Art, Thought and Community: Voices of Change 2020Posted by Krissy Ponden
This is the third year that Unquowa students have explored issues that matter to them, examined areas of injustice, delved into topics usually reserved for contemplation and debate by adults, and created works of art to reflect it.
The depth of thought, the care and diligence of the research, and the resulting concepts that ask you to consider your views on a topic without telling you what to think are indicative of the true and lasting learning that these students gained from participating in this project. These are the issues that matter to them, this is what is on their minds, and this is what they seek to change about their world. To say that young people do not have the ability to enact change is myopic, to assume they can not have opinions on controversial issues is naive; they see problems and they seek solutions, sometimes without the preconceptions of the adult world. The vision of our youth offers a fresh and real perspective.
Voices of ChangePosted by Vincent O'Hara
For the second year, the Voices of Change art show, featuring a selection of seventh and eighth-grade students’ artwork, was on display for the public, both as a one-night “pop-up” at Robert Valle Designs and for two weeks at Blends Gallery in Bridgeport. Their art was the result of a trimester-long collaboration between the humanities and art departments.
The students traveled to the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield and to the Walsh Gallery at Fairfield University to learn about how to decipher meaning from works of art. Then, they were tasked with identifying a part of the world they want to change, thoroughly researched that topic, developed their own opinions and synthesized a meaningful way to display it. Unabashed and sophisticated, their pieces focused on a wide range of issues, from gun violence to income inequality, and took on a variety of forms, such as installation, performance, and embroidery.
Voices of Change was a celebration of our seventh and eighth-graders’ intellectual capacity, maturity, and global knowledge. It was a message of hope, for the world cannot solve these problems without awareness, humanity, and a desire for a change. Wise beyond their years, our students once again reminded us of why the future is so bright, and we could not be more proud of them, the leaders of tomorrow.
A Black Woman’s Strength During Civil RightsPosted by Trésor Kayumba
The 5th grade social studies class has continued to approach American History with a deliberate interest in understanding the depth of events in order to enrich our understanding of modern society. At the beginning of Women’s History month and the ending of Black History month, the class had an opportunity to listen to Mrs. Nina Sells’ experience during the Civil Rights period. Mrs. Sells spoke candidly to scholars about growing up in the South during segregation and the effects of Jim Crow laws.
Students found inspiration in her conviction that love and compassion truly is the hallmark to ending discrimination. Mrs. Nina and her college friends were inspired and mentored by comedian and civil rights activist, Dick Gregory.
Ezra shared his thoughts on the event, “It was educational and usually we read about events in history from textbooks but this time we got to hear it and speak to someone who actually experienced it. It offered new depth. It allowed us to understand that actual people had experienced this, people you might know. In this case, a classmate’s grandmother.”
Marianela stated, “I found it very powerful, and it was important for her to tell her story and she was comfortable with our questions and honest.” This was an invaluable experience for all!
Unquowa Featured in New London DayPosted by Trésor Kayumba
Our 5th grade Social Studies class was recently featured in Connecticut Family, a special publication magazine within the New London Day. We were featured in the magazine for our collaborative learning and teaching experience of the history of Native Americans in New England. We worked with educator and historian Chris Newell, who is a Pequot Museum educator, and co-founder of Akomawt Educational Initiative.
Our 5th grade scholars made an impression with their knowledge of the Native American experience and colonization. Such an impression that Chris asked to include us in the article, adding:
“Akomawt’s approach is to create new learning paths to include Native perspective in these stories so that American students learn a fully rounded history of this country. We teach not just the parts we love to celebrate, but the parts of history that were not so great. By working with 5th graders, with this level of honesty about history (telling the good, the bad and the ugly) the idea is not to induce guilt, but rather to learn from the mistakes of history. Akomawt believes very strongly in experiential learning and my time with the students at Unquowa was well spent as I saw the light in their eyes open up and we changed their direction to a more informed one going into the future. Unquowa’s choice to involve this learning approach is apparent. Using good sources is so important. These students will go on to their high schools and question why Native perspective is left out of the history they’re being taught there and be the leaders at making the change. It’s a double-strategy. A bottom-up approach, working with students directly to change the system through education like our work at Unquowa, but we also employ a top-down approach and work with teachers and the systems that teach teachers to show them the value in what we do and give them a path to follow that is informative and culturally competent. There are lofty goals for what we do and Unquowa is now part of the story of how we get there.”
I personally want to thank 5th grade scholars for their contribution in these efforts, please give them a hand!
Dynamic Debaters!Posted by Ariel Warshaw
In our Opinion & Persuasive Writing Unit, fifth grade writers engaged in a number of thought-provoking debates, learned how to construct a reasoned five-paragraph essay, and defended their positions using newly-gained oral presentation skills. To get the creativity flowing, students were first assigned a number of “Would You Rather” scenarios; after their quick writes were complete, lively banter ensued as points and counterpoints exploded around the room. It was a funny and high-energy way to dip our toes into the world of opinion writing.
Students then participated in a silent Persuasive Gallery Walk. Various posters around the room asked them to consider a number of meaty issues and then reply directly on the paper. This was a compelling and reflective way to organize beliefs in a safe and indirect way. Questions like, “Do we give kids too many trophies?” and “Do violent video games create more violent kids?” made the fifth graders pause and consider a number of perspectives on a given topic, which was enhanced by having the ability to see their peers’ responses as well.
Finally, the students were asked to pick a topic that they were passionate about. This could be one that we had discussed previously or something new and authentic to their interests. Our writers were then guided through crafting well-reasoned and organized five-paragraph essays. Through the use of writing organizers, templates, and outside research, effective essays were composed around a wide range of issues: gun control, the merits and disadvantages of fast food consumption, logging, and more! To conclude our unit, all students were tasked with sharing their persuasive arguments to the class using their “PVLEGS” skills – poise, voice, life, eye contact, gestures, and speed. The fifth graders relished the opportunity to have meaningful mini-debates around issues they care about, and many gained the added reward of changing a few hearts and minds in the process!
Fourth Graders at the Science FairPosted by Carlene Gordon
At the onset, the words SCIENCE FAIR may spark feelings of excitement, frenzy, confusion, or even dread. This is a very daunting task we place before our fourth graders. “Choose a scientific topic, construct a central question and a hypothesis, create a demonstration or experiment to prove (or disprove) your hypothesis, research the science behind your topic, write a conclusion and, finally, present your findings to fellow students, teachers, family and friends.”
At Unquowa, fourth grade is the initiation year of our annual Science Fair. We take this task and break it down into steps. Weeks are spent at school and at home preparing students for the big day. As we progress, students gain the confidence of knowing how to approach a large assignment and how to organize their work within a timeline. Excitement and enthusiasm build as our fourth graders develop into knowledgeable scientists in their chosen field of study. The day of the Science Fair this year brought with it our newly polished, confident and accomplished fourth grade scientists. Congratulations to all on a job very well done!