by Mary Cowhey
Sternhouse Publishers, 2006.
Black Ants and Buddhists is a stellar primer on teaching for social change and meaning in the primary grades.
Cowhey has spent several years integrating social justice, activism, community participation, and critical thinking into her classes in order to nurture “more informed, articulate, active and participatory citizens who know the power of their own voices.”
A conversation about stepping on ants – or not – leads to an exploration of different world religions and a philosophical debate about compassion and kindness.
Students frequently meet with community leaders — like the mayor — and help enact change in their school and community.
They register voters, feed the homeless, quote Gandhi, and debate whether or not Columbus should have ever set foot in the “new world.”
Of course, they also fight over play equipment and spill their juice, but they’re just six or seven, after all.
In a world where “What can I do? I’m only one person?” is a common lament sprouting from the mouths of adults, Cowhey has demonstrated, via her book, strategies and stories for empowering and inspiring our young learners.
And these young learners are making a major difference in their community. They are making connections and drawing conclusions that many “grownups” still struggle with.
This book is most relevant for those who work with younger children, but almost anyone who cares about the world will find a lot of inspiration here …and hope for the future.