Seventh Grade Friday Note

Good afternoon, parents,

Congratulations to you and your children for completing ERB week! Although it took up a big chunk of our time this week, it certainly wasn’t all that we did. Here are some other highlights!

In Cultural Studies this week we investigated 18th century Spanish Castas paintings https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casta#Casta_paintings_in_18th-century_Mexico, which were artistic attempts to elevate certain genetic mixes above others, and compared them to images from contemporary magazines. We engaged in several activities to discuss how ideas about race, gender, and sexuality are communicated in society, both in the past and today. Loaded statements provided fodder for discussion, including “Society has clear rules on what is popular and beautiful, and what is not”; “All members of society are heard and valued” and “Males can understand what it is like to be female if they just try -- and vice versa.”

Over the weekend students are reading about the recent case of ex-NAACP leader Rachel Dolezal http://www.cnn.com/2015/06/16/us/washington-rachel-dolezal-naacp/ and are expected to discuss the article with a parent. Thanks in advance for your help in having the kids dig into these ideas around identity and belonging! These conversations will continue next week as we look at notions of “progress,” the timeline of race in America, and the dubious field of race science that emerged in the 19th century.

As they dig into notions of identity in history and culture in Cultural Studies, students are digging into their own identity in Language Arts in preparation for our final Spoken Word project. Over the course of the week, students identified values that are most important to them and trace those values to memories and moments that helped shape them. We practiced writing short pieces based on these memories in preparation for composing our final Spoken Word poem over the next two weeks. This weekend, students will generate ideas about moments and memories that they might want to explore in that piece.

We also had a visit and workshop yesterday from artists/musicians/educators of City Love http://www.muchcitylove.com/, composed of TPS teacher Brian Jordan and Dwight Dunston. They performed some of their own music, introduced hip hop as a way of communicating and telling stories, and guided groups of students in composing short raps or songs about various social justice issues connected to the values students identified in class earlier in the week. It was a fun and powerful workshop, and we look forward to seeing how students may incorporate hip hop into their individual spoken word pieces.

That’s all for this week -- have a great weekend. Perhaps see you at EATS!

David, Virginia, and Steve