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Middle School Scholars Forum: Study of Civil Rights

October 21, 2021 by Lisa Schopf (Faculty and Staff)

Seventh graders delved into the inspiring, evocative words of Abraham Lincoln and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on their field trip to DC memorials this week. Students selected passages from The Gettysburg Address, Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, and the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. that are inscribed on the walls and memorials. They reflected on the meaning of these words to themselves as individuals and to our nation as a whole. During our visit to the Lincoln Memorial, a few hundred veterans from Iowa arrived, and we were able to join them and other visitors to watch the Honor Guard’s presentation in recognition of their service. It was a beautiful day and an inspiring experience.

The field trip connects to our Scholars Forum study of civil rights and social justice. A signature program of the Moses Family Middle School, the Scholars Forum focuses on contemporary themes relevant to the students’ lives and experiences. In years past, we studied civil rights and social justice; explored water equity and access at the local, national, and global levels; created a documentary about our school’s 30-year history as part of a study of leadership, collective memory, and institutional change; and engaged in a study of the census, which included modern data tools, references in Bamidbar (Book of Numbers), and the importance of students’ voices.

This interdisciplinary study enables students to think critically, ask deep questions, engage in meaningful discourse, and grapple with the complexity of contemporary issues. In addition, it provides opportunities to hone academic and interpersonal skills. Students use primary and secondary sources, engage in historical analysis, connect the study to Judaic texts, learn with experts, look at real world applications, and collaborate on projects that contribute to the school and/or broader community.

This year, each grade in the middle school will focus on a study of civil rights and social justice for one trimester. Throughout, they will have opportunities to contemplate the vision, promise, successes, and struggles in our country; to understand multiple perspectives; and to embrace a spirit of optimism in the continuing progress of our community, people, and nation – as well as an appreciation of our own agency in working together to solve problems. Our students will explore how we, as a people, continue on a journey toward bringing the promise and values articulated in our founding to fuller fruition for all.

As a culmination, each of the three grades will work on a project connected to their study:

  • Sixth graders will research sites in DC and surrounding areas that connect with our nation’s history of civil rights movements, and will create a guidebook for schools visiting our nation’s capital.
  • Seventh graders will produce podcasts based on interviews with people whose efforts to strengthen civil rights have had a positive impact.
  • Eighth graders will work with a professional artist as a guide, and will create a mural connected to their learning that will be displayed in our school.

During the other two trimesters, the focus of study for middle school students will be Israel Education and Jewish Culture and Heritage.
The Scholars Forum reflects our school’s pedagogical approach and mission, providing students with opportunities for intellectual growth, grounding in Jewish text and values, real-world experiences, and service.