New Teacher-Developed Curricular Resources Available

New Teacher-Developed Curricular Resources Available; Partnership Begins 38th Year

Curriculum units that teachers from 19 New Haven public schools developed as Fellows in four Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute seminars in 2014 are available at this website. (

About one third of the 2014 Fellows participated in the Institute for the first time; others participated for a second, third, fourth, sixth, eighth, tenth, or even in two cases a fifteenth and seventeenth time.  Overall, more than a quarter of Fellows completed the Institute for at least the fourth time.

The Fellows represent 19 schools, 14 of which have two or more Fellows each.  Cooperative Arts and Humanities and Roberto Clemente have four Fellows each, while Betsy Ross has three Fellows.  Career, Columbus, Davis, Engineering and Science (ESUMS), Hyde, John Martinez, Metropolitan Business, Nathan Hale, Riverside, Troup, and Wilbur Cross schools have two Fellows each.  Other schools with 2014 Fellows are Brennan-Rogers, Celentano, Edgewood, Hill Central, and New Horizons.  Two of the New Haven Fellows – from Betsy Ross and Edgewood – were also in national seminars, among National Fellows from 16 school districts in nine states.

The new volumes of curricular resources contain units by New Haven teachers, who worked as colleagues with Yale faculty members in the humanities and the sciences who led four concurrent seminars on campus during the spring and summer.  The volumes are:

• “Picture Writing,” from a seminar led by Janice Carlisle, Professor of English

• “Exploring Community through Ethnographic Nonfiction, Fiction, and Film,” led by Kathryn Dudley, Professor of Anthropology and of American Studies

• “Race and American Law, 1850-Present,” led by James Forman, Jr., Clinical Professor of Law

• “Engineering in Biology, Health and Medicine,” led by Tarek Fahmy, Associate Professor of Biomedical and Chemical Engineering and of Immunobiology.

Arts and Humanities, Sciences and Math

The curriculum units include appendices with references to academic standards they pursue in the teaching of reading, writing, literature, mathematics, science, history, art, Spanish, and French, as well as English.  The units that Fellows prepared across the four seminars are intended to challenge and motivate students, in the context of district curricula. Many of the Fellows explicitly cited Common Core standards to which their units relate.

In introducing the volume on “Picture Writing,” Janice Carlisle emphasized “that words and images can be combined in a variety of different ways: pictures may constitute languages like those built up out of words, pictures often make claims or tell stories, words can morph into pictures, and, most often, words define or explain pictures, just as pictures illustrate words…. In the readings that we did, we looked at examples of each of these combinations.”  She continued, “The units developed by the participants in this seminar treat various forms of picture writing, often stressing, as we did in our discussions, the power of the viewer.”  According to Professor Carlisle, “One group of units … treat images as vehicles for the comprehension of verbal texts…. A second cluster of units … enlists images in the teaching of world languages, particularly in the enrichment of their students’ vocabularies…. Similarly, a third group of curriculum units … emphasize the ability of images to encourage a range of skills…. These curriculum units, for all their diversity in subject and grade level, stress the importance of letting students determine the writing that pictures do.  For that reason, wordless images – picture books without text and iconic images from such works as the Bayeux Tapestry – are central to many of these innovative methods for teaching reading or a world language or art or math precisely because an image seems less able than words to dictate how it will be comprehended.  Many of our discussions therefore focused on the kind of teaching that is made possible when students confront an art object or cultural artifact and try to use their words to make sense of what they are seeing.”

Kathryn Dudley, who led the seminar on “Exploring Community through Ethnographic Nonfiction, Fiction, and Film,” explained that “the study of community … ultimately involves efforts to describe, analyze, and represent the lives lived in common with others in local and global worlds.”  She said, “This seminar explored the lived experience of community through an examination of … various kinds of communities – ranging from those defined by social proximity to those defined by shared political-economic conditions…. We asked, what kinds of community are possible in America? We explored how communities rise and fall in historically specific social contexts. Throughout, we attended closely to the inequalities associated with race, class, gender, and citizenship, recognizing how these identifications constitute lines of division as well as sources of solidarity. We considered the value that Americans place on community itself, and how the pull of individualism exacts a toll on that commitment.” Professor Dudley recalled, “Our seminar discussions were wide ranging and took up topics near and dear to Fellows’ hearts: the role of public schools, teachers, and students in their home communities; the effects of wealth and income inequality on students’ classroom behavior and readiness for higher education; and the need for innovative ways to engage students in the exploration and creation of their own communities in New Haven’s neighborhoods and schools.”  She concluded, “The curriculum units gathered here present a wide array of strategies and activities for understanding and building community both outside of and within the classroom. Within them the alert reader will find a passionate commitment to pedagogical approaches that honor the diversity of students’ life experiences and communities.”

Crecia Cipriano, who teaches French to middle-schoolers at Betsy Ross Arts Magnet School and has been an Institute Fellow for ten of the past twelve years, said, “Participation in this seminar was an outstanding opportunity to explore anthropological conceptions of community and apply them on a more personal level. As a French teacher, I was thrilled to take what I learned about community formation and dynamics and use it to create a framework for turning my classroom into a language-learning community. Having the time to explore topics, combined with exposure to the expertise of the seminar leader and feedback around my unit, led me to develop a more cohesive and innovative unit than I would have otherwise managed to do, and I’m so excited to teach it!”

James Forman, Jr., in introducing the seminar on “Race and American Law, 1850-Present,” wrote, “Our seminar explored the Supreme Court’s, and the nation’s, struggle to apply the equality provisions in the American Constitution.”  He noted, “We spent much of our time together wrestling with contradictions. How can a nation declare ‘that all men are created equal,’ while 600,000 black slaves were held as property?  How can a nation elect an African American president while one in three young black men are under criminal justice supervision?  In these units, Fellows continue to explore contradictions, asking provocative questions such as ‘Is the NAACP still needed?’, and ‘should the American public care if our schools are racially and socioeconomically segregated?’”  Regarding the curriculum units that Fellows prepared, Professor Forman said, “Many of the units strive to escape the black-white paradigm that dominates much of the Supreme Court’s writing on race; Fellows were especially eager to explore issues affecting Latinos, Asians and other racial minorities.”  Further, “Many of the units seek to study not only oppression and discrimination, but resistance and struggle. A particular area of focus for many of the units is the role of young people in the fight for equality.”  He acknowledged, “Fellows drawn to a seminar such as this tend to have an orientation towards social justice, fairness, and equality. At the same time, classroom teachers should not be dogmatic, but instead should allow students to develop their own opinions, supported by their own research. Fellows wrestled with this tension throughout the seminar. Most ended up agreeing with Will Wagoner-Morales, who writes in his unit, ‘It is very important that students be allowed to form their own opinions of the issues at stake. As a teacher I at once wish to be very upfront with my personal views and ideology, while allowing students to come to their own conclusions.’”

LaShante James, who teaches English at Riverside Academy and has participated as an Institute Fellow for the past two years, said, “The Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute is a gem.  It serves as a vehicle of professional development that allows teachers to take ownership over what is taught and how learning takes place in their own classroom, while meeting the standards required by Common Core. Through the seminars offered, teachers are able to enhance their own knowledge of a specific content area and author a unit that will produce results in the classroom for their students.”  She continued, “For example, I participated in the ‘Race and American Law’ seminar and wrote a unit entitled, ‘Almost a Citizen: A History of Social Injustice in America.’  Through this unit, students argue and debate events that occur in the text, as well as develop connections to the world around them through Constitutional Law, such as violations of Due Process.  I have begun teaching this unit to my current 11th grade students.  During open house, a student turned to her parent and said, ‘This book is so good, I don’t want to stop reading it!’  This is a teacher’s dream, and being a part of the Institute has given me a venue to design units that draw this type of excitement out of my students.”

Tarek Fahmy, who led the seminar on “Engineering in Biology, Health and Medicine,” observed that “What used to be separate, unrelated disciplines are now merging into an integrated, interdisciplinary field that relies on biological and medical understandings for creation of new therapeutic and diagnostic devices. In turn, the technology is feeding back into the basic sciences and medicine, enabling a better understanding of structure and function of the complex network of cells and tissues in the body.”  He said, “For those reasons, the tools and methods of the engineering profession are now frequently applied and refined by students in the life and medical sciences. Significant historical examples demonstrate the importance of this feedback loop – in the field of diagnostics, exemplified by Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Computed Tomography (CT) and ultrasensitive sensors for glucose and blood chemistry. Examples in the field of therapeutics include nanoparticulate drug delivery, patches, surgical devices, surgical robotics, drug screening and development.”  Given such advances, “The public at large, including science students and teachers, are very interested. The important questions include: Can nanotechnology solve cancer? How can one develop a better diagnostic for early stages of cancer?  Can robotic devices be controlled with the sufficient accuracy in remote regions of the world for surgical intervention?  Can epidemics be predicted and what limits the efficacy of vaccines for communicable and non-communicable infections?”  According to him, “The curriculum units contained in this volume demonstrate excellent examples of engineering in biology and medicine.  The objective of this collection is broad as it introduces engineering methods and technologies to the life and physical sciences.  It also guides engineering solutions and innovation using biology and medicine.”  The units focus on such matters as “development of biomaterials for immunotherapy, new vaccines, drug development, monitoring and use of genetically modified foods, intervention or modulation of the microbiome, use of robotic systems, and nanotechnology applications in drug and vaccine delivery.”  The Ebola virus is just one example of the topics that one of these units addresses.

Carol Boynton, who teaches second grade at Edgewood School and participated as a Fellow for the eighth straight year, said, “The Institute offers seminars with content that challenges me as a professional and provides opportunities to develop enriching curriculum units for my students.  Teachers of all grades and content areas sitting side by side, learning complex content, and synthesizing the information for their own classroom delivery is the Institute’s unique format, elevating professional development and recognizing teachers’ needs for reaching all students.”  She explained, “I have had the privilege of participating in seminars in both the humanities and sciences over the years, most recently in Tarek Fahmy’s seminar on ‘Engineering in Biology, Health and Medicine.’  As a teacher in the elementary grades, I chose to focus on providing for my second graders an introduction to our body’s systems and the effect exercise has on those systems.  The students will then learn the fundamentals of yoga, aerobics and calisthenics and use these skills during indoor recess on days of inclement weather.  As I begin the initial lessons this fall, my students are excited to be ‘learning what doctors know’ about our bodies.”

A Guide to the 2014 curriculum units includes introductions by the Yale faculty seminar leaders, as well as summaries of each unit and recommendations from their authors about subjects and grade levels in which the units might be taught, beyond Fellows’ own classrooms.  Hundreds of additional units are available in school libraries or online through the Institute’s search engine, subject Index, and volumes from previous years.  These resources are available for non-commercial, educational use by teachers, parents, and students of all ages.

Teacher Leadership

Teachers serving as the Institute’s 2014-15 school Representatives and Contacts are disseminating the new curricular resources while canvassing colleagues’ suggestions for seminar topics the Institute might address in 2015 to meet teachers’ and students’ needs across the curriculum.  Interested teachers should speak with their school representative.

Teachers Institutes are educational partnerships between universities and school districts designed to strengthen teaching and learning in a community’s public schools. The Yale National Initiative to strengthen teaching in public schools is a long-term endeavor to influence public policy toward teacher professional development, in part by establishing exemplary Teachers Institutes in underserved school districts in states throughout the country. The Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute, a permanently endowed academic unit of Yale University, is beginning its 38th year.


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