Evergreen High School and Dimmitt Middle School Students and Educators

The Designing Our Own Learning Team
This August Sound Discipline hosted our second annual “Designing Our Own Learning” (DOOL) intensive summer program. For two weeks, diverse students and teachers from Evergreen High School and Dimmitt Middle School joined together online with Sound Discipline facilitators to build authentic community, develop youth leadership and advocate for anti-racist practices within schools.

Within the DOOL community, we split into 3 “solidarity groups”, smaller intergenerational and intersectional teams whose purpose was to explore and embody anti-racist practices, while also developing projects that could contribute to greater equity within schools. The National Equity Project states that “Social Emotional Learning offers the possibility of acknowledging, addressing and healing from the ways we have all been impacted by racism and systemic oppression and to create inclusive, liberatory learning environments in which (marginalized youth) experience a sense of belonging… and agency to shape the content and process of their learning”. That is precisely the work the DOOL community undertook in August and is continuing this school year.

 

Built on a strong foundation of community and trust building, the DOOL 2020 process undertook an exploration of individual, institutional and structural racism – both how they operate and how they impact us in our daily lives and within our schools. Each solidarity group then created a project to promote anti-racism within the school setting. One group created a video as well as a structure to be used in advisory or homeroom which includes a conversation guide and post lesson survey for young people to talk about race and racism. They are encouraging educators to partner and learn with students to create anti-racist spaces.

Another solidarity group conducted “participatory action research” within their school communities to discover how history taught in schools could become more equitable. The group found that students and educators alike would like to have more diverse history taught in schools and put together a video to display the results of their community research project.

The third solidarity group focused on ways schools can undo structural racism – by listening to the needs of students, particularly BIPOC students. Youth within the group made the case that financial literacy education within schools could help combat the ways structural and institutional racism have led to inequitable financial realities for students of color.

On our last day together, the DOOL group hosted a community event for teachers, administrators, policy makers and other leaders within the education community. Over 50 people came to witness the incredible work that the DOOL students and educators had done together.

Comments from audience members during the community session help to illustrate the impact the DOOL community made on these educational leaders and decision makers.

“Thank you! You are already changing the world for the better through your words and actions.”
“Very powerful, impactful, meaningful, inspirational!”
“This is a hugely important topic that doesn’t get covered, and I hadn’t previously thought of it as an essential part of anti-racist curriculum—now I do.”
“It made me feel that your voices are extremely valuable. What you shared took courage and you are bringing this forward in order to bring about change. So PROUD to be in your presence!”
“We’ve got to change paradigm of what constitutes ‘history’ and what events and people and narratives are critical.”
“This is so incredible. Thank you for sharing your experience with us… Continue to challenge the system and make your school communities more inclusive. We are partners with you!!”

 

The DOOL summer intensive sessions were a powerful beginning to the work of authentic community building and anti-racist education that will only continue this school year. The Dimmitt DOOL team has been supported by school leadership to hold bi-monthly meetings throughout the 2020-2021 school year, developing the work of the core DOOL team and inviting more students and educators into the implementation of their work. Student members of the Evergreen DOOL team have already been asked to support in the leading of professional development for Evergreen staff and will continue their important work throughout the year.

The DOOL 2020 experience was powerful and has the potential to engender meaningful change in our schools. Being a co-led, collaborative process, let’s give the final word to DOOL participants themselves:

 

“Celebrating joy and authenticity is revolutionary!!!!”
“I appreciate the feelings of love, support and care that radiate throughout this group all the days and especially today.”
“I appreciate the *magic* that has been our experience…the ability to collaborate with so many unique voices and personalities.  I want it to not end!”
“This is one big positive and productive community that I’m glad I’m able to say I’ve been a part of!”
“We are the strong foundation to a brand new loving home.”
“We are like a second family – a family where we listen to each other.”
“In order to change schools, we need to listen to students because… they are the experts.”
“(At DOOL) ‘building relationships’ and ‘building trust’ aren’t just buzz words, they’re a way of being that enables learning.”
“(DOOL) is something that we can share that is actual healing for people. To think that ultimately what we created was done in (two weeks) is just mind blowing.”