Sharing the Dream interviewed Sarah Weimer, Head of Curriculum and Instruction at Christal House Academy South in Indianapolis, IN, about Young Voices in Conflict, a project that engages 7th graders in a deep examination of the Israeli—Palestinian conflict.
Young Voices in Conflict– modeled after the school’s innovative Indy2Africa HIV/AIDS project funded by a Sharing the Dream Grant in 2011-2012 – was the recipient of a 2013-2014 Keep the Dream Going Grant.
Sharing the Dream: How did last year’s Indy2Africa HIV/AIDS project prepare or inspire you and your team to explore the Israeli—Palestinian conflict this year?
Sarah Weimer: Students were exceptionally engaged in the HIV/AIDS project and frequently reference it as one of their favorite units of study. Teachers also noted that through the previous project, students developed a sense of empathy and global awareness and we wanted to replicate that with the next group. While the topic changed, the new project still integrates multiple academic disciplines to advance academic knowledge, sparks empathy, creates tangible opportunities and products which provide an avenue for students to “give back” to their families and communities, and it increases awareness and understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Sharing the Dream: What activities have the students been involved in so far for Young Voices in Conflict, and what has been their reaction?
Weimer: Students have engaged in a variety of activities to build and enhance their understanding of this complex issue. At the outset, students participated in a gallery walk event, viewing a display of images and historical facts contextualizing the historical and societal circumstances surrounding the founding of the Israeli state and the Palestinian reaction.
In recent weeks, students have also visited the Islamic Society of North America and a local Synagogue to learn about Islam and Judaism. Though these two religions are by no means the sole contributing factor to the conflict, they nonetheless add additional layers of complexity to the issue, and as such are a focus of this project. While there, students were able to ask questions of religious experts, tour worship areas and view religious artifacts, and gain information from unique perspectives that aided them in forming knowledge about the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict.
Students are also responding to what they are learning through poetry, which affords them an avenue of expression for reacting to this emotional subject. Local poets have visited the Language Arts classrooms to aid students in composing poetry that is both artistic and compelling.
All students were invested in the prospect of their poems being a voice for peace and an end to violence.
Sharing the Dream: Ideally, what do you hope students take away from their participation in Young Voices in Conflict?
Weimer: Of course, we would like students to develop comprehensive knowledge of the historical information surrounding this conflict, as well as poetic elements. After all, we embarked on this expedition with the intent to teach our respective contents in a unique and engaging way.
But academics and standards aside, we would like students to come away from this exploration with a heightened sense of the complexity surrounding much of human life.
This issue is sensitive, thought-provoking, emotional, and complicated. It is not something that can be explained in black and white terms. Approaching this subject with that outlook in mind, and forcing students to think critically, challenge assumptions, and examine issues with scrutiny is a skill that will serve them well not only in their academic life, but in their personal life as well.
Poem by: Folu Famoye
I look out of my window into a gloomy evening
across a small hill there is a house
an Arab house
it looks clean but I know that its stained
stained with the colors of fear and hate
blue and gray she’s like me
I can tell
her hair, her skin, her age
but she’s not like me its in her blood not to be
a hard rough blanket of sadness covers her heart
her heart must be filled with hate
a desire for peace?
I turn my head to the west
so I can illustrate thoughts
but instead I see them
the men, the Israelites
watching and fighting back
I want to run but there is no use
it may be like this
but we can change
the innocent souls don’t pass on
like they should
and they won’t until they see that we
until they see
We are all humans we all bleed red
we are all from Abraham
we all share a similar dream
a dream of hope and happiness
a desperate cry for peace
“If we who have paid the greatest price can talk to each other
why can’t anyone else?”
lets share this dream