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Borders & Identities: Empowering Students through Intentional Courses

Borders & Identities: Empowering Students through Intentional Courses

Josán Perales, a dedicated World Languages Instructional Specialist at Eagle Rock, is on a mission to explore history from perspectives often overlooked in mainstream education, academia, and media. His passion for shedding light on marginalized voices led to the creation of the transformative course, "Borders & Identities," nearly 14 years ago.  He co-instructed the next iteration of the course with Eagle Rock Fellow Aubrie Robinson this past trimester.

The course idea was sparked during a powerful experience when Josán received funding from the "Fund for Teachers" grant. The grant enabled educators to travel to the US/Mexico border and document the stories of immigrants and migrants. For three weeks, Josán engaged with people from all sides of the border story, immersing himself in their experiences and pleas to be heard. This eye-opening journey became the foundation for the "Borders & Identities" curriculum, igniting a charge to action and a deep commitment to sharing the stories of those whose voices have been marginalized.

The Course Premise

Since its inception, the course has gone through several iterations, with some focusing on language and others on history. The latest version encompassed history, politics, and personal narratives, highlighting the intersectionality of identity and the profound impact of student interest in shaping the curriculum.

One remarkable aspect that has remained consistent throughout the years is the emphasis on empathy-building through connecting with people's stories. By examining news stories and political propaganda through the lens of human experiences, students find themselves resonating with the material and forging meaningful connections.

Josán believes that for students to truly connect with their learning, they must see themselves reflected in the curriculum. To achieve this, he encourages student voice and ensures that the classroom text and library incorporate the diverse experiences of those present. This personalized approach sparks curiosity and deepens students' understanding of their identities and place in the world.

Anti-Racist and Social Justice Frameworks

At Eagle Rock, an anti-racist and social justice framework permeates the school's DNA, driving our mission to humanize the curriculum and foster anti-racist attitudes. Through the "Borders & Identities" course, students are given a platform to articulate their identities, critically examine their lives and their ancestors' experiences, and envision a path forward for society.

A significant aspect of the course culminates in students taking action. Engaging in a global action project, students have the freedom to explore themes such as immigration, migration, and their own identities. The range of projects is vast, from visual arts such as painting, mixed media, and digital art to podcasts and YouTube videos that amplify stories and challenge labels that emerge from othering and power.

Centering Marginalized Voices

Witnessing the authenticity and connectivity of these projects is humbling for Josán. Art becomes a powerful medium for representing students' thinking and ideas, elevating their voices, and leaving a lasting impact on the community.

In essence, Josán Perales' "Borders & Identities" course embodies the spirit of Eagle Rock's commitment to anti-racist and social justice education. By centering student voices, fostering empathy, and empowering students to take meaningful action, the course serves as a catalyst for positive change, challenging societal norms, and creating a more inclusive world.