The 4th graders at our school are a diverse group of students representing 7 countries: the U.S., Ghana, Laos, Honduras, India, El Salvado and Mexico! Approximately 33% of these students speak a language other than English at home and are successfully acquiring English in school. Additionally, 50% of our 4th grade students qualify for free and reduced lunches, indicating their families fall below the poverty line in the U.S. As a school, we recognize that many of our students lack the benefits of a middle-class upbringing and that we must embrace an enrichment mindset and provide opportunities that our students may not have access to in their home lives.
"The enrichment mindset means fostering intellectual curiosity, emotional engagement, and social bonding" according to Eric Jensen in "Teaching with Poverty in Mind" (2009).
Furthermore, children from low socio-economic backgrounds are often exposed to stress and trauma but "a brain that is susceptible to adverse environmental effects is equally susceptible to positive, enriching effects" (E. Jensen). Thus we as a staff consider it essential that our students be entitled to opportunities that open the world to them.
The 4th grade students at my school study Colorado history including the Gold Rush and the effects of mining on humans and the environment each spring semester. Additionally, these students have been writing persuasive essays so several of them jointly composed an essay explaining the many academic and social benefits of field trips in order to persuade donors to fund a field trip to the Hidee Gold Mine in Central City, Colorado.
Here is their persuasive essay thesis statement: We, the 4th grade students at E.E.S., would like to go on more field trips because they are fun, we get to see things for ourselves, and some of our families can't afford to take us to new places.
In their essay, they provided examples to support their reasons for going on field trips. They mentioned being active with friends, learning and understanding topics better by using their 5 senses and experiencing feelings of unfairness when other students' families can afford to take them to new places.
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