This year, our year long unit of study is “It Takes Many Voices to Tell the Story of California.” Starting with early exploration, it is important for our learners to try and feel empathy and compassion for the native people that called the land of California their home for thousands of years prior to the first European explorers arrival.
Today, the 3/4 team worked with the 5/6 team to stage a surprise “invasion.” This morning, our classroom was invaded by Fran’s homeroom class. Fran and his class were from “Franlandia,” a land we had never heard of. We had no warning and we had no real understanding as to where they had come from and why they had chosen our room to invade. They had strange customs and didn’t know the names for ordinary objects in our room. When they found something they liked and wanted to take, they chanted the name of the item over and over again. The ransacked our classroom, taking books and chairs, sitting in our chairs and on our couch. They even took learners captive them after their raid. It was very upsetting for many of the learners who were struggling with what was happening.
As a class, we talked about how it felt to be invaded. The room was charged with emotion. The learners were bouncing around and on the edges of their seats, ready to run outside and get their revenge. It was difficult to even have a class discussion because everyone wanted to share at once. The class shared that they felt mad, weird, not able to learn, dazzled, confused, sad, annoyed, scared, jealous, frazzled, and unsafe. We talked about how shocking it was that many learners had the first impulse to turn to revenge or to start a conflict with the intruders. We had to reflect and remember who we are and what we value rather than let anger or frustration take over, especially because our community has always valued peace, communication, respect and cooperation. Many said they were needing hugs, love, comfort, reassurance, inclusion, and respect for their belongings. I told them that it was just a simulation, not a real invasion.
I also read the picture book Encounter, by Jane Yolen. Encounter is a fictional account of Columbus’s arrival in the Americas, written from the perspective of a Taino Native American boy. As we read the book I asked the class to imagine what it would have been like to be a Native American boy or girl, encountering European explorers for the first time. Many of the learners had a strong sense of empathy for the Native Americans after their experience.
Over the coming weeks, we will look at exploration through the eyes of the European explorers to gain understanding of their perspectives as well. Please take a few minutes to talk with your learner about their feelings, and how there are often many sides/voices to a story.