Community and Diversity

Among our goals as educators is the need to prepare our students for a future in which our vision must be constantly readjusted.

How are we creating opportunities for our students to thrive in a global world where the traditional borders are transformed by new technology, economics, politics and culture? We are empowering them through diverse experiences, helping them to understand the world with a sharpened awareness of and appreciation for differences.

Coordinator

Lea PrendergastLea Prendergast, Diversity Coordinator, joined Staten Island Academy in 2004. She completed her Bachelor's Degree at Hunter College and her Master's Degree in Library Science at Rutgers University. Mrs. Prendergast, Director of the Lower School at Staten Island Academy, was the former Head Librarian. She was appointed the Diversity Coordinator in July 2010. In this role, she is responsible for community outreach. She coordinates the Staten Island Academy S.E.E.D. group, The National S.E.E.D. Project, founded by Peggy McIntosh, is a staff-development equity project for educators. It seeks to establish teacher-led faculty workshops and seminars in public and private schools throughout the United States to hold year-long reading groups designed to help make school climates and curricula more gender-fair and racially equitable. Faculty and parents are encouraged to join.

Curriculum

As a community that fosters diversity, embraces multiculturalism and advocates social justice, we have created an evolving curriculum that supports our efforts to educate students for the global challenges of the 21st century. We believe that no thought, action or utterance is neutral. Language and interpretations of the world are extremely potent and those who use language to guide children have a tremendous responsibility to instill in children the values of the academic community. The following are representative examples of how diversity learning is part of the Academy curriculum.

Lower School: Understanding Interconnectedness

Lower School students share and celebrate their identity while developing an understanding and appreciation of how we are all connected. We start by honoring and celebrating the rich diversity of our Pre-Kindergarten students and their families throughout our yearlong “Myself and Others” curriculum. The Kindergarten participates in an in-depth study of Bread, its cultural nuances and relevance worldwide, while Grade 1 students become aware of the diversity among community members and learn to respect everyone irrespective of our differences. In Grade 2, students explore the history of New York City. Issues of gender, class and family structure prompt our students to think about diversity, its many implications and the role geography plays in the lives of the people of our city. In Grade 3, students study immigration. Their journey leads them to explore the arrival and ultimate westward expansion of settlers to the “New World,” and how their migration impacted the indigenous people. Grade 4 students gain an understanding and appreciation of the historical role of Non-European early civilizations through their study of “The First peoples of the Americas, Mayan, Inca and Aztecs.” All these experiences help our students understand interconnectedness and develop a global perspective.

Middle School: Responsibility of Global Citizenship

Middle School students focus their multicultural experiences through in-depth cultural and historical studies of United States History, Ancient Civilizations, India, China and the Middle East. In works of fiction and nonfiction, students gain critical awareness on themes of intolerance, ability differences, cultural conflicts, genocide, prejudice and racism. Our Arts curriculum provides opportunities for cross-cultural expression. Academy students truly understand the need for inclusivity and their responsibilities as global citizens and are prepared to meet them with enlightened attitudes and competence.

Upper School: Challenges of Assimilation and Acceptance

Upper School students build upon the foundation established in the previous divisions. Our Upper School students engage in grade-level summer reading selections based upon themes of Religion, Ethnicity/Race, Class/Oppression and Gender/Sexual Identity. In the fall, students have in-depth discussions about their themes in their grade-level advisory groups. As a way of acknowledging and honoring the traditions and diversity of all the students in our school, Upper School students research and learn about various cultural aspects. Our annual “House” decorating extravaganza is a culminating event where Methfessel, Stettinius, Merrick, Willard-Mundorf and Partington House transform the main student dining hall into a visually festive space that showcases the holidays and traditions of our community. Throughout the year, students are exposed to numerous community service opportunities as a way to enrich the lives of others and to impart a sense of community. School-sponsored travel is another way in which the Academy provides Upper School students with opportunities to increase their understanding of other cultures; these excursions enhance those that are embedded in the curriculum.

In the Upper School, we have an active GSA (Gay Straight Alliance) Club, led by students to provide a space for conversation, education and sense of community. Students participate in the annual Purple Spirit Day and Day of Silence.

Resources

People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond
PISB is “a national and international collective of anti-racist, multicultural community organizers and educators dedicated to building an effective movement for social transformation.” They run monthly Undoing Racism Workshops in the NY Metro area. It is the only organization consistently offering intensive anti-racism training in our area. pisab.org

The National SEED (Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity) Project
ww.nationalseedproject.org/

Anti-Defamation League
www.adl.org

GLSEN: Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network
Organization for students, parents and teachers
www.glsen.org

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
Civil rights organization for ethnic minorities in the United States
www.naacp.org

NAIS Equity and Justice
www.nais.org/equity

Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered People (PFLAG)
www.pflag.org

Posse Foundation
Posse is committed to developing the next generation of leaders, offering the best and brightest urban high school students the opportunity to excel at top-tier colleges and universities.
www.possefoundation.org

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