To conclude and celebrate the end of their first unit on Identity — part of their Social Justice and Cultural Understanding (SJCU) class — Seattle Girls’ School eighth graders take on an interesting challenge: design a pair of shoes that represents their many identities. Early in the year, the class actively considers and discusses with each other their names, histories, families, communities, and backgrounds. The next step is to create shoes that tell their story and answer the question, “Who are you?”
Students conduct family history interviews and peer interviews as they gather information about their classmates’ core beliefs and values, culture and family history, passions and interests, and things they hold sacred or spiritual. Graphic organizers help them brainstorm and create images for each category; a written statement explains each part in more detail. They sketch models showing multiple perspectives, and then begin painting their shoes. “They need to be thoughtful about their projects, taking into consideration ideas such as design, images, choice of color, and use of shading,” says faculty member Darin Reynaud-Knapp.
The challenge has left lasting impressions. “Knowing where I come from is important,” says one student. “I learned that my mom is a strong feminist, and that my family cares a lot about our community. I learned about the economy and how I should be grateful for what I have — now I can be a lot more open-minded. I’ve also learned that it takes a lot to change a community, but we can do it if everyone helps.”