Mass. Center for Civic Education and Malden Reads sponsor informative and valuable learning project
(The following info is courtesy of the Massachusetts Center for Civic Education (MACCE) and the Malden Public Schools.)
The Salemwood Elementary School 4th grade English Language Learners (ELL) class, which has 21 students from six different countries, learned about rules, laws and democracy with the assistance of Malden Reads and the Massachusetts Center for Civic Education (MACCE). This civics-based pilot program was introduced by the Malden Public Schools as a model project for these Grade 4 students, based upon five lessons in the textbook “We the People: The Citizen & Democracy.” This was combined with the Malden Reads involvement with activities from community representatives, who shared their experiences of coming to the United States and their adjustment to life in America.
Students learned about important issues relevant to their own community
This allowed the students to learn important issues about government and included activities relevant to their school and community of Malden. This project used the expertise of two Malden teachers, Alan Rodriguez and Violet Walsh, who worked with these ELL students. Students from Afghanistan, Brazil, China, Haiti, Venezuela and Vietnam learned about each other – their similarities and differences. Through various instructional approaches, the students learned the values of rules at home, school and the community and then about the need for laws through their city, state and nation. They then learned about different types of governments – rule by one, rule by the few and rule by all – distinguishing between good and bad types of governments. They learned about democracy and its benefits as well as its costs. Finally, they studied the importance of balancing rights with responsibilities.
Community representative visits coordinated by Malden Reads
For each of these important lessons, there were visits by community representatives who supported the importance of why rules, laws, democratic values and principles are important to them through a myriad of activities to which the students were introduced. The students met people who lived in Malden whose native countries were China, Vietnam, Syria and Venezuela. Each told their story or shared their work or allowed the students to see their art through yoga, paintings or other means.
The students were provided age-appropriate books, such as “She Persisted: Claudette Colvin,” written by Malden-born author Lesa Cline-Ransome, in which themes related to empathy, overcoming discrimination and using one’s voice were reinforced. The integration of community with learning about the importance of terms like majority, voting, elections and more through these interactions solidified their learning.
Theme of civic participation leads to civic education
The overall theme of civic participation with concepts from the materials provides a great introduction to civic education. The opportunity to have persons outside their school yet within their community provide support and identification was important in their realization of why they should learn about their new government. Malden Reads and MACCE have made a major commitment to these goals and know that, through the efforts of the teachers in developing and presenting these lessons, the students will realize the significance of civic strength, and the foundation for greater understanding will be established.
MACCE thanks the Malden Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Ligia Noriega-Murphy, for her recognition of the importance of civic learning. Thanks go as well to Victoria Mulkerin, Malden Public Schools (MPS) Director of Literacy and Title I, for her influence and great interest in pursuing this pilot program. Also included are thanks to MPS ELL director Jen McCabe, Salemwood Principal Van Huynh; to the teachers, Alan Rodriguez and Violet Walsh, who were engaged and extraordinary; to Linda Zalk, Education Director for Malden Reads, for her passionate community involvement; to Roger Desrosiers, President of the Massachusetts Center for Civic Education, for his time and effort to this project. Many thanks also go to Malden Mayor Gary Christenson who supported this program by attending the final day and presenting the students and teachers with certificates for their successful conclusion of this vital project.
As teacher Alan Rodriguez said at the end of the pilot program, “If this pilot can work with ELL students, it definitely can work with all students in the 4th grade.”