This past February, Little Calhoun hosted its first every Changemaker Assembly. A creative extension of their social justice curriculum, students in kindergarten through second grade shared their learning with one another, younger peers and the wider Calhoun community via livestream. Little Calhouners came together to sing inspirational songs and share the legacies of changemakers throughout history. Emotional, poignant and informative, the Changemaker Assembly exemplified Calhoun’s commitment to social justice, empowering and inspiring children to make change in the world.
The Changemaker Assembly reflected the ever broadening scope of the social justice work that takes place in the Lower School. During the assembly students from each cluster took turns proudly gracing the stage, sharing wise words about the lives and work of their chosen changemaker. Some even presented collaborative art projects or wore costumes inspired by their changemaker. Students presented on a number of trailblazers, from Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Fred Rogers (popularly known as Mr. Rogers), to Dolores Huerta and Nelson Mandela. People like baseball legend Jackie Robinson, civil rights activist Rosa Parks, and environmental activist Wangari Maathai were also included among the impressive list. “There are thousands of changemakers, and I want students to know about more people,” says kindergarten teacher Richard Amelius.
Also counted among those honored were young activists Malala Yousafzai and Marley Dias. Highlighting young contemporary activists sent a clear message to students—that they, too, have the power to be changemakers. “It’s not just adults,” says Richard, “Kids can do this too–that's important to present.”
The organization of the assembly was a collaboration among faculty who formed a Changemaker Committee. Comprised of kindergarten teacher Richard Amelius, music teacher Mariana Iranzi, Spanish teacher Priscilla Marrero, theater teacher Megan McDonnell and Lower School Director Alison Rothschild, each member of the committee contributed their expertise to ensure the success of the assembly. For her part, Mariana led students through a series of powerful songs that served to strengthen the sense of unity for those in the room and watching at home. Songs like “One Love” and “Get Up Stand Up” by Bob Marley helped set the tone and touched upon themes of fairness, love and what it means to be an upstander.
The Changemaker Assembly was more than a special event—it empowered students to become agents of change. By choosing the subject of their research and sharing information with peers, Little Calhouners exercised their voices within their community, and in learning about changemakers, they were exposed to ordinary people who were able to do extraordinary things. As they began to make connections to their own lives, students saw that everyone has the ability to make change, and reinforced the idea that they can follow in the footsteps of changemakers before them. As Richard explains, “[Someone like] Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is not a holiday, he's not a catchphrase, a hashtag or the name of a high school. He was an ordinary person who decided he could make a change. We can do that too if we think a little bit more like Martin. We can believe that our words are important and our deeds matter, or defend somebody in need. That's a changemaker.”