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NewsSep 10, 2020

Centering Latinx history, art and culture instruction

Mass Humanities grant supports Lesley partnership in Lawrence High School’s humanities classrooms

Mural of owls in Lawrence, Mass.

Lesley launched a partnership with Lawrence Public Schools this week to offer professional development that will center Latinx studies for teachers of history, English, art history and theater at Lawrence High School (LHS). 

Located in the “city of immigrants,” Lawrence High School serves over 3,000 students in grades 9-12, of which more than 90 percent are Latinx. However, as in many high schools, Latinx students rarely see themselves, their identities, their histories, and their cultures reflected in their coursework.

The partnership is funded by a $10,000 grant from Mass Humanities and a matching amount from Lesley. The initiative, Centering Latinx Studies Pedagogy, is a professional development project that will engage 35 educators from across Lawrence High School.

Workshops will engage with primary and secondary sources central to the field of Latinx studies that explore history, art and culture, as well as curriculum grounded in the field of Latinx studies. Through this project, teachers will critically evaluate their practices, from selecting and evaluating course materials to building community engagement.

“We are excited to partner with experts at Lesley University to provide LHS educators with dynamic professional learning towards the development of a humanities curriculum that reflects the experience and history of our students’ Latinx identity,” says Maricel Goris, assistant superintendent of Lawrence Public Schools. “Purposefully planning to represent our students’ intersectionality of race, culture and language will undoubtedly enhance the teaching and learning experience for both students and educators at Lawrence High School.”

Lesley University’s Creativity Commons and Lawrence Public School District’s Humanities Pathway Supervisor Kevin Dean have collaborated to design this series of professional development workshops that will take place over the 2020-21 academic year.

Lesley faculty are guiding educators in this exploration and in developing culturally competent practices rooted in critical race and ethnic studies. In the end, teachers will apply their learning to construct their own curriculum and lesson plans that engage students in an exploration of local Latinx history, art and culture in the community of Lawrence, while simultaneously addressing Massachusetts education standards and building relevant skills in critical thinking, analytical writing, visual literacy and more.

An interdisciplinary team of Lesley faculty is leading this professional development project in Lawrence, including Assistant Professor Tatiana Cruz, historian of race and gender in modern U.S. culture; Professor Oscar Palacio, photographer and historian of American art and culture; Marianne Adams, artist and educator in arts integration; and University Professor Martha McKenna, director of the Creativity Commons.

“I am grateful that Mass Humanities has awarded Lesley University and the Lawrence Public Schools a grant to support the Centering Latinx Studies Pedagogy Project,” McKenna says. “Our faculty look forward to working with the humanities teachers to transform teaching and learning to reflect the population of students they serve.”