This past school year, a long-standing human rights unit in the eighth grade expanded to focus on the experience of refugees. Throughout the year, the Middle School teachers worked to provide a historical understanding of immigration and identify and process the emotional impact of these topics. The unit also aimed to empower students by teaching them about government and citizenship and demonstrating how just one person can make a difference through taking small, actionable steps.
“Human Rights, Human Action was an opportunity to experience and learn about how people around the world live,” said eighth grader Aylin M. “This unit has shown us new ways to view the world and help change things for the better.”
In an effort to better understand immigration and the perspectives of people from other countries, the Middle School teachers collaborated with the English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) director at Dumbarton Middle School to start a pen pal program. After pairing up eighth grade students at RPCS and Dumbarton and initiating the outreach shortly after winter break, letters were flying between the two schools all semester. The students met new peers from different cultures and backgrounds and also found common ground and learned about all the ways they are similar.
In mid-May, the pen pals met in person for a picnic at Dumbarton Middle School. Although everyone was a bit nervous at first, they warmed up through conversations, relay games and Rita’s Italian Ice. Some of the students have since connected on social media or exchanged phone numbers and it was a positive experience for both groups. The pen pal program will continue next school year with new students.
“Life is full of new people and experiences, and with some of the knowledge I have gained through this unit, I know that I will be able to look at the world through a new lens,” said eighth grader Erin H. “I will be able to view the world in a way of understanding as opposed to judgment, and I will be able to use my knowledge to help others.”