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New Eighth Grade Service Learning Project Fosters Diversity and Inclusion Goals

Posted: October 12th, 2017

Beginning this school year, all eighth-graders in Howard County public schools will take part in a new Student Service Learning (SSL) project to expand awareness and appreciation of underrecognized participants in our nation’s history, and emphasize the importance of representation in a republic or democracy.

The project, titled “A Representative Democracy?” combines curriculum units in Social Studies and English classes. During the Grade 8 Social Studies unit on the Constitutional Convention, each student will conduct a research project on the “unheard” perspectives and circumstances of African-Americans, Native Americans and other minorities during the colonial, early revolutionary and founding periods of the United States. In English class, students will work in teams to develop their research into a presentation on how minorities might have wished to have their rights acknowledged and represented at that time, choosing from formats such as speech, essay, PowerPoint presentation, video or musical composition.

Teachers will identify the most exemplary projects to support preparation for the countywide Grade 5 Simulated Congressional Hearings (SCH). Fifth-grade teachers will then have access to the presentations to assist students in their research for SCH, where students are asked to respond to the question, “How would the Constitution be different if women and minorities had been present at the Constitutional Convention?”

The new Grade 8 SSL project was initiated following a recommendation from the Committee on Diversity and Inclusion to infuse additional instruction on the consideration of diverse viewpoints into the curriculum, and to ensure that all students are exposed to the instruction. SSL supports HCPSS’ new equity-based Strategic Call to Action, Learning and Leading with Equity – The Fierce Urgency of Now. The project fulfills all of the required elements for state-mandated SSL, including alignment to curricular standards and addressing an acknowledged community need.

Maryland law mandates 75 hours of SSL as a requirement for graduation. HCPSS embeds SSL in the middle school curriculum. The eighth grade diversity SSL project will fulfill approximately 25 hours of the requirement, with the remaining hours completed in Grades 6 and 7.