DEIJ Curriculum

Woodland’s program is designed to provide authentic opportunities for students to learn about themes of identity, social and historical context, and effecting change in the world.  We endeavor to teach and practice justice, equity and inclusion daily through read alouds, discussions, and projects students explore.  Teachers thoughtfully embed examples of our core virtues throughout the curriculum to strengthen students’ understanding of personal attributes that characterize impactful change makers throughout history.  Issues such as identifying past and present systemic inequalities and examining power and privilege are introduced to our youngest students and evolve to address the complexity of questioning societal norms.  Students come to understand that making change takes courage and creating environments where everyone feels a sense of belonging is foundational to healthy relationship building.


“(T)he classroom needs to be a space for students to affirm and celebrate and validate who they are, so that they know they are enough, so they know they are brilliant and excellent and beautiful. Because society doesn’t tell us that all the time.”
~ Gholdy Muhammad

While Woodland students take opportunities to reflect on and define their identities throughout all of their time on our campus, this foundational work is especially prevalent in the early grades. In addition to various ‘statements of self’, such as “All About Me” projects and sharing of family trees, students delve into the complex themes of collective identity and bias: Not only how we identify ourselves, but also how we see others.

Project spotlight:
Building from  age-appropriate materials, such as the books written for young learners by Ibram X. Kendi, Woodland second graders use literature, writing, art, and performance to study the various ways in which we see and value each other. The project culminates with the creation of an illustrated book on the theme of racism that students share at an assembly with the wider community. The book not only teaches vocabulary related to social justice (e.g., stereotype, disruption, public policies) but also serves as a statement of students’ vision of a fairer world. By writing and drawing the book together, they are compelled to find agreement and to incorporate their classmates’ ideas – excellent practice for students seeking a more cooperative and empathic world.

Identity Image

Amelia K., a Woodland second grader:
“Being anti-racist means seeing with open eyes.”


“Our histories cling to us. We are shaped by where we come from."
~Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Through a sustained study of literature, history, the arts, and even the sciences, Woodland students gain an understanding of the social and political forces at play in our world. These forces, after all, inform who they are and how they understand themselves, and they give context to the positive actions we hope our students take in the future.

While the theme of historical (in)justice, for example, is gently introduced in earlier grades, it becomes a focus of Woodland’s Middle School curriculum. As part of a study of the history of Indigineous Peoples, for instance, 5th graders listen to the words of young people their age currently living on Indian reservations in order to better grasp the impact of the country’s past on all members of our society. In a related unit, students conduct in-depth research to trace the trajectories of individual women in history, with the goal of understanding the intersectionality of gender and race. The examples are multiple but the goal the same: To increase and add nuance to our understanding of our shared world, both its past and its present.

Project spotlight:
Woodland 7th grade students explore one of the classic works on the history of colonization, Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. After weeks of reading, textual analysis, in-class discussions, and reflective writing, students are given a menu of options for synthesizing and expressing what they have taken from the novel. These choices include creative narration, traditional analytic writing, and even art.


Many students opted to represent key themes from Things Fall Apart through original art that they created, and each provided an explanation of their artistic choices using textual references.


“Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world.”
~Nelson Mandela

To change the world is an ambitious imperative. As with any large journey, though, there are intermediate steps to be taken along the way. Woodland Wildcats practice making change by first looking locally – how can they contribute to their own school community, for example – before thinking more broadly. By Middle School, Woodland’s students are ready to take on the challenge of making their world a better place – the ‘action’ level that sits atop social-justice learning standards.

The focus on change-making starts early in middle school. 5th grade students study and subsequently write their own activist poetry, for instance. For some this is a first attempt at “using spoken word to equip themselves to raise their voice against social issues they see,” as their Humanities teacher describes it. For others, the exercise feels familiar. For all Woodland students, though, the hope is that their academic experience feels real and meaningful – the active preparation to engage with a world that could benefit from their generous, curious, and benevolent contributions.

Project spotlight:
Each year, Woodland’s 8th grade students complete a capstone project exploring a topic of interest to them.  Throughout their research process and conversations with experts in the field, students are challenged to imagine how their action pieces can truly make a difference.  This year, one student advocated for a mailbox to be moved in a local community because it was blocking sidewalk access for individuals with disabilities. After lengthy communication with the City Council and the Postmaster General of the United States Post Service, the mailbox was successfully relocated so that the student, and others within the community, can travel through the community in a wheelchair without incident.

Mailbox 1