Sixth Graders Study Identity and Diversity through Harbor Me
In sixth grade, students are reading Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson, a novel that follows the lives of six teenage students who are given the opportunity to be in a classroom by themselves for one hour every week. All of the students come from diverse backgrounds with complicated stories and perspectives.
Initially unsure how to manage their alone time, the lead character inspires them, eventually, to share their individual “stories.” Amari, one of the Black male characters, shares his story about his loss of innocence resulting from a conversation he has with his father inspired by the death of Tamir Rice. Rice was a 12 year-old Black boy who was killed by police while playing with a toy gun in a local park in Cleveland Ohio in 2014.
Head of Middle School Don Smith visited the class as a guest speaker to talk about and provided context around the story and to the human behaviors that often lead to oppression of marginalized groups.
Smith shared a few moments from his personal story along with conversations he’s had to have with his sons about unearned perceptions based on their Black identity. The purpose of the lesson was to expand a depth of understanding around Tamir Rice, Amari as a character, and to anchor the conversation in real-life circumstances.
Instead of taking a final, the Upper School Tipping Points class stepped outside of the classroom to plant a generational indigenous garden – different from a simply native garden in that it mimics the planting practices of indigenous people, approaching the earth with care and respect.
With the help of everyone from the community, we’ve received more than 900 donations to the annual Toy Drive! Before we headed into winter break, students from the Lower and Upper School Student Council delivered the items to the Foster Children’s Resource Center.