Developing a personal identity is one of the hallmarks of middle school. But it’s also one of the challenges. Our humanities courses are a form of educating by empowering—helping students see themselves in relation to their family, school, community, and to a larger extent, society. We’ve created a curriculum that boosts literacy, improves writing and cultivates an appreciation of reading. This curriculum also promotes identity formation and social and emotional development during these critical middle school years.
A Peek at Our Humanities Curriculum
We expose students to a scope of the human experience that’s truly relevant to their lives. The American Dream, immigration and social justice—these are issues many of our students can relate to in very personal ways. Our approach to humanities encourages students to express and understand these important issues in concrete ways.
Some of our topics include:
- Community Exploration
- Immigration, Diversity and Equity
- Media Literacy
- Social Justice
Literature and Self-Reflection
Self-identity is such an important part of the adolescent period. Consequently, at Aim High, students read books where they see reflections of themselves. We deviate from traditional English classes by using texts like Underground America and American Born Chinese. Multicultural literature helps students develop higher self-esteem, connects them to the material and leads to greater engagement.
Humanities: Up Close
We collaborate with Voices of Witness, a Bay Area non-profit that uses oral histories to promote awareness of contemporary human rights issues. Students read from the collection, Underground America, to understand the plight of undocumented immigrants in the United States. From these narratives, students discover the power of storytelling and understand its vital role in documenting history. They learn how to ask open-ended questions and then conduct their own recorded interviews with family members and individuals from the community.
After transcribing a portion of the interview, students write a five-paragraph essay that blends their knowledge of oral histories with what they read in Underground America and encountered during their interviewing and transcribing process. Students improve literacy and deepen critical thinking skills by exploring nuanced subject matter.