The concept of an American Dream was interrogated during a service-learning partnership between university students and a multilingual, racially diverse class of sixth graders. The one-on-one service-learning partnerships were at the heart of the semester-long project and sought horizontalidad, or non-authoritarian democratic communication and shared knowledge creation. The paper aims to discuss these issues.
This project leveraged the arts and humanities within the context of social studies education to promote youth civic engagement. This project used Photovoice methodology in which all participants took photos and wrote about their American Dream. Participants then shared their photography and writing at three public gallery events in the community in an effort to educate others about their perspectives, experiences, and hopes regarding the American Dream.
Findings from the reciprocally minded partnership centered on the sixth-grade students taking a collective approach to the American Dream. Specifically, they noted their commitment to their families and desire to support others, with some sixth graders even sharing a commitment to promoting social justice. Some participants demonstrated a “we consciousness,” or a collective approach to social justice.
The study provides insights into how educators can engage middle school students in democratic practice as active citizens in a service-learning partnership. Through a service-learning themed project about the American Dream, middle school students were able to share their voices and experiences with the larger community via a project rooted in horizontalidad.
Montgomery, S.E., Montgomery, Z.K., Vander Zanden, S., Jorgensen, A. and Rudic, M. (2018), "Cultivating the collective: exploring the American dream with sixth graders", Social Studies Research and Practice, Vol. 13 No. 1, pp. 31-45. https://doi.org/10.1108/SSRP-08-2017-0045Download as .RIS
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