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A student once asked me, in the middle of teaching Ancient Civilizations, “Why don’t we ever learn about Brooklyn?”

The notion bothered me all week. Why didn’t we? Student communities have so many rich learning opportunities that deserve to be explored outside of....
...a quick museum trip or a quick guest visit. We could have the same outcomes and use the same standards with Brooklyn-themed historical/current texts, experiences, and more. We wouldn’t have to roleplay, like my students pictured in my classroom above. ☝🏾
Instead of being confined to the classroom, we could learn without walls, on the steps of Jackie Robinson’s house, in the @Weeksville Heritage Center, in the archives of @BKLYNlibrary, & so much more.
After writing a unit, that took us through Bklyn’s history and connected then 2 now...my principal said, “No.”


I did it anyway. 👀 I used BIG/Chance Lyrics, @mkasante’s IBTHH to discuss community, #LangstonHughes’ Dream Deferred, and @JasonReynolds83.
Scores jumped, but I still couldn’t confess that I dropped in an entire unit. (Yes, I still taught the unit on Egypt. I’m nice like that.)

That same year, a friend of mine that owns a literacy program called #PensofPower called to ask me to write some material for his program.
His name is @KelSpencer. He’s an American Music Award winning songwriter, musician, educator, etc. All the things.

He said, “I want to bring more cultural relevance to the program. Bring attention to community issues. One day, these kids will have to restore our community too.”
But then he opened the flood gates, “And you know...it has to be all about Brooklyn.”


I knew EXACTLY what to do.
I remixed the instructional materials that I created for the first cohort. I learned the students he wanted to create it for. I did extensive research on their communities. I used maaaaadddddd historical sources & I created bridges connecting concepts to things they knew.
Weeksville? Gentrification? Elizabeth Gloucester? Displacement? Langston? Biggie? @joeyBADASS? Isn’t this a little complicated for middle school scholars?

This is perhaps the 6th Brooklyn school that #PensofPower has run this workshop in. (@KelSpencer, correct me if I’m wrong!) And the commentary always looks a little something like this.

Facilitators are always blown away by student response and the way they latch 2 the content.
Students get a lot of writing done and they hone their evidence, central idea, and vocabulary skills...in a few weeks!

But the bars they write at the END?!

🔥 🔥 🔥 FUEGO.
With all of the things they read/see/watch/hear in this unit, and the balanced perspectives—trial and tribulation—I find it amazing how passionate they get about the erasure, displacement, and gentrification. They recognize the power of their stories and they want to save them.
“Acting like ain’t nothing good coming from MY neighborhoooooood.”
Bring @P_O_P_Culture to your school! Find them, here 👉🏾 PensOfPower.org
Whewwwww! Just got another cohort’s culminating video!

These kids are coming with the FACTS.
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