Monday, August 17, 2015

Lunch Bunch

Last year I organized a group of 9 girls at the elementary school and we got together during lunch and the idea was to talk about women in Virginia History.

How did this happen?
When Mlyons was in 3rd grade she asked repeatedly to homeschool. I didn't really get why she was asking and I asked her to finish the year and then we'd talk about. Turns out she was in a room with some severe behavior problems and lots of disruption. The teacher herself said "I don't know how any of the kids learned anything this year." The teacher had been instructed by the administration to just ignore the behaviors and continue teaching.
I did consider homeschool M. She is bright and motivated and it would probably work out fine. But I was concerned about her missing out - not socially as in she'd have no social life. But socially in that at school she has the opportunity to make friends with people that she other wise might not meet. We live in a gated community. I like that. My husband travels a lot. She dances ballet. She has 5 other siblings so we don't do a lot of play dates during the year and in the winter we spend a lot of time in the mountains skiing with a very privileged group of people. Not really anything wrong with any of that - but it doesn't make for a very well rounded world view.
Around this time I attended my college reunion (Mount Holyoke, class of '94) and noticed that much of the social bonding across majors and interests happened in small groups usually based on living quarters. People ate together regularly or hung out together in their floor's social space in the dorm.
And I was reading several articles that focused on research showing the importance of diversity in school - racially & economically. I put a lot of stock into this because I found my upbringing (military - moving all the time and being around kids with many different backgrounds and world views) to be an important part of who I am today.
So - I asked my daughter if she would stay in school if I organized a lunch group. And she said yes. SO - I organized a lunch group with two things in mind, that it be a diverse group of girls but that they all be "academic." I wanted the nerds. [The long term idea is that these friendships will come to play in middle school when social pressure makes it harder for some students to continue in the advanced classes. By the time the kids get to High School, at least at the High School we are zoned for, the demographics of race and economic advantage are pretty apparent in GPA, awards, recognition etc.]
In Virginia in 4th grade the SOLs include Virginia History. Virginia History is some of the richest history in the nation. We have the original nation, we have Jamestown, we have the Colonial Era, Plantation Era, the capital of the Confederacy was here, I think 8 different US presidents were Virginian. But historically, the voice of the white male is what we learn. I wanted to bring in some other voices. Specifically female voices. We talked Pocohantas who the Mattaponi called a "Peace symbol" and they claim she was kidnapped, raped and murdered. (I didn't get into the rape and murder with 4th graders.) We talked about Christiana Campbell who ran a tavern in Colonial Williamsburg. We talked about Martha Washington and her slave Ona Judge. We talked about Lucy Goode Brooks.  And then we ran out of time. We also ate cupcakes a lot and played "Apples to Apples" and a version of "Pictionary."
We lost one of our students over the summer to another school. Her parents opted to send her to HRA, Hampton Roads Academy, by all accounts an excellent school.
We may loose another this fall to a move.
We have one who I can't tell if I should keep in the group. She was invited initially to keep the peace. Her friends are in the group. Somehow I need to keep the group small enough to do its job, create bonds of friendship, without being exclusive. But she was very uninterested in the discussions last year. Its obvious she doesn't want to be there but she doesn't want to be left out. It doesn't help that her mother has a lot of social klout so the other mom's want their kids to be friends with this kid, but she (the mom) won't take any social risk and encourage her kid to be inclusive. That rubs me the wrong way and I'm trying hard to separate my emotional reaction out of the equation. As this is all happening simultaneously with my 8 year old struggling rather significantly with racial identity - it is very hard not to take in personally.
At any rate, we've added two to the group and so as it stands will start off 5th grade with 10 girls. 2 are international from different continents. 3 are black. 4 are white from a privileged neighborhood. 1 is white from outside the neighborhood.
The big SOL topic in 5th grade is science. I think mostly life science. So my task over the next two weeks is to research women scientists. Your suggestions are welcome! Thanks in advance.


Linda said...

Well, there's Madame Curie and ... oh, dear! I should know more about science! But wait! Can we count Jane Goodall?

Sounds like a great thing you are doing for the girls.

troutbirder said...

What an outstanding post! You are to really be commended for all you do.....:)Im sorry to say I can't come up with lots of names of women scientists.That's a problem in itself...:(

Anonymous said...

Elizabeth Blackwell, Barbara McClintock, Clara Barton, Rachel Carson, Florence Nightingale, Mae Jemison, Rosalind Franklin, Shirley Jackson, Ada Lovelace, Chein-Shung Wu, Jane Colden, Inge Lehmann, Harriet Brooks.

the list continues

CailinMarie said...

thank you anonymous. Between your list and some suggestions I've received through other crowd sourcing methods I think I have a good place to start.

Lisa Borders Muhammad said...

You did a fabulous job witht eh group and Sumayyah misses the girls tremendously.