East Hill Elementary School is one of the most diverse elementary schools in Kent School District, serving more than 400 students. When the 2020-2021 school year began in remote learning, East Hill Principal Paul Tytler and his staff knew they needed to get creative to find ways to continue engaging their students and families in their diversity, inclusion, and equity work.
East Hill’s Ethnic Studies Committee, a group of about 20 staff members whose goal is to research, collaborate and implement schoolwide culturally responsive and anti-racist teaching practices in order to combat inequality and improve the learning conditions for every student, wanted to plan schoolwide projects that empowered their students.
“This year our hope was to empower our students and build a true and positive sense of self identity and worth,” Third Grade Teacher Tanna Tingstad said. “It began with our Who I Am poetry project this winter and then continued with our Who Inspires You project.”
For the Who Inspires You project, students learned about different inspirational figures from a variety of cultures and backgrounds, and then were asked to complete assignments on someone who inspires them. The assignments varied by grade level, but also included an aspect of asking students to reflect on how they can inspire others.
“We were asking our students, what’s your call to action? What can you do to inspire others and make a difference our world?” Tytler explained. “Allowing student voice to influence their learning is so rich and motivational for them.”
Students worked on their projects with their classes and then came together as a school for a virtual assembly to share and celebrate their final projects and presentations. East Hill’s Behavior Interventionist, Jared Fagan, compiled some of the projects together for a video that was shown during the assembly and is available to watch on our Facebook page.
“An important part of this project was to help kids understand that they can inspire others through their words and actions each and every day,” Fagan said. “It doesn’t depend on their age, size, title, the way they look, or any other external factors. It comes down to their choices and whether or not they choose to live like that each day.”
As part of the project, a class of second-grade students presented their work to Tingstad’s third-grade-students virtually.
“As always, our students continue to amaze us with their determination and resiliency during these challenging times,” Tingstad said. “Throughout this project students’ passions, interests and insights shown bright in both their inspirational person report, but even more so in their own calls to action. Students were able to see examples and connect to others who inspired them and then make an action plan for how they hope to be that source of inspiration and example for others.”
She said students took great pride in their projects and were equally excited to see their friends’ and classmates’ work.
“Kids care deeply about things around them in the world and in their neighborhood,” Tytler said. “They want to make a difference at any age, they want to be part of the solution.”
Tytler added that they hope to include more families and students on their Ethnic Studies Committee in the future and is looking forward to resuming in-person multicultural celebrations when it’s safe to do so.
“These projects helped lay the foundation of who we are as a school community and was a great opportunity to incorporate student voice into our curriculum,” he said. “We want to plan more schoolwide learning projects like this. It helps strengthen our community when we have things like this to share, learn from, and celebrate together.”
Tingstad echoed his sentiments and said we have a lot to learn from our incredible students.
“Our students have so much to say, it is up to us to listen and provide them with a platform to do so,” Tingstad said. “Our students constantly amaze us with their resiliency, dedication, determination, and insights both in school and in life, especially amidst the challenges of this past year. As a staff we learn more from our students than they do from us sometimes, and that’s powerful.”
Article Source: Kent Meridian High School