10s develop a greater awareness of themselves and their place in the world. With a greater sense of self, the 10s are able to speak to their diverse and intersecting identities, and how these are related to larger social structures in the world. Through current events, the 10s explore a variety of issues impacting our world, including: climate change, free speech, immigration policy, gender equality, and civil rights issues. These conversations are teacher facilitated and guided by the interests, questions and comments of the students. The conversations look different from year to year, and class to class. Through an exploration of activist movements, students understand and analyze the power of change, both big and small, and how we can be agents of communal, social, political and environmental activism. To connect identity, diversity, justice and action, each year the 10s engage in a Social Action Project driven by their innate sense of fairness and equity, focusing on an issue impacting people or communities outside of Corlears to support through service learning.

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