South Orange-Maplewood School District administrators are working to have an updated K-5 social studies curriculum that fully incorporates recommendations from the New Jersey Amistad and Holocaust educational commissions implemented this fall.
At the August 19 Board of Education meeting, Director of Curriculum Ann Bodnar reported that, although the updates ideally would have been ready by the start of school, no time will be lost in teaching students the new curriculum.
“Obviously we want everything to be ready to go in September,” Bodnar told the Board of Education. But, she explained, the updated curriculum will be ready for the beginning of social studies classes in October.
Bodnar said that Supervisor of Social Studies, K-12, Christopher Preston had done “an amazing job taking all of the content from the Amistad and Holocaust curriculums” and organizing it into grade-appropriate plans for curriculum writers to develop.
“All the people that I recruited [to write the curriculum] have a very solid background in equity,” she added.
Bodnar, a former Clinton Elementary principal who was promoted in February, said that Preston, along with consultant Edward Fergus, a professor at Temple University, and Tuscan 5th grade teacher Ana Reyes are reviewing the updated K-5 curriculum with a September target date for completion.
Bodnar addressed the issue of updating the curriculum after school begins in early September: Elementary school students will begin science instruction in September, followed by social studies classes in October, then alternating between the two every month.
“By the time you pull out all that science equipment for experiments and different materials, you need that chunk of time,” she said. “We teach it in 30 minutes a few times a week.”
Bodnar said that those two subjects — science and social studies — had often been taught that way at Clinton, “and it has worked very well because it gives the children and teachers, when planning, the opportunity to really focus in and dive into the curriculum.”
Inclusion of the Amistad and Holocaust lesson plans into the curriculum is also part of the district’s state-mandated, three-year Comprehensive Equity Plan for 2019-2022, which was approved on June 13. The CEP’s purpose is “to identify and correct all discriminatory and inequitable policies, programs, practices and conditions within or affecting our schools.”
In a followup email to Village Green, Bodnar explained that, although the New Jersey Amistad and Holocaust curricula had been reflected in the K-5 curriculum before, this new rewriting was a more comprehensive integration and update.
“Our old curriculum did in fact connect to the State-mandated Amistad and Holocaust Curricula,” wrote Bodnar, “but with the new/updated curricula, we ensured that all parts of the State-mandated curricula were added and adhered to by grade level components.”
“The new curriculum that will be a pilot this year has updated lessons that were created with an equity lens,” added Bodnar. “We wanted to make sure that teachers had all the tools to ensure that history was taught using many perspectives. This is the product of much work by teachers over the past year and it was a consensus that we were able to create a curriculum that achieved our goals of telling more than one story.”
This article includes reporting by Mary Mann.