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Shining a Light on Activists and Changemakers: A BFS Tradition

The formal BFS changemaker curriculum started almost 10 years ago in the second grade classrooms of Denise Parks and Margaret Trissel. Over the years it has grown to embrace the entire BFS community, from the preschool — where children learn about the changemakers of the civil rights movement — through our Upper School, where students are following the words of Mahatma Gandhi: “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

Twice every month, the preschool and lower school teachers write news posts for their families. Here below are two articles that illuminate the BFS tradition of shining a light on activists and changemakers.

Meet Sophie Cruz, an 8 Year-Old Activist

by Sarah Feigelson

In the month of January 3C learned about Sophie Cruz – an activist who is just eight years old! We watched a short documentary, Free Like the Birds, about Sophie and her family.

The Cruz family lives in California, where Sophie and her sister Sahara were born. Sophie’s parents, Raul and Zoyla, are undocumented. They grew up in Mexico and immigrated to the United States more than ten years ago. Sophie learned that, because of the immigration laws in the United States, she and her parents couldn’t go to Mexico to visit their family members. She also learned that her parents could be deported and made to go back to Mexico without her.

Sophie became an activist and fights to change the laws so that families like hers can stay together. Sophie has written letters, met with important people, and she even made a speech at last year’s Women’s March in Washington, D.C. We watched a video of Sophie’s speech, and were amazed by how brave she was to get up on stage in front of all those people. 

Kids in 3C wanted to know more about the immigration laws and about Sophie. We’ve been talking about what it means to immigrate, why people immigrate, and what it means to be undocumented. We even read a letter together that Sophie wrote to Pope Francis asking him to talk with the president and Congress when he visited the United States. Our third graders are starting to form their own opinions about immigration laws in our country — ask your child what they think!

All of us in 3C were inspired by Sophie’s courage and determination to protect kids and families. We decided that Sophie would be just the right person to invite to our Lower School assembly in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We’re proud and happy to support Sophie!

Changemakers and Dr. King’s Legacy

by Jacob Cohen, Associate Teacher

2B participated in the annual Lower School Dr. King and Changemakers Assembly on Friday, Jan. 19. 2B and the entire lower school celebrated and honored the legacy and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as well as social justice advocates from around the world.

Over the past several years, the Lower School has made a tradition of honoring this occasion with freedom and justice songs, a choral reading adapted from Dr. King’s I Have a Dream speech, and watching film footage of that speech.

A special aspect of the assembly is also “welcoming guests” to the space – we welcome changemakers from the past and present into our community, and their portraits will soon line our halls, so that we may learn about them and from them. In preparation for the assembly, 2B read about and discussed how Dr. King advocated for a more peaceful and just world. Dr. King’s fight against racism was a central theme throughout the week as well as considerations for how other changemakers have and continue to stand-up against unjust acts.

In these conversations, we focused on the work and activism of Wangari Maathai who was the honorary changemaker that 2B invited to the assembly. 2B considered the life and work of Maathai by reading Seeds of Change by Jen Cullerton Johnson. From this book, 2B learned about Maathai’s activism for the environment, as well as women’s and children’s rights.

Wangari founded the Green Belt Movement in her home country of Kenya to fight against deforestation through education and planting trees. Her movement spread across the world, and she eventually won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004. The entire assembly was a beautiful and inspiring event.