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    Denny International Middle School Engages Students in Black Lives Matter at School Week
    Posted on 02/12/2020
    A teacher gives a presentation to a class of young students

    Denny International Middle School Engages Students in Black Lives Matter at School Week

    As you enter Denny International Middle School, you’re immediately struck by examples of Black Excellence everywhere you look. Students from around the school have posted images and quotes from African American politicians, activists, musicians, athletes, and other famous figures, as well as equally important figures such as scientists, mathematicians, astrophysicists, and academic leaders.

    This is a common sight at Denny International Middle School, but this week is special. It’s Black Lives Matter at School Week and educators, administrators, and students are fully engaged in learning about Black lives and Black excellence.

    In Ms. Belka’s 6th grade literacy block, the class was reading a text together titled “What Happened the Night Trayvon Martin Died.” At the beginning of the week, they were introduced to who Trayvon Martin was and throughout the week students spent time learning about him and others who sparked the nationwide Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. This lesson was created to give context for why the Black Lives Matter at School week, and the BLM movement itself, is important.

    As they were reading, the class was answering questions by citing examples from the text in order to build vocabulary and reading comprehension skills while learning about the story of Trayvon Martin.

    The students in Mr. Evan’s 6th grade science class were engaged in the BLM lesson of the day: Black Women in Science. Students learned about several black women who deserve more recognition for their important contributions in the field of science. They learned about Alice Ball, a chemist who made discoveries that led to the treatment of leprosy; Gladys West, a mathematician who made contributions to the underpinning of the Global Positioning System (GPS); Joycelyn Elders, a pediatrician and public health administrator, and the first African American appointed as surgeon general of the United States; and Mae C. Jemison, an engineer, physician, and astronaut, and was the first black woman to travel into space.

    Finally, the class watched a portion of the film The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and discussed the contributions that Henrietta Lacks herself made to science and medical research.

    Next, in Ms. Frost’s 7th grade science class, students were making connections between biodiversity and social diversity. Students explained what the word diversity meant to them and learned about biodiversity; the variety of life in the world or in a habitat or ecosystem. They learned that differences in ecosystems, species, and genetics leads to biodiversity.

    Then, students silently reflected using the prompt “Biodiversity is important for keeping ecosystems lush and functional. Social diversity allows society to:” and then students shared their answers with their tables and class. The day prior, the class learned about empathy and the brain, and how to build a beloved community.

    In Mr. Chase’s 7th grade social studies class, students were discussing four different texts on the topics of: The origins of the Black Lives Matter movement, social justice, cultural appropriation, and why Black lives matter now. Students worked in groups, with each group reading and analyzing an article. Then, they presented their articles and their reflections to the class so everyone could learn about each of the four topics. The students played different roles in their groups, such as reader, vocabulary collector, facilitator, and presenter. With each group presenting their articles, the entire class was able to learn about BLM ideas and history.

    As you walk into Ms. Yzaguirre’s 8th grade English language arts (ELA) class, the students were engaged in a lively discussion about the book they’re reading together, The Hate U Give. As they listened to the book out loud, they were encouraged to take notes about what they’re reading and how they’re feeling. Then, they discussed different questions about the book as a class. For example, students discussed a line in the book that read, “You can say something racist without being a racist.” In Ms. Yzaguirre’s class, students are encouraged to express themselves, and that line in particular made the students reflect on how stereotypes can be harmful and how they would react to one of their own friends or someone close to them saying something racist.

    Ms. Yzaguirre’s next class is an 8th grade English language learners (ELL) class who started by viewing a short clip titled “What Afro Latinos Want You to Know” and used their writing notebooks to answer questions about the clip, including “What struggles or challenges do Afro-Latinos face?” and “What lessons should we learn from the video?” Then, students watched the clip a second time and were asked to point out examples of struggles or challenges that the people in the video faced. Students were given time to answer the questions out loud, and then discussed as a group the value of diversity. They also defined the word discrimination in their own words as they saw people in the video face it in their everyday lives.

    Finally, in Ms. Wisdom’s 8th grade Spanish class, students were learning about diversity and globalism. They were asked to define the two words in their own words, and then took time to write down three things that form each of their identities. Students went around the room and shared three parts of themselves that formed their identities and examples around the class included race, ethnicity, personal interests, family life, language spoken, and others. Finally, the class reflected on the question “When someone says that one of these parts that make up your identity is bad or not important, how does that make you feel?” Students took turns talking about discrimination and how their personal identities are so important to them in school and in life.

    This was just one of five days where students were engaged in the Black Lives Matter at School curriculum and lessons at Denny International Middle School. It doesn’t matter which class you walk into, they’re all participating in this important work to talk about Black Lives Matter and how we can move forward as a school system, as a society, and as a country to respect and love Black lives.

    Our five-year strategic plan, Seattle Excellence, is unapologetically committed to serving our students who are furthest from educational justice, beginning with African American boys and young men. Denny is just one of many schools across the district where students and staff alike are affirming that Black lives matter. The Black Lives Matter at School Week teaches the important and crucial message that Black lives matter, not just for this week, but each and every day in Seattle Public Schools.

    Thank you to the Ethnic Studies Advisory Group, the Seattle Education Association, and all the staff, educators, administrators, students, and families who put their hearts into this important work. We look forward to seeing the Black Lives Matter at School Week continue to thrive and expand throughout the district for years to come.

    Learn more about our five-year strategic plan, Seattle Excellence.