YourWords STL

Crossing Delmar 2020: Moline Elementary & New City School

Guest blog from AmeriCorps VISTA, Grace Cunningham

2 schools. 5 days. 61 students. 18 workshops. 21 teachers. 5 volunteers. 4 locations. 1 culminating event. Hello Crossing Delmar 2020!

The 5th graders of Moline Elementary and New City School participated in Crossing Delmar 2020, YourWords STL’s collaborative writing project designed to increase racial literacy and empathy among elementary and middle school students located on opposite sides of the Delmar Divide. Over the course of the week, educators lead workshops in which students address identity, race, racism, and the Delmar Divide.

On Day 1:
15 students from Moline got on a bus to New City School, while the other 15 Moline students awaited the arrival of the 15 New City School students. 16 New City Students welcomed Moline to their Central West End campus. And the week of programming began!

Teaching artists Pacia Anderson and Maria Ojascastro led team building exercises where students broke out into their small groups — the same small group they would be a part of all week — and built Rube Goldberg machines. The machines are intentionally designed to perform a simple task in an indirect and overly complicated way. Anna Heinze and Jayvn Solomon, the co-hosts of the STL by Design podcast, taught the students about podcasting and shared interviewing techniques that the students would utilize later in the week to create their own podcasts.

On Day 2:
Pacia Anderson and Anna Guzon led workshops on poetry and identity, where they read through the poems “It’s Okay to be a Nerd” by Nicky_DA, “I Invite My Parents to a Dinner Party” by Chen Chen, and “I, Too” by Langston Hughes, spoke to identities including social identity, gender, sexuality, and race, students then wrote their own poems exploring their identities. Tiger and Brittany of The Collective STL provided movement & mindfulness through yoga workshops where they introduced yoga as a tool for self discovery. Half of the students (the other half attended on Day 4) went to the St. Louis Art Museum thanks to Shannah Burton, New City School’s art teacher, and heard from St. Louis 2019 youth poet laureate Bisa Adero.

On Day 3:
EdHub Fellow Arsenia Tate and Rachel Morgan of Community Conversations led racial literacy workshop, where students defined social constructs and discussed how racism is race prejudice + social and institutional power. They explored how racism shows up in their world, city, neighborhood, school, and life. The young people also worked on their poetry, recorded poems, and drafted a list of interview questions to include in their podcasts.

On Day 4:
Arsenia & Rachel led workshops describing the history and effects of the Delmar Divide in St. Louis where students discussed access to grocery stores, number of vacant buildings, activities they have access to, how many schools are in their neighborhood, and ultimately how the divide affects their community. They created a living timeline, highlighting the significant events of St. Louis’ history of segregation and discrimination. The students recorded their podcasts with the help of Anna & Jayvn from STL x Design.

On Day 5:
All of the students convened at Innovation Hall for the last day of programming. Maria Ojascastro led an ice breaker to start the day. The students worked on finishing up their group podcasts, then listened to Mrs. Kesh Speaks as she gave the keynote on the importance of diversity and inclusion. The students gathered for lunch together and listened to their finished podcasts over the speaker. 

What an amazing, impactful week! After being a part of the collaboration, I couldn’t help but wonder why this isn’t mandated in curriculum’s across the country. It is so necessary to talk about race, gender, and sexuality and how these identities impact the way folks experience and navigate our society. These conversations are the first step in creating a more equitable and inclusive future. The young people exemplified that we are in good hands. They are full of energy, knowledge, and insight. They are powerful & dedicated to justice.

Special thank you to all of the teachers, administrators, students of Moline Elementary and New City School, and EdHub STL for making this week possible! 

“We speak, we write, we do language. This is what makes civilizations heal.” — Toni Morrison

Anna Guzon

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