Mitchell’s International Night Feb. 10 will celebrate diversity; highlight Syrian refugee crisis project, an IB unit

Program is part of the Mitchell-Scarlett Teaching and Learning Collaborative with the University of Michigan

University of Michigan intern Jessica Palace talks with a Mitchell student about the Syrian project.

Photos and story by Jo Mathis/AAPS District News Editor

Last month, some University of Michigan interns asked the Mitchell Elementary fourth graders to name the topic that most concerned them.

Number One on the list was the Syrian refugee crisis.

“It kind of surprised us all that they even knew about that,” said Catherine Reischl, coordinator of the Mitchell-Scarlett Teaching and Learning Collaborative, a partnership with the University of Michigan School of Education.

For the last several weeks, the 66 fourth graders have delved into the humanitarian crisis, while at the same time strengthening their communication skills, both written and verbal.

Their work will be one of many highlights of International Night: A Celebration of Diversity to be held from 5:30 to 8 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 10 at the school.

Mitchell’s three fourth grade teachers— Beth McCready, Michelle Kang, and Piper Grenfell—designed this IB communications course, which is now focused on the Syrian refugee crisis.

“We created this IB unit hoping to provide students an authentic opportunity to learn opinion writing in real-life context,” says Kang. “Through this project, we hope students will be able to see how people develop strategies to share their beliefs and values. Not only have we been studying various ways people express their opinions, but they’ll have a chance to share their own opinions regarding the Syrian refugee crisis with our local community.”

Michelle Kang and intern Cristal Lugo discuss the project with students.

It’s another win-win for both the U-M graduate students/future teachers whose classrooms are actually at Mitchell and Scarlett, and the AAPS students who benefit from the interns’ innovations in curriculum, instructional practices, professional learning, and community involvement.

In this unit, children who have been engaged in multiple discussions about their rights and responsibilities as citizens were immersed in examining written and video-based mentor texts that communicate opinions. They noticed and named structural, craft, and audio and visual features that authors have used to communicate their messages.

Children were supported by interns to plan their own opinion pieces.  With support from interns in their small groups, they created a written plan that includes an opinion, reasons, and evidence. Working with interns, they create an I-movie that expresses their opinions about what citizens need to know about and do in response to this crisis.

These videos and supporting writing will be shown during International Night from 6 to 8 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 10 at Michell.

Each of the 26 U-M interns has worked with a group of two or three students, and many of the interns will attend International Night, as well.

Intern Alicia Talbot helps Mitchell students with their project.

Reischl says it’s a big deal to take on such a serious issue, stick with it, and create something that’s both written and visual.

“We want to support kids instruction and we also want to support our interns learning to teach literacy,” says Reischl. “We want them to learn to write persuasively, so we’re working with the kids to read a lot, to learn a lot about the issues, and then to write a persuasive essay that has an opinion, reasons, and evidence, which is what is called for in the common core.”

Notes Kang: “Students have shown a lot of passion and desire to help Syrian refugees in my classroom, and I’m excited to see the fruit their desires bear as they brainstorm action steps after the project is over.”

Mitchell families are invited to wear traditional clothing from any country, culture, heritage or a team jersey to International Night, which will include dance and drumming performances, a German Laternenumzug, a celebration with lanterns at 5:30 p.m.; food, crafts, and much more.


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