Critical thinking, empathy and understanding information from multiple perspectives are major focuses of the social studies and language arts curriculum in Wilson’s upper school. The Civil Rights unit, which culminates in a trip to Little Rock, Arkansas and Memphis, Tennessee provide a capstone experience for Wilson’s sixth grade. “What is read, seen and heard in the classroom, on the bus and on this field trip hopefully has been a meaningful experience that will influence the future lives of our students in a positive manner,” says sixth grade teacher Kevin McGinnis.
Throughout the spring, The Wilson School Class of 2017 learned how the actions of children during the Civil Rights era made a positive and significant difference in the struggle for all people to have equal rights and opportunities. The integration of Little Rock Central High School and The Children’s Crusade are two focal points of study, as well as the contributions of Civil Rights leaders, especially Martin Luther King, Jr. Travelling on a moving classroom, the group read articles and watched movies about Civil Rights on the bus.
When they arrived at their destination, students visited the historic places they learned about in the classroom. While walking the footsteps of history, at places such as Little Rock High School and the Lorraine Motel, students engaged in deep meaningful analysis. Visiting the National Civil Rights Museum offered an opportunity for reflection.
While learning about this important time in American history, sixth graders also enjoyed themselves by swimming at the hotel, eating at Marlowe’s Ribs and Restaurant, shopping at the Elvis gift shop at Graceland and watching the ducks at the Peabody Hotel waddle to the elevator.
The sixth grade class is listening to the book, Bamboo People, by Mitali Perkins. The emphasis in this unit is on growing "purposeful talk" as Maria Nichols defines it in her book, Comprehension Through Conversation. The students are using their reading journals to write about many of the big ideas of the book such as identity, courage, belonging, kindness, confidence, friendship and hope.
Using Wilson's innovation room as a backdrop, students are visually posting their thoughts and impressions on the immersion wall. Then, they break out into small and large groups for discussion. Their journals are the springboard to spark conversation.
Says language arts teacher, Laurie Finkenkeller, "The students are learning to say meaningful things grounded in the text to push the classes' construction of meaning. They are also learning to listen with intent and to negotiate meaning through conversations that are deep and rich. Their 'talk' has grown so much that they could hold their own in any adult book discussion."
Wilson in the News