By History and Social Studies Co-Chair Anthony Shaker
Seventh graders recently explored the important question of “Who Am I (now)?” from four different angles. For the last four years, the Science and History Departments have joined forces for an interdisciplinary unit focused on Identity, investigating the various characteristics that help to make us who we are. Each week during the unit, students homed in on one particular social identifier (Age, Ability, Gender, Sexual Orientation, Ethnicity and Race). In Angela Miklavcic’s science class, students investigated the ways genes and biology do (and, in some cases, don’t) connect to the identifiers, while my history class examined the role of past events and social factors in shaping our identities.
This year, the unit expanded to include two other subjects: English and art. In Kate Tabor’s English class, students read the poetic memoir Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson before crafting their own autobiographical collection of poetry. And in Caroline Gardner’s art class, students helped construct an “Identity Tapestry” that allowed them to use colorful thread to visually share parts of who they are.
The unit concluded with students spending a week in the TIDES Garage. They picked one topic connected to human identity, researched the science and history related to that topic and created a “product” to showcase their learning. Podcasts, documentaries, interactive maps, quilts and websites are just a small sampling of the types of work the 7th graders created. These students demonstrated the power that comes from asking the question “Who Am I?”, a simple question with so much complexity, richness and nuance. And it’s a question we hope they never stop seeking to unravel.