Social Justice for Younger Students

Contributed by Lindsay Randall

An important part of the Peabody’s educational mission is to support the expansion of archaeology-centered teaching into new areas. While we have primarily focused on how to integrate archaeology into high school and college level education, we have not engaged in sustained efforts for lower grades. We recently had an opportunity to change that. 

This month I helped Dr. Bethany Jay of Salem State University to outline a new education course that she will be teaching focused on subject matter knowledge listed in the MA frameworks for History and social sciences from prek-8th grade. 

Dr. Bethany Jay as we worked on the course.

The course will help future teachers explore the political, economic, and cultural development of the United States with an eye towards social justice. As such, Indigenous people Africans/African Americans, and women will figure prominently in the course discussions of those who impacted American history. Students in the class will see how these groups influenced and were affected by the changing political, cultural, and economic landscape..

We decided to have the class begin with a project focused on rethinking how the First Thanksgiving is taught in elementary classrooms, with a particular focus on centering Native voices. Using resources from the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, exploring Indignous place names in Massachussetts, and finding age appropriate and accurate literature, such as Chris Newell’s book If You Lived During the Plimoth Thaksgiving, students will create multiple lesson plans reflecting the standards of the grades they intend to teach.

There was a lot of material for us to work with when we got to the section on ancient cilviliations and how archaeologists develop theories regarding past cultures – a particular focus of 4th grade. To ensure local connections, we decided to incorporate the paleo-indian Bull Brook site located in Ipswich MA in the discussions. 

We also outlined part of the course that would discuss both slavery and contributions of women, using material culture, but that section still needs more work. However, I’m thinking many of the lessons that the Peabody uses could be scaled down to be age appropriate for the elementary level.  

It was a lot of fun to work with Dr. Jay on the creation of this class and I cannot wait to collaborate on the second half and to hear how it goes!

Both Nigel and Bruce decided that they did not want to be left out of the planning process.

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