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Balsz School District first in Arizona to add New York Times Magazine's '1619 Project' to its curriculum

Posted at 6:39 PM, Dec 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-09 20:39:49-05

PHOENIX — Phoenix's Balsz School District is the first district in the state to use The New York Times Magazine's "1619 Project" in its schools.

The Pulitzer-prize winning project looks at the impacts of slavery on the nation. It marks the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans to Jamestown, Virginia. You can view it, here.

Through a series of essays, images, stories and poems, it challenges the understanding of America's founding and its history by considering the year 1619 as the start of the United States' story.

Balsz Superintendent Dr. Arleen Kennedy said about 2,270 students in the district, grades K- 8th grade, would be taught from the project. On Wednesday, the district held its first virtual workshop on the initiative for teachers and staff.

"We want "The 1619 Project" to become a part of the Balsz culture," Dr. Kennedy said, who is a former social studies teacher.

She said "The 1619 Project" would support the curriculum the district already has in place. She said many teachers have been asking for more resources when it comes to teaching cultural subjects.

A majority of the students within the district are Hispanic or Black, Dr. Kennedy said. She hopes the New York Times' project becomes another resource to better engage its students and help them feel "seen," she said.

"It gives them a sense of self, gives them a sense of belonging, gives them a sense of understanding, the importance of education and arming themselves with the knowledge to make themselves better students," she said.

The Pulitzer Center partnered with the New York Times to create resources for teachers. Teachers have access to hands-on lessons, stories, videos, and virtual museum tours.

"It's a big question, what is the role of slavery in establishing the country that we have now? And to do that, the project engaged over 30 writers -- historians, journalists," said Fareed Mostoufi, associate director of education at the Pulitzer Center.

"What we're hearing from teachers is....that they're invited into historical analysis and research in a way they hadn't been excited about in the same way before by the way these stories are presented," he said.

Shelly Gordon and Lisa Olson, part of "The 1619 Project Advocates of Arizona," had been pushing to get the initiative to all schools in the state. They have also been working with Lois Brown, director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy at Arizona State University.