David Snyder

A Year in the Life

In 1954, Elizabeth Johnson, 6th grade supervisor in a Kalamazoo, Mich., school, sought to empower her students and encourage critical thinking, reflection, and cooperation. To this end, she had her students write a group letter to their parents to provide a "good appraisal of their thoughts and work during their sixth grade year."

Read the article: Reflections of a Sixth Grade

This time capsule reveals that the students were heavily focused on multicultural understanding and the ideals of democracy. The students described lessons learned from holding mock meetings of the Inter-American Conference and the Council of the Organization of American States, saying "we could learn to put ourselves in the other person's place and find out about other countries' problems. We tried to remember that if 'one nation is oppressed, then we all are oppressed.'"

A good portion of the letter recaps community connections: a visit from Kalamazoo Mayor Allen, who spoke on democratic practices in the city; talks with a local social worker and dentist; and a lesson with a state committee member who was working on the issues affecting migrant workers.

Comments (4)

Rose Booth

April 27, 2011

That was awesome! How different and how the same we are today.

Margie Kensit

April 27, 2011

What a great old idea!  I remember doing a similar project in high school.  When I taught 7th grade many years ago, my class wrote similar letters about their learning experience and what the world was like in the 70’s; music, clothing styles, American culture in general,, Viet Nam involvement, etc.  Students addressed the letters to themselves and I mailed them five years later.  I would have waited longer to send them but in our mobile urban community many would have relocated by then.

Sue Grossman

April 27, 2011

I was in Elizabeth Johnson’s class the next year at the Campus School at Western Michigan College (now university). At the time, I thought all schools were like ours, but in the years since I have found that almost no schools are that good - and as a professor of early childhood education and former student teacher supervisor, I have been in many schools. We were involved in practices that are considered almost revolutionary today and to many people subversive. We were allowed to speak our minds and converse with one another, did not sit still for long periods of time, were treated with respect and had very high expectations placed on us. Most of us went to college and many earned advanced degrees. I wish the Campus School had existed for my children and grandchildren.
This article was published in this online newsletter several years ago and I was thrilled to see it.
Thanks for the reprise.

Jeremy Greene

May 1, 2011

Looks like a great year end wiki project!

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