Archive for the 'My Marquette Experience' Category

A career path beyond wildest expectations:  from intern to full-time employee at the Zoological Society of Milwaukee

This post originally appeared on Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and University’s (WAICU) Private Colleges Blog as A career path beyond wildest expectations: from intern to full-time employee at the Zoological Society of Milwaukee

Martinson_Zoological_SocietyWhen Samantha Martinson was a student at Marquette University, majoring in Secondary Education and Writing-Intensive English, she happened upon a flyer for the WAICU Nonprofit Internship Program and learned about a paid internship position at the Zoological Society of Milwaukee (ZSM). Though her major had nothing to do with the natural sciences, she was interested in the opportunity to work in a summer educational program for children.

“They viewed the science aspect as something you could learn on the job,” said Martinson. “And with a biologist for a mom and a chemist for a dad, an appreciation for the sciences rubbed off on me,” she joked.

The internship

Interns are integral to the success of the summer program, and the department takes great care to foster a supportive environment for the growth and professional development of its interns.

An internship at ZSM begins with two weeks of intensive training. Interns receive hands-on training at the Zoo as well as guidance on work-related topics ranging from conflict resolution to child management techniques. Throughout her internship, Martinson received “in-the-moment” tips on her interactions with children as well as bi-weekly feedback on her assigned journal reflections. “Receiving constructive feedback enabled me to feel connected to my supervisors, valued for the work I was doing, and encouraged to improve both personally and professionally,” she recalled.

Putting classroom knowledge into practice

Internships are becoming a staple of a college education. “The rigor of my majors and the planning skills I gained at Marquette definitely prepared me for the high-intensity internship at the Zoo,” said Martinson. In turn, she felt that her practical experience enabled her to contribute more to her classroom discussions when she resumed her classes the fall after her first internship. The experiences complimented each other so well that she continued on with two additional summer internships at the Zoological Society, each with increasing responsibility.

Before her semester of student teaching in the Milwaukee Public School System, Martinson had already been teaching in the classroom at the Zoo for summer camps for three months. Her prior experience set her up for incredible success as a student teacher. Her confidence, student behavior management techniques, and receptiveness to feedback from the lead teacher all positioned her to be able to take the reins in the classroom – something that many new student teachers are not ready to do.

After graduation

Martinson enjoyed teaching in the classroom setting, but she felt drawn to the informal sector of education. As a response to interest from students like Martinson, Marquette has launched a new major in Educational Studies, which is geared toward students pursuing careers in nonprofit organizations rather than K-12 schools.

After graduation, Martinson worked for multiple regional and nationally-known theaters in Milwaukee and on the East Coast. She said that at its core, theater represents humanity and fosters empathy for others. Samantha has taught a range of arts-integrated curricula, ranging from exploring social justice issues to literacy development. Her passion for helping others develop self-awareness and express themselves drives her as an educator.

Martinson remained in touch with Trinko, her supervisor from the Zoological Society of Milwaukee. Years later, they reconnected through a mutual hobby:  rock climbing. When a full-time position opened up at the Zoological Society, Trinko immediately thought of Martinson and encouraged her to apply.

The bridge back to the Zoological Society

It was important to Trinko that the role and the timing were a good match not only for ZSM, but also for Martinson. It ended up being an ideal fit for both – Martinson was excited to take on a new challenge and work for an organization that has a positive impact on the Milwaukee community. Martinson now works as a co-coordinator and educational specialist for the Animal Connections Continuum (ACC) program. The goal of the program is for youth to develop empathy for animals and others. Martinson has a talent for bridging the gap between science and the humanities, and she was brought on board full-time to help integrate empathetic tools with science concepts.

“Samantha was one of our first interns and has continued to impress us as a full-time staff person,” said Trinko. “I am so grateful that the WAICU Nonprofit Internship Program helped Samantha find so much success.”


Getting to Know Dr. Melissa Gibson


Dr. Gibson being kissed by a monkey on her recent research trip to Bali.

Dr. Melissa Gibson is  an Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational Policy & Leadership (EDPL). She teaches Elementary Social Studies Methods and Middle/Secondary Social Studies Methods. All throughout this semester, we’ve been getting to know our faculty a little better by sitting down to see what makes them who they are!

Tell us about you! How would you describe yourself?

Thinker. Writer. Mother. Sister. Traveler. Friend. Activist. Creative. Silly. Disorganized. Doubtful. Outspoken. Grounded. Spontaneous. Loyal.

So where did you grow up? And how long have you lived in Milwaukee?

I grew up in the Chicago area, suburbs mostly. I say I’m “from” Elk Grove Village, but I’ve also lived in Skokie, Lake Forest, Harwood Heights, Edgewater in the city—and for many years, I pretended I lived in my older sister’s Lincoln Park and Irving Park apartments. But I have also lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for five years; Madison, Wisconsin, for six years; and Guadalajara, Mexico, for three years. I’ve been in Milwaukee since July 1, 2015.

What was your favorite educational experience?

My most pivotal learning experience was the semester I took off from college to go to Paris. This wasn’t study abroad; this was eighteen-year-old me hopping on a plane to look for work and a place to live and make friends and… When I look back on it now, it doesn’t seem that crazy, but at the time, it was the hardest and most independent thing I’d ever done. In terms of school-based experiences, I don’t know that I can pick a specific one. I’ve been lucky to have phenomenal teachers and mentors throughout my life.

What drew you to Marquette and the COED?

I felt kinship with a university and college that expressed a moral imperative to work for equity and justice in our schools. I also loved the collegiality, the smallness, and the need for faculty not to be hyper-specialized. I’m a generalist at heart. Also, Milwaukee is close to my family and my husband’s family.

We’re glad that Marquette is a good fit for you! What do you see as an exciting opportunity for this upcoming academic year?

I am excited to be returning to Peru for our second study abroad program. For me, it is a mix of all the things I love about this work—most especially, that putting it together has been a creative endeavor. Looking forward, I love the openings that the new core and DPI revisions to certification are creating for us to creatively reimagine teacher education. I hope we, as faculty, can imaginatively think about placements, course sequences, and “high-quality” education.

And, what do you do when you are not teaching?

Not counting all the hours I spend doing laundry, cooking dinner, and resolving sibling quibbles (= parenting), I write a blog and I love to work on my house and garden. I’m also a NY Times crossword addict.

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to write about you! As a fellow blogger, what does blogging mean to you?

I have always been a writer, since my first-grade award-winning Young Author’s Contest poem about my pets. Writing is how I make sense of the world. It is creative, reflective, expressive. I often can’t express in speaking what I can in writing, and I find I can be more vulnerable in writing than I can in face-to-face situations. While my blog is non-fiction/personal essay/social commentary, I’d love to move into fiction writing at some point—I keep a notebook of novel ideas, and every time I drive to the UP, I work a little more on the details of my future screenplay about unlikely love in the northwoods.

Do you have any advice for readers who are interested in blogging?

Start a blog! They’re free. Read Anne Lamott’s book, Bird by Bird. Share what you write, even if it’s just with your best friend.

Who is the inspiration for your work?

My own teachers inspire my work, Mrs. Bessey and Mrs. Harper especially. But also all of teachers who saw moments when I was struggling, personally or academically, and they treated me humanely, with mercy, and with patience. I am also inspired by all the K-12 students I’ve worked with, but especially those whom I’ve failed in some way.

You can learn more about the College of Education along with our undergraduate and graduate programs by visiting us online!

Getting to Know Dr. Jennifer Cook

Version 2The College of Education is excited to continue allowing students to better know its faculty and staff. Dr. Jennifer Cook is an Assistant Professor as well as the Coordinator of Practicum/Internship Placements for our Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology (CECP) program. Read on to learn more about Dr. Cook!

Tell us about yourself!

I am a fourth year assistant professor in the department of Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology, and I teach exclusively in our master’s program. I am a licensed professional counselor in Wisconsin and Colorado, a National Certified Counselor, and an Approved Clinical Supervisor. I earned my PhD in counselor education from Virginia Tech in 2014, and I began my position at Marquette a few months later. My research interests include culture and diversity, particularly social class and socioeconomic status, and counselor training and preparation.

Where did you grow up? How long have you lived in Milwaukee?

I was born and raised in Florida, and I spent the first half of my life there. After I finished undergrad, I moved to Colorado for my first master’s degree, and I spent the majority of my adult life there. I’ve lived other great places, too: New York, Ohio, and Virginia, not to mention Milwaukee. I moved to Milwaukee just about four years ago when I began my position at Marquette.

You’ve been to so many places! Do you have a favorite educational experience?

Wow, that’s hard to answer because I’ve had so many, both as a student as an educator. If I were to choose just one time point as a student, my counseling master’s program at University of Colorado Denver in particular offered me so many rewarding experiences. My professors introduced me to research and teaching, allowed me to develop my clinical skills, encouraged me unceasingly, and fostered my creativity in a myriad of ways. Truly, I wouldn’t be in the role I’m in today if it weren’t for the peers, professors, and experiences I had there. Nowadays, I love watching my students learn and grow. Sometimes I get to see it instantly when a light bulb pops on or when a student masters a skill for the first time. Other times, I notice it over time, when I reflect on a students’ progress throughout the program or hear them reflect on their changes and growth.

It sounds like you’ve had many enjoyable experiences at Marquette! What do you see as an exciting opportunity for this upcoming academic year?

I think it’s almost always an exciting time in our department because we are not the kind of folks who let “grass grow under our feet,” but this year is particularly exciting. We are growing our program and adding a new specialization in Rehabilitation Counseling. This addition will allow us to reach even more underserved populations in our area and train even more counselors. With the addition of this specialization, our faculty will grow with our expanding student population, which means even more vitality for our program and community.

So what drew you to Marquette and the COED?

Marquette, and COED and CECP more specifically, offered me what I was looking for in my career—a commitment to high quality research and teaching with a focus on social justice, advocacy, and providing high quality training. Further, I feel incredibly supported by my colleagues throughout our program and college, making Marquette a sustainable career choice for me.

You do a lot here at the College of Ed! What do you do when you are outside of the office and classroom?

Currently, I’m pre-tenure so that doesn’t leave a lot of leisure time. I travel as much as I can—locally, nationally, and internationally. I love to engage with new places, cultures, food, landscapes—really, anything I’ve never experienced before. Plus, I’m determined to visit all 50 states (I have seven left!) and to visit as many countries as I can, so I get excited when I’m able to add a new place to the list! I’m an avid reader, and I like to read anything in actual print because I spend far too much time on screens. I cook regularly, enjoy crafty things that don’t require too much skill, and being outdoors. I love to be near the water, especially the ocean, and I treasure times when I can take long walks near the water.

Whoa, those sound like amazing experiences! Tell us more about what they mean to you!

My downtime is important to me. It allows me to reboot and focus so I can feel grounded in my life, but particularly in my work.

Who is the inspiration for your passion?

Overall, I think I’m driven by my deeply held belief that counselors have the capacity to change the world. I truly believe counselors have the skills, knowledge, drive, and passion to help people communicate, to give folks space to heal deep wounds, to bridge divides, and to create positive social change. Because I believe this so wholeheartedly, it drives all aspects of my work: how I teach, what I research, and in what service I participate. Work really isn’t work when you believe what you’re doing makes a contribution, however small, to making a better life for others.

You can learn more about the College of Education along with our undergraduate and graduate programs by visiting us online!

Getting to Know Janet Cleary

image1Ms. Janet Cleary is the Field Placement Coordinator here in the College. This spring semester, we’ve been interviewing our faculty and staff to learn more about them— get to know Janet today!

Tell us about yourself! Where did you grow up and how long have you lived in Milwaukee? 

I am from Schenectady, New York, and attended undergraduate school at Cornell University. My degree is in Nutritional Sciences. I moved to Milwaukee in 1977 for a one-year internship with the Milwaukee Public Schools. After the internship ended, I spend a year working in Highland Falls, New York (a town on the border with West Point Academy). I was thrilled to move back to Milwaukee in 1979 to work at MPS for what I thought would be three years—and I have now lived in Milwaukee for 39 years! I earned my MS in Industrial and Labor Relations at UW-M.

It sounds like MPS really made an impact on your life! What is your favorite educational experience?

While I am not an educator, all of my professional work experience has been in the educational setting.  While at MPS, I enjoyed going out to the schools and seeing the students in the classroom and cafeteria settings.  I loved the idea that what I did in School Nutrition impacted a student’s success in the classroom.

You’ve made quite the impact at MPS! So what drew you to Marquette and the COED?

I retired from MPS in June 2013, with the intention to not work again.  I spent that fall pursuing volunteer activities that I could be passionate about.  But, then in December, I had a phone call from Dr. Cynthia Ellwood, a former colleague from MPS, asking if she could give my name to Dr. Joan Whipp, who was looking for a one semester replacement for an ill staff member.  After much soul searching and re-visioning my retirement, I came to the College for what was to be four months.

I have now been here for 4+ years, and I LOVE it here.  After the public school setting, where I was forced to be a “secular” person, I was now able to both publicly express my faith and was supported in my faith journey by the Faber Center, located right here on our floor in Schroeder Complex!

We’re glad to hear that you’re enjoying your time here at Marquette! What do you see as an exciting opportunity for this upcoming academic year?

I am very excited that we have found a few new schools with which to partner for the next school year!  I am also excited that each year we have a few more grads as cooperating teachers.  They understand the rigor of the coursework, and the importance of an exceptional field/student teaching experience.


We’ve heard quite a bit about Janet the Field Placement Coordinator, but we would also like to know about what you do when you are outside of the office!

I love to bake and cook and enjoy hosting friends at my home.  I also enjoy reading and have recently been binge watching British TV series—Victoria, the Crown, Call the Midwife….  A guilty pleasure of mine is watching the Real Housewives of New York.

Those hobbies must mean a lot to you! Can you tell us more about how they impact you?

I love to nurture friendships, and feeding people is such a good way to let others know I care about them.  I used to prepare food for and serve at the St. Ben’s Meal Program.  That was a great way to put my desire to serve and care for the other into action.

That’s amazing! Do you have any advice for readers who are interested in doing similar hobbies?

I would encourage readers to explore their own interests, and sometimes there is an intersection between our interests and a need in the community.  If I hadn’t come to Marquette, one of the volunteer activities on my retirement list was working in a literacy program.

You can learn more about the College of Education along with our undergraduate program that Janet helps out with by visiting us online!

Questioning the Dominant Narrative

books-441866_640By Lupe Serna

Many times, the curriculum is presented through the same dominant narrative. Although this allows for consistency across classrooms, it restricts history teaching to a single story. On the other hand, if we present students with different perspectives and prompt them to question dominant narratives, we open the doors to critical analysis and historical thinking. As a result, students learn how to draw their own conclusions to interpret history, rather than merely accepting the dominant narrative.

Teaching students to question narratives and approach history through different view points can lead to the discovery of new information and facts that are usually disclosed from the dominant narrative of that historical time period.

The Mexican American Civil Rights Movement, also known as the Chicano Movement, is usually briefly mentioned in the classroom. For the most part, students receive a very general understanding of the topic as a fight against discrimination of Hispanics, the fight for farm workers’ rights alongside Cesar Chavez, and the fight for the restoration of land after the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.

Of course, there are various ways to present this topic. A controversial textbook, “Mexican American Heritage,” describes the Chicano Movement as an attempt to create division. After reading a few excerpts from the book in the article above, I personally did not agree with that perspective. I can see why some might have thought of the movement as one that went against American culture. However, as a Mexican American myself, I think of the Chicano movement as more of a search for identity.

When discussing the Chicano movement, I think it is necessary to go beyond discussing what happened and asking why did it happen? Ultimately, it is the Mexican American people who felt the need to fight for their rights and education. Thus, the focus should be on their own experiences and struggles. Why did Mexican Americans at the time decide to fight for their civil rights? How were they feeling at the time that made them take action? What were they struggling with that led them to take part in a movement?

These questions seem to have straight forward answers: they faced discrimination, their rights as workers were violated, they had limited access to education, among other reasons. That’s as far as discussions in the classroom usually go. The deeper problem that is usually overlooked is the tie to the struggle of identity.

In the movie Selena, there is a scene where her father perfectly describes the struggle of being Mexican American as having to please two different cultures and meeting the expectations of both groups, leading to the feeling of not being good enough to belong to either group.

After the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, many Mexicans were suddenly American. Mexican Americans struggled with this new identity, not completely Mexican but not completely American either. This article from a 1972 newspaper does a great job of explaining the identity crisis among Mexican Americans, claiming it as “One of the most pressing problems for a person of Mexican descent in the United States.” It goes on to talk about the discrimination that they face due to the color of their skin, the feelings of inferiority that they experience in the US, and the pressure to let go of their Mexican roots and customs.

Out of this identity crisis grew great pride in their mixed roots, taking on what came to be known as a Chicano identity. With that pride came awareness. Mexican Americans began to notice the manner in which they were treated differently, like is described in this poem. That awareness is what moved people to action and led to the voicing against injustices, the fight for civil rights and the fight for higher education, which was mostly led by student movements like the Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Aztlán (MEChA).

Among some of the most well known activists of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement are Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, founders of the National Farm Workers Association, later known as the United Farm Workers union. The fight for farm workers’ rights is the most common story that is taught in regards to the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement.

A different side of the movement that is not usually included in the curriculum is the role of a secret FBI program, COINTELPRO, against activists. Left out of the curriculum and, as a result, not forming a part of students’ social studies knowledge is the use of repression and force against activists and radical groups in the sixties, especially the Black Movement.  This video talks more about the attacks against the Chicano Movement.

Most narratives included in the curriculum focus on the positive outcomes of historical topics. Students are not always exposed to the ugly parts of history that led to those victories. In the case of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement, victories of activists like Cesar Chavez are commonly known, but left in the shadows are those who were silenced.

In the classroom, students should be encouraged to question both what is included in and what is left out of the dominant narrative. While they explore sources and different perspectives, they should question their credibility, their bias, their audience, their intention, and other factors that could influence the manner in which the topic is presented. This is a crucial step to incorporate into the classroom if we want students to learn how to sort out different perspectives to make their own interpretations of social studies.

Drawing from multiple primary sources when preparing for and teaching a lesson on any historical topic opens the doors to historical analysis for students. The sources above, along with the earlier video on COINTELPRO’s attacks on the Chicano Movement, present different information and perspectives on the Chicano Movement.

Social studies is about engaging students in critical thinking and analysis. A great way for them to partake in that is by questioning the narratives presented in the classroom, especially the dominant narrative. Participating in that questioning and inquiry leads to an expansion of students’ knowledge on historical topics because they learn to dig deeper and discover perspectives aside from the dominant narrative.

As teachers, that is what we are called to do — draw from multiple perspectives so that students can question the dominant narrative and make their own interpretations about the manner in which historical topics are presented.

Supervisors and Supervisees: Advice from an Alumna

We caught up with CECP alum, Jaimie Hauch, to see how her career post-Marquette has been going!

Can you tell us a little about yourself? What’s your title, brief job description, academic background?


I wear many hats at my current job. I am an individual provider (certified to work with both the mental health and substance abuse population), oversee our Intensive Outpatient Program, supervise interns, and engage in some administrative duties. I enjoy wearing many hats because no day is ever the same! I received my bachelor’s in Psychology and a minor in Business Management from Carroll University in Waukesha, WI. Then I came to Marquette where I received my master’s in Community Counseling.


How did your time at Marquette prepare you for your career? Were your expectations on target based on your experiences?

My time at Marquette provided me with a solid foundation to build my practice and career on.

How does your experience as a supervisor differ from your time as a supervisee? Does it affect your interactions with other co-workers?

It is very different being on the supervisor side vs. supervisee side, but I enjoy it. I feel my time as a supervisee has helped me grow into the supervisor that I am. I took away things that I enjoyed from my experiences as a supervisee and changed the things that I did not find helpful or found frustrating as a supervisee. For me personally, my role as a supervisor does not impact my interactions with my co-workers and I am grateful for that as I know it can be a difficult area for people. I have been blessed with a great team at West Grove Clinic and they all support me as a supervisor, which is great! I love knowing that if I need assistance, am having a hard day, or want to share accomplishments as a supervisor, I have co-workers that I can turn to for support.

What is your favorite Marquette memory?

My absolute favorite memory is getting to see Sara Bareilles in concert at Marquette.

What recommendations do you have for students and/or professionals supervising students?

For supervisors to remember their own experiences and to incorporate what they liked and to change what they didn’t like about their supervision experience. Additionally, to give constructive feedback – so share areas for the supervisee to improve on, but also high light their accomplishments. When the supervisee only hears poor feedback, I believe it reflects in their work. For supervisees – utilize the supervision time you are given and to come prepared to learn and have questions. To a certain extent, you get to make your supervision experience what you want it to be. So, if you are not actively engaged in your supervision, you likely are going to walk away from the supervision experience feeling a lack of fulfillment.

You can learn more about the College of Education along with our Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology program by visiting us online!

Social Studies Embedded In Our Lives

10012162166_cde34d427e_bBy Lupe Serna

Growing up, my least favorite subject in school was always social studies. I didn’t enjoy it, it never stuck with me, I just knew I had to take it. I would take notes, study the material, take the test, and then eventually forget most of what I “learned.”

Of course, now I realize I must have never really learned it but, rather, memorized it.

The thing is, I always associated social studies with history, specifically, American history. That’s all it ever was to me. And, quite frankly, it was boring. I heard the same story over and over again each year. But even that wasn’t enough to learn it. You would think that after so many years of being taught the same parts of history something would stick with me. But that was not the case.

As a Spanish-speaking, Mexican immigrant, I could not relate to the material. I was not able to personally connect with, much less engage in, social studies class. Perhaps that’s why I always wrongly associated social studies with history, because I never saw myself reflected in the class content. As a result, I wasn’t able to take the material and apply it to my own life, I wasn’t able to make the necessary connection between the content and reality, I couldn’t partake in authentic intellectual work.

As a future educator, I now realize that that has been the traditional approach to teaching social studies for quite some time now. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be like that. We have the power to change it.

By taking different, non-traditional approaches to the teaching and practice of social studies, students’s retainment of material and ability to explain it highly increases.

If students feel connected to the material, if they see themselves reflected through the content and are fully engaged participants in their own learning, they are more likely to retain what they learn in the classroom and carry it with them to use those skills and strategies in the outside world.

In other words, authentic intellectual work of social studies is constructing knowledge and being able to transfer that understanding into different aspects or situations in our lives.

What exactly does this mean for the classroom?

Authentic intellectual work means that students do so much more than just learn the material or attain knowledge. It means students actually understandthe material. Not only that, they take it a step further than understanding and they, one, discover the content’s value beyond school and, two, take that disciplined inquiry and apply it in their lives.

But before I go on, it is important to clarify what social studies actually consists of.

There really is no set definition for social studies. Usually, when people hear the word social studies, they think of history, politics, geography, and international relations. At least, that’s what I always thought of.

Not many realize that social studies is so much more than just history. Social studies includes topics such as personal idenity, culture, race, language, religion, community involvement, social justice, civil plans and so much more. In a nutshell, social studies includes anything and everything relating to the human society and social relationships.

For the most part, we don’t really think about social studies as something we do. Surprisingly enough, we do in fact “do” social studies on a daily basis, at times when we least expect it. We do social studies by something as simple as interacting with members in our community, actively responding to current events or natural disasters, fundraising money for organizations or our own communities, acting or taking part in a school play that reenacts a moment in history, partaking in civil rallies demanding social justice, etc.

Take, for example, the many times throughout history when civilians have reacted to and spoken out against social injustices by taking to the streets to protest. It happened back during the Civil Rights Movement and it continues to happen today, the most recent example of nation-wide protests being those held to call for the protection of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. In protests like these, participants “do” social studies in the following ways:

  1. Stay informed of current events and actively participate in their communities
  2. Use freedom of speech to stand up for what they believe in
  3. Are aware of and accept cultural differences and diversity
  4. Are informed about the effect of certain political decisions on the lives of others
  5. Interact with other individuals and groups
  6. Sympathize with and show their support for those directly affected

This video shows a recent and local protest on the streets of the Southside of Milwaukee, WI, where the community gathered to call for the protection of DACA.

Another misconception about social studies is that only adults take part in it. Youth’s involvement and role in social studies tends to go unnoticed because many are under the assumption that kids, who have not yet experienced much of life nor have attained much knowledge or wisdom, are not capable of contributing to society or having any sort of impact on the world.

However, quite the contrary is true. Kids can be just as powerful and impactful as adults. At times, they can have an even greater impact precisely because they are kids and as kids, they have a clearer, more innocent outlook on life.

Youth “do” social studies in more ways than imagined. A very common activity that children partake in but that is rarely recognized as “doing” social studies is discussion. When children have conversations with individuals or groups, they are, in one way or another, “doing” social studies. Participating in conversations is a great way for children to “do” social studies because it consists of taking an active role in social relationships. By interacting with others, hearing different perspectives, discussing their own view points, expressing their thoughts and feelings, and connecting with others’s stories and experiences, children are actively “doing” social studies.

This video is an example of 2nd-4th grade students “doing” social studies as they perform their own rendition of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton.” This is a great example of students “doing” social studies because it is evident that students took the material and interpreted in their own way to be able to perform it for an audience. They took history, listened to a different side that is usually not told, made it their own, and, to some extent, re-lived the past by literally putting themselves in the story and taking on different roles. Also, because they were able to fully engage with the material and presented it to an audience, their “doing” of social studies is a lot easier to assess in this situation. Their performance reflects their level of engagement and their investment with the material because in order to perform it well, they must first understand the message they must convey and incorporate props, movements, song, and emotion to do so.

Other examples of youth “doing” social studies are volunteering or doing community service, exploring other cultures and religions, witnessing social justice issues, interacting with people of different backgrounds, acknowledging the diversity within their own homes and the people around them, picking up garbage around their neighborhood, recycling in their homes, being considerate of the amount of water they use, fundraising money for organizations or humanitarian causes, and much more. A few methods of assessment for a non-traditional approach to social studies might be:

  1. Visual respresentations of past and/or current events with captions summarizing students’s explanation of what happened
  2. Visual representations of students’s reactions (physical and/or emotional) to particular stories or shared life experiences
  3. Written reflections about personal encounters or experiences out in the community
  4. A retelling of a story or conversation of students “doing” social studies outside of the classroom
  5. Written responses to the way in which current events were featured in news/media coverage and how it impacted them

A storymap is another example of “doing” social studies because it can serve as a timeline of events that in one way or another impacted an individual, or a group of individuals, while simultaneously telling a story and making it more personal. I created my own storymap to illustrate part of my family’s journey migrating from Mexico to the United States. By mapping this out, I got a better geographical understanding of the long journey that my grandparents, parents, and extended family members made by moving to the United States. It was very impactful because as I reflected on the difficulties, sacrifices, and social injustices that my family has experienced, I realized how strong that has made us and how it has shaped our character. At the same time, it also brought me joy and pride to remind myself of where I come from and what I’ve been through to be where I am today. If that isn’t authentic intellectual work of social studies itself, I don’t know what is.


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