Social Justice Program
 
One of the central through-lines of our progressive model is the goal of preparing students for active participation in a democratic society. Academic prowess is not enough. To be truly prepared, we believe that students need to be equipped with empathy, compassion and agency to make the best decisions for themselves and our world.
 
Throughout the grades, our teachers develop age-appropriate lessons for our students to develop these critical 21st century skills. These lessons are woven into the larger, nine-year curriculum, where intellectual and academic investigations incorporate deep learning about how each one of us can make a difference in our school, community and the world at large. Here are just a few examples...
In kindergarten and first grade, teachers and children talk about looking around the class or the yard for the child that might need help, or might need a friend, and practice the various ways that every member of the class should try to reach out to such a child. First graders learn early in the year, "If you see something wrong, do something about it." Children take this concept seriously, and one can hear and see the youngest of our students working to right the wrongs they see in the classroom, on the yard and all across campus.
 
In second and third grade, students investigate their own family histories, and those of their peers. This includes age-appropriate investigations of immigration, environmental justice and the civil rights movement among other areas. In addition to learning about their classmates' families' heritage, customs, favorite foods and sports, each child learns something about when, why and how each family ended up living here.
 
In the fourth and fifth grades, media awareness, stereotypes and the importance of seeing issues from the multiple perspectives of each of the stakeholders are investigated. This is a part of our work to increase awareness of personal and group perspectives, and how they can be shaped by the media. A much-loved example of the benefits of seeing issues from multiple perspectives comes from our study of the west coast of North America in the 1820's - 1840's. For years, our fourth-grade teachers have taken a day in the spring and adopted the personas and representative attire of Zia and Mondo (characters from the book Zia by Scott O'Dell), and historical figures Father Junipero Serra and Dona Francisca Benicia de Vallejo–and discussed with the class the experiences of their peoples during the development of ranchos and missions in what was to become California, so that the students gain a deeper understanding of each experience while learning the academic and personal value of empathy.
 
One example of our social justice curriculum in the middle school involves work on understanding the struggles of oppressed individuals who have succeeded in the face of prejudice. One poignant activity in this investigation is a voluntary day of silence, when students choose to be completely silent for a glimpse of what it is like to navigate the world without being heard.
Children leave Park Day School with the academic, social and emotional skills and practices that position them to be well on their way to being caring, constructive, open-minded members of the adult world. We want them to be equipped to thrive in a diverse society and to be honor with the ways in which they are alike and different from others–to be able to recognize the biases that exist in society and to develop and articulate their own values. In the non-judgmental environment of the classroom, students are given opportunities to deeply investigate life experiences that are very different from their own.
 
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