By Sierra Smith, Communications Specialist
Lower School Technologist Kate Kelleher welcomed students into the LS Technology Lab with a warm smile and a question, “What is identity?”
Young scholars offered up answers with varying degrees of confidence; some murmured while others excitedly raised their hands. Kelleher welcomed each response, and together she and her students, formed an answer.
“Identity is what we like, what we value, our language, and our culture,” Kelleher wrote on a board at the front of the room.
Since 2019, identity curriculum has been an integral part of USN’s Lower School educational experience.
“This curriculum builds understanding of the facets of human identity, including those we’re born with and those we choose,” Lower School Curriculum Coordinator Christy Plummer shared. “Our aim is to empower students to use what they know about differences to connect, empathize, and collaborate; to support healthy coping mechanisms and emotional regulation; and to develop an understanding of how to advocate for oneself, others, and the community.”
In Kelleher’s enrichment classes, highlighting this aspect of core curriculum means helping her students find ways to express their identity by using tools that technological advancements have provided.
“I started class by asking students to list things they loved, which led into a discussion on how those things reveal their values,” Kelleher shared. “They drew the things they loved or made collages using images they found online, depending on the grade level, and we created a gallery crawl so that other students could learn more about their classmates’ identities.” View examples from Skyler Moots’ fourth grade class.
From there, students began more comprehensive projects to express their identity.
Third and fourth graders are using Scratch, a block-based visual programming language and website that helps teach coding to children, to create animated videos that reveal their identities. Meanwhile, in kindergarten through second grade, students are gaining greater knowledge of the capabilities of Seesaw by using the platform to create storybooks. In each grade, students must design a character and setting that reflect who they are. Through their characters’ actions and words, the students will demonstrate their values.
“It’s kind of like a game,” Trisha Reddy ’29 said. “I really like that I’m bringing my personality onto an app; it’s really neat.”
While students are having fun, the work they’re doing is helping them to build useful skills and learn valuable lessons.
“It’s exciting to watch them realize that the more they work at something, the easier it becomes,” Kelleher shared.