Finding Common Ground

Lodestar’s 6th grade expedition teacher Ms. Einhorn spent the first semester working with her students on their expedition: “Common Ground: Building Religious Tolerance through Human Connection”. Each case study in this expedition was built on the other – students started learning about the events of September 11, 2001 and the resulting Islamophobia; then they developed connections among the three Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The expedition culminated in podcasts written, performed, and produced by the students.

To set the foundation of this expedition, Lodestar’s 6th grade students began reading Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story, a novel that weaves together the lives of middle school students in the days leading up to that fateful event. With this fictional narrative and details on the event, students created visuals about September 11th, including timelines, maps, and graphic organizers. After students learned the facts surrounding this event, they made real world connections with Islamophobia in current events and in its effects on our community. Tammerlin Drummond, a local reporter, visited the students and taught them how to interview and write profile articles. Ms. Drummond provided helpful tips and examples on both the act of interviewing – what questions to ask and how to phrase them – as well as writing such articles – how to structure the profile article and keep the reader engaged. Later, students put their journalist skills to the test by interviewing Muslim community members here at Lodestar, like Ms. Aziz and Ms. Burrell, as well as older students. The resulting profile articles discussed the interviewees’ experiences with Islamophobia in a post 9/11 world.

After focusing on Islamophobia, Ms. Einhorn began introducing concepts from the three Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. These religions believe the prophet Abraham and his descendants hold an important role in human spiritual development. Students identified common misconceptions about these religions, and they used their newly founded interviewing skills to interview local pastors and religious experts, as well as visit the Islamic Community Center. Students then completed the thinking routine Parts, People, Interactions to evaluate the pieces of individual religions, as well as how the three separate religions intersect and connect together.

The final case study in this expedition combined all that students learned: knowledge on the impact of Islamophobia and the main concepts of each religion, as well as how to interview. With a podcasting visiting artist, students discussed the effective qualities of podcasts: narrative structure, use of quotes, music, and sound clips. Once they knew the podcasting lingo, students had the opportunity to visit the KQED station in San Francisco, where they were able to interview current journalists about scriptwriting and get some helpful tips on recording. Students spent the next week writing scripts for their podcasts, which focused on topics covered in the expedition so far. Some students wanted to provide a basic introduction to one of the three religions they covered; others chose to inform their listeners about Islamophobia or religious intolerance in history. With scripts in hand, the 6th graders visited a recording studio at UC Berkeley to record their podcasts, as well as get a first hand tour of the School of Journalism and the Berkeley campus. After recording the dialogue, students edited their podcasts in class, splicing audio clips together and incorporating quotes of their interviews with local community experts. During this part of the expedition, I was able to provide support in the recording process and recommendations on in-class recording equipment.

Lodestar’s podcasts brought the whole expedition together – they showcased what students learned about Islamophobia, Abrahamic religions, as well as incorporated pieces of interviews from community experts, and showcased students’ technical knowledge of how to write and produce podcasts. Check out Lodestar’s 6th grade podcasts here!

About Claire Tiffany-Appleton

Claire Tiffany-Appleton is currently an Americorps VISTA member serving through MakerEd at Lodestar Charter School. She assists in the Making, Art, Design and Lighthouse Creativity Lab Programs. She recently graduated with a degree in Applied Mathematics from UC Berkeley, and is excited to start her journey with making!

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