Stanton College Preparatory students team up with elementary school students to address social justice issues
With parents, school district leaders, and others looking on, Stanton College Preparatory students and fifth graders from three elementary schools shared what they’ve been learning and doing to make the world a better place as part of teacher Steven Ingram’s work as a Wolfburg Fellow.
The Wolfburg Fund for Social Justice in Education, based at the Jacksonville Public Education Fund, exists to advance the work of educators committed to social justice. As a component of the Fund, the Wolfburg Fellowship is a unique opportunity that provides approximately $7,000 for teachers to deepen their knowledge around issues relating to social justice, diversity and inclusion, and to implement an aligned action research project in partnership with students.
Mr. Ingram was named a Wolfburg Fellow last year and in September began the project that paired up about 25 high school students with the elementary school students.
In the past, he said, Stanton students have worked with middle school students, but he felt it important to reach the lower grades.
“Especially coming out of Covid, we wanted to get students together in group settings and get them familiar again with interacting with each other and let them identify a joint type of topic that brought them together,” he said.
The high school students have been visiting the elementary schools every other week, discussing social justice, what it means, and how to apply it to real world situations. In presentations this week, groups from each school and their high school mentors shared their social justice projects and what they’ve learned about equity, tolerance, respect and empathy.
Students from Kings Trail Elementary took on the issue of water pollution, saying, “It’s a world problem, not just here.”
R.V. Daniels Elementary students talked about bullying, using real world examples and shared tips on how students and schools can address bullying.
San Jose Elementary students shared what they learned about education in El Salvador, pointing out that not all students have equal access to education.
Led by the high school students, the discussions took place in both English and Spanish.
“When we started this, we didn’t know what it was going to look like,” Language Arts teacher Vernalene Simmons, who worked with Mr. Ingram on the project, told the students. “We’re really proud of you.”
Mr. Ingram said he hopes the program serves as a model program. “We would like to do a 2-week summer program as a model and move into next year with more students.”
In the high school students’ reflections, it was clear “they were energized by getting out of the high school to apply their knowledge,” said Mr. Ingram. “It is important to be able to apply your knowledge as well as just store it up. I think they gained the fact that they can translate what they know to a younger audience and take part of what they know to a wider group of people.”
One of the high school students wrote, “The upcoming youth were brilliant, fresh, and invigorating in every possible way. While not the most confident they made up for it with creativity and support for one another.”
Another noted, “While working with these students, I realized that we spread a lot of awareness about bullying, what it is, the people involved, however we do not talk about coping strategies and ways to get out of situations with bullies. That’s why in this project we have explored bullying past the surface level.”
For the elementary school students, not only do they look up to the older students, “the high school students are able to use real-world examples to what otherwise would just be words on a paper,” said Mr. Ingram.
Together, he said, the students “are going to help bring the light of the new generation.”
Brian and Jake Wolfburg of the Wolfburg Social Justice Fund and supporter Liz Bryan, representing the Jumbo Shrimp, weren’t able to be at the presentation in person but joined virtually to observe and add their congratulations to the students. “We’re really excited for everything you’ve done,” Brian told the students. “You’ve done a great job.”
Learn more about the Wolfburg Fellowship opportunity.