Middle school students at The Children’s School hosted a very special guest this week when the former U.S. Senator and Ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa, Carol Moseley Braun, contributed to a 6th grade group project on the topic of war. The entire middle school joined the 6th grade for a unique opportunity to learn from the first African-American woman to serve in the United States Senate.
As part of her discussion with the students, Ambassador Moseley Braun highlighted the role of over 300,000 African-American troops who fought in World War I despite never having enjoyed the liberties and opportunities of the American ideal in their home country. She also illustrated how this war, though often forgotten, changed the global political landscape, elevated the United States as a global power, and eroded Europe’s rigid socio-economic class structure.
Invited by sixth grader Matthew Erlec, Moseley Braun toured the school before her presentation to the older students. The Ambassador’s talk came on the heels of a full semester study on war, including class field trips to the National Veteran’s Art Museum and the Pritzker Military Museum and Library in Chicago.
The Children’s School offers progressive education for grades K-8. Progressive education stresses project-based learning as part of an emergent curriculum. This means that project topics are chosen based on the emerging curiosity of the students, and guided by the teacher to weave in academic skill building in areas such as history, math, literature and science during project work.
The sixth graders and their teacher, Mr. Will Hudson, decided on studying war through an extended process of brainstorming, collaborative group work and discussion. “It goes without saying that this is a challenging area of study that must be handled respectfully, carefully, and with an awareness of what is developmentally appropriate for our students,” says Mr. Hudson. “During this semester, students each developed their own definitions of war and also of peace. They explored how conflict manifests within community and the lives of individuals, whether war is ever justified, and what the criteria are for a “just war.”
Carol Moseley Braun’s visit and her discussion of the experience of African-American soldiers in WWI also engaged eighth-graders at The Children’s School, who have been working on the topic of discrimination since the start of the school year.
“We were incredibly honored by Ambassador Moseley Braun’s visit,” says Will Hudson, who also serves as middle level coordinator. “Her contributions to the class were both thought-provoking and an important key in our student’s understanding of the American experience during wartime.”