“Identification is important. If a student can look at someone from another culture and see what they are making and think, ‘I did that’ or ‘I’m in the middle of that,’ it can be powerful.”Megan Hess, a teacher with 29 years of classroom experience in elementary as well as Spanish and English as a Second Language programs, allows her students to achieve that sort of identification with other cultures through a creative process that effectively weaves (pardon the pun) craft and cultural study in her classroom. Since 1989, Megan has taught at Germantown Friends School, and currently teaches in a “vertical” classroom environment for second- and third-grade students. Her school offers a theme for each academic year: in the second grade students learn about the Lenape Indians and colonial Philadelphia, and in the third grade students study the history and cultures of Africa. This poses a special problem for Megan’s class, which is comprised of both second and third graders. “I teach a combination of second and third grades, so I flip between two curricular areas. In one year the theme is the Lenape people for the first half and then colonial Philadelphia for the second half. The other year is about Africa, with an overview of the continent in the first half and a focus on the Yoruba people of southwest Nigeria in the second half.” Flipping between these two years assures that all of the students in Megan’s combined class will receive both curricula without repetition, even though some second grade students are learning about Africa before their peers.
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