GTPulse: Suttons Bay Public Schools Offer New Culture Class

Is there anything better than getting new class offerings? Throughout school, I was always excited when there were new classes to be taken because it didn’t happen often. Even in college I only experienced a class that had never been taught before once. I’m sure the reasoning behind it is the tedious process of researching and developing a new curriculum but it’s nice to branch out from the core four when possible. Suttons Bay students are getting a new class offering of their own with a new culture class that will teach students all about different aspects of Native, Latin American, African American, and other cultures.

At around two years old children begin deciphering differences between people. They begin to notice differences in race, gender, height, hair and eye color. At around age three, a child will notice physical disabilities, and by four or five years old they begin to identify with their own gender behavior and it’s at this age when they also become uncomfortable with differences in others. A curriculum featuring classes that explain and celebrate diversity can negate some of that discomfort in differences. With racial tensions high, and divisive social media posts and headlines in every direction, you have to wonder how all of this is impacting the young children. However, the class isn’t in response to the pandemic. It’s been developed over a number of years.

“The idea came from our students and families.  They have been asking us to do more for our students and we listened.  I’m proud of our staff for taking their requests seriously and designing something that will meet their needs.  We have been working hard on crystallizing [and] formalizing this idea for years so this is not a pandemic related initiative or a project that is being driven by issues going on in communities outside our district boundaries.  I think our families should know that we are implementing this idea with a focus on what is best for our students in SBPS, which is not a new concept for us.  We’ve been doing this sort of thing for decades, and I’m glad to see other districts taking similar steps with respect to SEL and cultural education, said Suttons Bay Public Schools Human Resources Director Cris Porter in an email.

The class will be taught by Scott Miller and is a K-12 initiative in coordination with their social studies, counseling, Title VI, ISD experts, with community guest speakers coming in as well. The idea is to educate and celebrate the cultures of Suttons Bay past and present in a way that informs and excites students.

“Our mission in SBPS is to embrace, support, and empower all students.  The word “All” is something that we take very seriously.  This means that we are first focusing on building meaningful relationships with our students and families.  This takes a lot of continuous effort and a tremendous amount of learning [and] growth for staff and students.  As we build relationships with students, we are also doing all we can to care for the social and emotional needs of our students. Our curriculum, activities, and instructional practices are 100% based on Michigan’s State Standards for SEL (social, emotional) Learning, Social Studies, and ELA (English language arts).  We want our parents to know that the process in SBPS starts with strong relationships first and then will transition to state standards-based teaching and instruction.  One other thing of note is that we think it is important to learn about all the unique cultures that make SBPS a special place to live and go to school, not just one particular culture at the expense of another. As a result, we have sought out the expertise of our staff, the ISD, our community, and our students from all walks of life, backgrounds, and cultures.”

When was the last time you learned something new? So many times, I tell myself that I’ve gotten too old to take on a new language or take a class for fun at the local college. People talk about how children retain information so much better than adults, but there’s so much rich history and culture rooted in Northern Michigan, it would be a shame to let it go quietly unknown. A little uncovering can go a long way. A little bit of understanding and love can go even further.

Categories: GTPulse