With Fund for Teachers Grant, Brooklyn Teachers Research Link Between African-American and Aboriginal Civil Rights Movements

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On 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, teachers research in Australia the event's impact on Aboriginal Civil Rights; teachers designed fellowship and received $10,000 grant to inspire students' personal fight for equality.

To be effective teachers who require students to delve into the research and learning process, we must take part in same process ourselves.

On the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, two teachers from Brooklyn’s FDNY High School for Fire & Life are researching in Australia similarities between the Civil Rights movements of African-Americans and Aborigines. Britnie Girigorie and Simone English applied for and received a $10,000 grant from Fund for Teachers to pursue this topic and then create a Common Core-aligned curriculum about how self-expression helps convey human experiences throughout the world.

“Under British rule, Aborigines were denied state benefits and the right to vote; they also experienced segregation and genocide due to the dark color of their skin,” explained Girigorie in her grant application. “In the 1960’s, Freedom Rides and peaceful protests modeled after America’s Civil Rights movement led to a constitutional referendum extending equal rights to the Aboriginal people. By learning about this similar struggle for civil rights across the globe, we will inspire students to fight for themselves, as well as others, in the face of inequalities at the hands of society.”

For two weeks Girigorie and English are crossing Australia, interviewing experts on and participants in the Aboriginal Civil Rights movement, including cultural leaders, museum directors and teachers. Back in the classroom, they will create a service-learning project, as well as a unit comparing/contrasting the fight for equal rights and access surrounding Civil Rights movements in both countries. Their new curriculum will incorporate Aboriginal and African-American literature reflecting the struggle, including: "Rabbit-Proof Fence" by Doris Pilkington Garimara; "A Song of Hope" by Oodgeroo Noonuccal; and "What Becomes of Us Now?" by Richard Kennedy. These works will be compared with poems by African-American poets such as "I Too America" by Langston Hughes and "America" by Claude McKay.

“To be effective teachers who require students to delve into the research and learning process, we must take part in same process ourselves,” wrote English. “This opportunity to plan and carry out our own professional development allows us to cultivate our interests and think carefully and strategically about our skills. In addition, we will develop an interdisciplinary curriculum unit with colleagues that will spark a culture of leadership, growth and learning among our school staff.”

Teachers interested in creating their own unique learning experiences for 2014 may apply for a Fund for Teachers grant beginning October 1. For more information, visit the organization’s Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr.

Fund for Teachers is a national nonprofit organization that enriches the personal and professional growth of teachers by supporting them as they identify and pursue new knowledge that impacts their practice, students’ achievement and school communities.

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Carrie Pillsbury
since: 01/2009
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