We use thematic studies that the students influence the direction of. Through these studies, teachers help students learn about themselves and their communities. They also help students to see problems and injustice from multiple perspectives. For instance, while studying the native people of the NYC region, the students in our 8/9s also made connections to cultural bias and stereotypes that are put upon Native Americans, but also prolific across gender, race and other identifiers in America. Students documented their thinking on large chart paper, wrote essays identifying and arguing against stereotypes and shared with their community in a culmination celebration.
Adding more explicit design thinking steps to the problem solving process and ramping up the collaboration, will take this work even further.
Helping students to really see, understand and care for others, while also providing them with tools to make change adds up to what may be the most important character development schools can focus on, compassion.