Second and Ninth Grade "Stories of Us"
Callie Gropp, Upper School History Teacher

This spring, second graders in Katie Pless' and Kirsten Faas' classes and ninth graders in Callie Gropp's Multicultural America, worked together to explore the connections between representation in history, bias, and belonging, and to take action in ways that use history as a tool to humanize and connect us all. This collaboration, titled Stories of US: Seeing Ourselves and One Another Represented in United States History, is part of a series of action steps ninth graders are taking to address contemporary issues and manifestations of misrepresentation, dehumanization, belonging, and bias.

Meeting with their second grade buddies twice, ninth graders created lesson plans designed to listen and affirm the autobiographies written by second graders, and to illuminate the stories of Americans that are often erased or rendered invisible. The Stories of US project ended with ninth graders gifting the second grade classrooms with a traveling collection of carefully selected multicultural and social justice books. In return, the second graders gifted their ninth grade buddies with pictures and reflections on why telling many stories matters.

Here's what second graders had to say:

  • "No one except for some of my Asian friends understand that it doesn't matter if I'm Indian or not, not everything about India I know about, I am not even born in India."
  • "I was the first tan colored skin person in Kindergarten. That made me feel different."
  • "To learn how to change the world."
  • "It's cool to look at history and see yourself."

In addition to the collection of books, ninth graders wrote and curated thematic resources adults can use when reading the books in the Stories of US library. Both the books and the resources are accessible for all in the WT community.

Katie, Kristin, Kirsten, Maddie and I really enjoyed finding a meaningful way to work together across departments and divisions. It was a powerful vindication of our belief that together we might be able to create something that we can't do alone. The hope and possibilities that arise when we listen, learn, and teach together was perhaps best expressed by one of our ninth grade students, "Although we can't change history, we can change how we understand our past. This understanding has allowed me to see the future as malleable."

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