Students at Elm City Preparatory School in New Haven, CT eagerly participate in a lesson on rules and laws.
February 11, 2014
Street Law’s Breakfast with a Civil Rights Legend Program was successfully delivered to nearly 200 elementary and middle school students in fall 2014. Participating schools included
- Capital City Public Charter School (Washington, DC)
- Friendship Public Charter School Woodridge Campus (Washington, DC)
- Collington Square Elementary School (Baltimore, MD)
- Elm City Preparatory School (New Haven, CT)
- McKinley Community School (New Brunswick, NJ)
The program, which is part of a larger Street Law initiative to educate African American youths about the Civil Rights Movement, encourages students to take pride in their communities and recognize the impact community leaders—particularly civil rights legends—have on justice and equality. For six weeks, students have the opportunity to share breakfast with a “Legend” in their community and learn the importance of rules, laws, and conflict resolution and the impact of these factors on the Civil Rights Movement.
Each classroom is assigned a “Legend” and volunteer(s) to teach lessons from Street Law’s curriculum. This fall, our participating “Legends” included retired teachers, non-profit founders, community advocates, and judges; participating volunteers included students and employers from law schools, law firms, federal agencies, and organizations.
The program format is simple: Legends and volunteers visit classrooms and teach lessons about rules, laws, and conflict resolution. The lessons use Street Law’s trademark interactive teaching strategies that enhance students’ reading, writing, communication, and collaboration skills.
At the end of each visit, students spend time reflecting on what they learned by writing in journals. This helps students recall the objectives of each lesson and the skills used to achieve them. There is also an open writing section which allows students to write freely. One student wrote, “One thing I liked best was learning about rules and laws. I didn’t really understand the concept at first but I got a clear understanding now and also I enjoyed seeing pictures from back in the day too.” Another student complimented “Legend” Mary Larkin by saying, “You are better than a snack because you last longer.”
Although most of our “Legends” and volunteers had little to no experience teaching or working with kids and were a hesitant about entering the classroom, they all agree that students need more programs like this. Karlyn Adams-Wiggins, a volunteer and graduate teaching assistant at Rutgers University, explained that her experience with this program was extremely worthwhile and rewarding. She notes that “students will likely not get these kinds of experiences if we don’t get out and volunteer for it . . . If you remember that your contribution is the fact that you showed up and gave the students exposure to a perspective they likely won’t get otherwise, it’s really less scary to get in front of students and teach . . .”
It is evident from reading student journals, classroom observations, and feedback from both volunteers and teachers that this program benefits the students. Fifth-grade teacher Amaly Gillig was delighted that this program resonated with her students at Capital City Charter School. She is pleased to see her students tying information learned from this program into their essays on the three branches of government. One essay sentence read, "These three branches make the laws, and without rules and laws, things can turn chaotic."
(Reproduced with permission)