New for the 2021-2022 school year, the Stonewall Protests of 1969 were added as a topic that eighth- and ninth-grade students could select for their fourth-quarter research project for their study skills class. A hallmark of the Windward program, the study skills class teaches students about the multi-step process to craft a persuasive essay, from identifying appropriate primary and secondary sources to creating a research plan to drafting their multi-paragraph outline (MPO).
Manhattan Middle School Teachers Blythe Abramowitz and Ben Yassky developed this research project during the summer of 2021 with the encouragement of Tim Caccopola, Coordinator of Study Skills. New research projects are periodically added to the curriculum to broaden the range of subjects researched by students in their study skills class, and this topic offered students the opportunity to delve into why the Stonewall Protests of 1969 were crucial to the advancement of the LGBTQ+ community.
Study skills is a class that models the full research process, and students go through the process each quarter, writing four research papers by the end of the school year. The study skills curriculum aligns with the social studies curriculum, so the students can conduct independent research of a historical time period in parallel with their learning in social studies class. For example, the eighth and ninth graders studied the Industrial Revolution and the Gilded Age in social studies in the fall, so their first study skills research paper focused on captains of industry such as Andrew Carnegie.
For their fourth and final research paper, students are given 2-3 options of topics to study; Stonewall became one of the choices this spring, in addition to the Kent State shootings and September 11. Before making a selection, the class read background articles about each topic and had a direct instruction lesson discussing each event in depth.
In order to develop the new research project on Stonewall, Ms. Abramowitz and Mr. Yassky identified various articles and sources that would be appropriate and accessible for the eighth and ninth graders. They then created sample research plans, MPOs, and essays as support materials for their colleagues to use while guiding students through the project.
“Offering Stonewall as a study skills topic was important, because a lot of students and their families share this history and don’t see it reflected in the curricula,” said Mr. Yassky. “When we introduced this topic in April, many eighth graders were excited because they felt a personal connection to the LGBTQ+ community, so they were interested in pursuing the research.”
Ms. Abramowitz added, “One of my students had a family member who was a young man when Stonewall happened, so they were excited to go home and speak with him to learn about his experience during that time period.”
Although Stonewall isn’t directly covered in the social studies classes, the middle schoolers were able to see how the LGBTQ+ rights movement was interrelated with and inspired by the Civil Rights movement.
“Particularly for our Manhattan students, they know Greenwich Village, where the Stonewall Protests occurred, so they can make a concrete connection with really important American history that is often overlooked,” said Mr. Yassky.
The students’ focus is primarily on crafting an argumentative essay for their study skills research papers, but they are also required to create accompanying PowerPoint presentations. This aspect of the class allows students to practice their public speaking skills and the ability to convey information in another format.
“Working independently to produce research papers and presentations requires a lot of organization and draws upon many skills learned in language arts, library, social studies, and study skills over the course of the students’ middle school careers,” said Ms. Abramowitz. “Because of the amount of dedication and hard work that is invested, the students take a lot of pride in their final results, which are often a momentous capstone to the school year.”