Our Social Justice team introduced our Grade 2 students to Amanda Gorman this past week as a ‘Tzedakah Hero,’ a person in their own way working to piece back together broken parts of the world. Each week the Social Justice Team highlights an “ordinary” individual and the “extra-ordinary” work that they are doing to respond to some specific problem/challenge in our world. Students learn that a Tzedakah Hero is someone who notices a problem or challenge and then steps up and says “I think I can do something to help make it better.”

To create the lesson, Social Justice Director Stephanie Rotsky and Social Justice Assistant Sherman Goldblum met with a former Rashi teacher to brainstorm ideas. They wanted to help students understand how Amanda Gorman puts the world back together, and what her process for doing so was.

“We teach Tzedakah Heroes as real people who faced challenges and grew from them, like Ms. Gorman and her auditory processing disorder,” shared Social Justice Assistant Sherman Goldblum.

There are many different ways to make change in the world, and the Tzedakah Heroes curriculum has taught about people that paint to make change, build wells, do clothing drives, and many more.

Students read a segment of Gorman’s ‘The Hill We Climb’ poem from the Biden Presidential Inauguration. Students then wrote their own poetry about what they would rise from and rise to, inspired by Ms. Gorman.

The lesson aimed to empower students to use their own voices and see how history can be happening right in front of them, especially Black history, with the historic inauguration of the first female and first Black Vice President Kamala Harris, and for Black History Month.

The students connected to Amanda Gorman’s mantra she says before performing: “I’m the daughter of Black writers who are descended from Freedom Fighters who broke their chains and changed the world. They call me.”

Students used the “I Will Rise” format from her poem to write their own poetry. They wrote what they would rise from, things that challenge them; and what they would rise to, where they want to go or how they want to help the world.

Then students created a collage using the words of the poem and the faces of President Biden and Vice-President Harris. Each student chose a different way to use the words, whether reorganizing the words into new poetry, making a compass out of words that mention the cardinal directions, or putting words that refer to each person next to their image.

The team shared, “Each week we are excited to introduce these heroes to not only expose Grade 2 to the rich and varied tikkun olam (repairing the world) and tzedek (justice) work these heroes have taken on, but also to get them to begin to envision how THEY can be Tzedakah Heroes and help repair the broken parts of our world. By using a consistent format, and highlighting so many different examples, our hope is that students will glean that no matter your age or background, each of us has the power to change the world for the better.”