The Eighth Grade Summit – “Race and Climate Justice” – provided students with many opportunities to engage in a variety of interactive activities over three days from April 12-14 to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of some key issues facing the world.
Race and climate change were identified as two key topics to be addressed during the first two days of the Summit. On the third day, eighth graders spent part of their day attending the Upper School Symposium – “Inclusive Communities - Race and Identity” – and then concluded their Summit with an action challenge to plan next steps.
Ms. Noreen Jafri, Eighth Grade Coordinator, collaborated with Ms. Ana DeLeon, Associate Director of Admission, Dr. Corinna Crafton, Middle School Head, and a dedicated group of eighth grade student volunteers to plan the three-day Summit that focused on areas of social justice important to our community. The student leadership group consisted of Abigail Ibrionke ’25, Vinay Karthik ’25, Ancel DeJesus ’25, Shourya Chhabra ’25, Arya Chhabra ’25, Kayla Le ’25, Phoebe Kaplan ’25 and Adam Eisdorfer ’25.
Day 1 of the Summit focused on Racial Justice. The day began with a Step Up Challenge in the Berry Performing Arts Center and followed with interactive programs including Constitution Role Play and The Color Line. In the Step Up Challenge, a physical activity, students took steps forward or backward they paid attention to their own privileges and those of their peers. In Constitution Role Play, students examined issues discussed during the Constitutional Convention through the lens of a Southern planter, farmer, enslaved African American, banker or worker. In The Color Line, eighth graders examined early US laws related to slavery, segregation and immigration. They worked in teams to construct a time line of events.
Day 2 of the Summit focused on Climate Justice. This day included Stories from Climate Crisis, a Climate Simulation Activity and an outdoor Poetry Slam in the Amphitheatre. In Stories from Climate Crisis, students took on the persona of a real person around the globe that has either been impacted by or benefitted from climate change. In this mixer, they conversed in pairs to share their stories and learn how climate change impacts people differently. In the Climate Simulation Activity, eighth-graders simulated coal mining by extracting chocolate chips from cookies. In trying to make a profit, they recognized that the costs of coal mining extended beyond the price of land acquisition, tools and labor. Twelve students participated in the Poetry Slam, some reciting original poetry and others reading poems written by Maya Angelou.
“The success of this event has been possible because the amazing flexibility and enthusiasm of our middle school teachers,” Ms. Jafri said. “Eighth graders had a voice in the shaping the event; they heard from experts as well as their peers, on topics that were important to them. The event gave them the opportunity to step into leadership roles outside the traditional subjects and dig deeper into learning about themselves and other people. Through simulations and role play students empathized with others, and then, they reflected on the experience to develop an attainable call to action. I’m impressed with the insightful comments and ideas that students shared during discussions and activities as they leaned into this event!”