In my district, a child’s elementary school experience comes to an end in the fourth grade. For the students, this comes with the excitement of summer and end of year celebrations. For my fourth grade team and I, this means reflections on a year’s worth of growth as we support our students in their culminating capstone project. It is our hope to offer them one more experience that will prepare them for future experiences in middle school and the world beyond. For us and our students, we call this work the Social Issues Showcase.
I knew I had to do something.
An impactful personal narrative, Until Someone Listens: A Story about Borders, Family and One Girl’s Mission is written by Estela Juarez along with Lissette Norman. Estela is a twelve year old writer who recognized that she needed to do something to help her mother when she was deported to Mexico. In addition to providing a powerful first-hand account of a real-world social issue, Estela’s story serves as a model of one of the many things my colleagues and I hope for our students in asking them to participate in the Social Issues Showcase.
I discovered my words have power.
The Social Issues Showcase is an opportunity for our students to take all of the thinking and learning they have done in Literacy as readers and writers, along with different lenses they have worn as social scientists in Social Studies. The Social Issues Showcase is an opportunity for our students to think critically about issues they are witnessing in the world around them. The Social Issues Showcase is an opportunity for students to see themselves as change agents.
My voice has power too.
Estella recognized a problem that needed to be solved. Our students like Estella will read and then write, first about a shared issue and then about an issue of choice. Estella took action. She wrote letters. She thought about her audience and who could help her most. She wrote to local newspapers, to Congress, to the president, to anyone who would help. Estella gained local and eventually national attention.
And I won’t stop using my voice until someone listens . . .
As a final piece of the Social Issues Showcase capstone project, students will be asked to stand on a “soapbox” before their peers and present their social issues; calling for empathy through story, understanding through teaching or action through persuasion.