UChicago Charter School in Woodlawn hosts Changemakers Fair

Asya Johnson, seventh grader at UChicago Charter School presents her project at the Changemakers Data Fair at the Woodlawn Campus, 6420 S. University Ave., Wednesday, June 14. Johnson focused her project on the disparities in racial diversity on TV. – Photo by Raphael Nash courtesy of UChicago Charter School: Woodlawn Campus

Staff Writer

Seventh-graders at the University of Chicago Charter School Woodlawn Campus (UCW), 6420 S. Univesity Ave., presented research at a public fair, Wednesday, June 14.

The event entitled the Changemakers Fair was an opportunity for students to present research on projects that centered on social identity, social justice, and economic issues, ranging from violence, policing, and the Black Lives Matter movement. As well as policies, such as immigration, women’s rights, and health care that have been enacted since President Donald Trump took office.

Student developed data-driven arguments on their topic of choice and proposed concrete steps to address them.

The project is in its second year and was organized by a group of UCW teachers who are graduates of the University of Chicago Urban Teacher Education Program.

This school year marks the first that the project has been integrated into an interdisciplinary unit, said Kate Carter, seventh-grade math teacher at UCW.

“In the world that we live in today, it’s incredibly important to be critical consumers of information and creators of our own arguments,” Carter said. “We are fed so much whether it’s through those 140-character tweets or articles that are saying what we should think about an issue.”

Carter added that students learned from their research how to “move fluidly between forms of data in order to both critique arguments and form arguments.”

Jayla White, a seventh-grader at UCW based her project on the inequities in policing.

“One thing that made me interested in police brutality was when Laquan McDonald got shot in 2014 his video was published in 2016,” White said. “No one [police officer] was held accountable until 2017.”

White’s research was based on a question that she posed. She wanted to know why police officers were not held accountable for their actions and why law enforcement agencies continue to protect officers who are in the wrong rather than punish them for shooting citizens.

“The system protects cops, and this is racist,” she said. “There is a high percentage of black people who are killed by white cops. They are not caught [charged with a crime].”

In addition to creating their projects students went a step further by drafting action steps for solutions to the problems they presented.

For instance, White wants to distribute surveys to the school community at UCW. The survey would ask participants about their interactions with police officers.

She would then gather all the information and sit down with the Police Supt. Eddie Johnson, who heads the Chicago Police Department.

She believes that feedback from a range of people will provide perspective and can improve the relationship between Chicago police officers and the communities in which they serve.

Seventh-grader David Range in his project argues that the benefits of social media outweigh the harm of social media.

Social media, according to Range is an opportunity for young people to connect and make friends. Social media is also the primary method for youth to connect with one another.

“I get to use my own voice [on social media], and it taught me how to communicate,” Range said.

Rhonni Durham based her research on technology and its impact on the health of children and teenagers.

Durham was pushed to explore the topic because of what she saw in her day-to-day interactions from friends.

“Children spend on average seven hours and forty minutes a day on technology including laptops and phones,” Durham said. “Because children and teenagers are spending more time on technology than in the past it causes them to become more obese and lack self-control.”

Next steps for Durham include making a short film on the topic and presenting it to the UCW school community to show the negative impacts that come with more time spent using technology.

It was inspiring for seventh-grade ELA (English Language Arts) teacher DeVear Peters to see his students “creating surveys, having their audience take a survey and all the different ways they are looking to tackle that issue. I didn’t think that they would take it that far.”

Peters said seeing his students push for action was a highlight of the event and he is pleased that they are taking what they learned and applying it to their lives.