Beginning the work with conversations in Early Childhood
At Gordon, young people discover their unique gifts and learn how to use these gifts to make a difference in the lives of others. These children will change the world.”-Dr. Noni Thomas López, Head of School
Gordon graduates know that they can make a difference in the lives of others - and that they should.
The mission statement calls this “a drive for positive societal impact,” and it requires not just leadership and advocacy skills, but also an ability to connect with the experiences of others and to understand one’s own responsibility to the larger community.
These are skills Gordon introduces at a careful pace, beginning in the youngest grades. When Nursery and Preschool students draw self-portraits, talk about their families, or celebrate one another with “All About Me” presentations, they may connect with one another, but they also practice talking about, and being comfortable with, difference. This experience can combine young person’s fascination with fairness to generate rich conversations about right and wrong, on the playground as well as in the classroom.
By Kindergarten, students’ understanding of difference and of fairness begin to reach beyond their daily experience. They can connect with figures from history like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., explore more abstract issues like ecology, and consider the needs of people they have not met with projects like the “Share the Warmth” popcorn-making that provides warm clothes for people who need them.
Themes of justice and shared responsibility saturate longterm Lower School lessons like the second grade study of marine habitats, and the third and fourth grade work on the colonization of North America and the history of US immigration. In literature, in history and in art, students continue to explore identity, and the experiences that connect them as well as the ones that set individuals apart.
By the time eighth graders meet present-day activists on their trip to Georgia and Alabama, they have explored a variety of social movements: ones that address racial and economic inequality, but also ones that spotlight the needs of people living with disabilities, incarcerated people, people grappling with the legacy of colonization, and communities threatened by climate change.
With all of this as background, they return from the Civil Rights Trip ready for the four-week service projects that are the finale of their Gordon education and, hopefully, the beginning of a life that always includes service to others.
above: Leah Harrison-Lurie ’16 and Maddie Lee ’16 returned to Gordon to talk with faculty about the profound impact Gordon's social justice curriculum has had on their high school experiences.