Every year, juniors confront the challenge of discovering ways citizens can fight injustice, solve inequity and achieve social justice in their year-long Civic Lab program. Students participate in groups that focus on topics such as LGBTQ issues, immigration, the rights of those with disabilities, drug policy, women’s concerns and environmental justice. The program’s goal is to promote active citizenship and civic engagement, providing space for building relationships and connections, transforming Parker’s mission into action, advocating for social justice and enriching understanding of how systems of marginalization shape institutions and structures of privilege, advantage and disadvantage in history and present-day society.
One of these groups worked with Parents Allied with Children and Teachers for Tomorrow (PACTT) and wanted to share what they have learned so far with their friends in the Lower School. PACTT, which began in 1993 as a school in Rogers Park, works actively to assist individuals with autism in becoming as independent as possible with the ability to integrate effectively into their homes and community.
The juniors, under the guidance of Upper School Science teacher Bridget Lesinski and Upper School English teacher Mike Mahany, met with students in Beth Joebgen’s 1st grade class and Cathy Davidson’s 2nd grade class. The juniors broke into five groups and read the book Roxy the Raccoon, a story to help children learn about disability and inclusion. After reading the book, juniors led their younger peers in a discussion covering topics and questions such as: How do we act around people with disabilities? What are hidden disabilities and what are some ways we, along with Roxy’s friends, can be inclusive towards everyone? Lastly, they worked to explain a little about civil rights and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in ways that would resonate with these young minds.
Civic Lab is a program that pushes students beyond the traditional classroom and helps them begin to think in ways they can effect change in their community and participate as active citizens. As these experiences encourage students to think and act with empathy, Parker is very proud of the juniors for wanting to spread their new knowledge with their peers in the Lower School.