Department of Education

BSHS 2021: From Superheroes to Climate Justice

Brown Summer High School (BSHS) challenges students to think deeply about big questions. In this summer enrichment program, students pursue deep learning in up to three courses, choosing from classes in Math, English, Science, and Social Studies.

Brown Summer High School (BSHS) challenges students to think deeply about big questions. In this summer enrichment program, students pursue deep learning in up to three courses, choosing from classes in Math, English, Science, and Social Studies. Students who typically attend Brown Summer High School are a community of excited learners from Providence, Central Falls, and other communities in Rhode Island. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, for the last two years, BSHS has shifted to an online format, and students from around the world enrolled in the program. BSHS courses include hands-on and experiential learning focused on collaboration, discussion, and creative labs and projects. All courses are centered around equity and justice, and what students learn in the classroom is connected in meaningful ways to their daily lives. Every year the courses in each subject shift to new and exciting topics, and all classes are taught by candidates for the Brown Masters in Teaching program with the guidance of experienced local teachers. 

This past summer, the big questions BSHS students attempted to answer were: “How does our perspective shape what we see?”, “What does it mean to be ‘good’ at math?”, “How can science empower us to address climate change and fight for climate justice?”, and “What roles do superheroes play in American history and culture?” MAT student-teachers offered their insight into the classroom experience with these questions in mind.

In the BSHS English course, students read and created poems, stories, songs, and videos. The goal of this class was to develop their skills in description, narration, and written portraiture. One BSHS teacher wrote, “My greatest experience was listening to my class share their narratives on the last day… all of them were coming from a place of deep reflection and vulnerability. It was great to learn about my students and see them support each other as they told their stories.” 

In the social studies classroom, students were likewise encouraged to bring their own communities and identities into their work. After learning about the histories of famous heroes like Black Panther and Wonder Woman, students used their newfound knowledge of these cultural icons’ history to create original superheroes rooted in their own experiences. A BSHS social studies teacher noted, “Students learned how superheroes can be traced back to community activism and how, in this way, activists can be superheroes within their own communities, too.” 

In this year’s science course, students found other ways to link what they learned in class with real-life issues and even found a way to take action. A BSHS science teacher explained, “In this course, students served as agents of change by constructing arguments based on scientific evidence to express their concerns about climate change… students then felt empowered to write professional letters to government officials to express their concerns and propose solutions for their communities.”

Last but certainly not least, students in the mathematics classroom investigated their relationship with the subject and what it really means to be “good” at math. Working closely with students to see how their individual identities shaped their outlook on math, one teacher took pride in the way in which “students added human meaning to mathematics.” Through individual and collaborative work, BSHS teachers guided students through activities that encouraged creative problem solving and developing new strategies for success.

Brown Summer High School has had the honor of working with enthusiastic students for over 50 years, and BSHS leaders are eager to look toward the future. In 2022, BSHS plans on resuming in-person instruction on Brown University’s campus. Local students stay tuned for more information about the new application cycle. Please direct any questions to [email protected]
 

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