Black Ants and Buddhists: Thinking Critically and Teaching Differently in the Primary Grades

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Stenhouse Publishers, 2006 - Education - 244 pages

What would a classroom look like if understanding and respecting differences in race, culture, beliefs, and opinions were at its heart? If you were inspired to become a teacher because you wanted to develop young minds, but now find yourself limited by "teach to the test" pressures and state standards, Mary Cowhey's book Black Ants and Buddhists: Thinking Critically and Teaching Differently in the Primary Grades will reignite the passion and remind you that educators provide more than test prep.

Starting her career as a community activist, Cowhey shares her roots and how they influenced her Peace Class, where she asks her students to think critically, learn through activism and discussion, and view the entire curriculum through the framework of understanding the world, and what they can do to make it a better place.

Woven through the book is Mary's unflinching and humorous account of her own roots as well as lessons from her heroes: Gandhi, Eleanor Roosevelt, Helen Keller, Martin Luther King, Jr, and others. Her students learn to make connections between their lives, the books they read, the community leaders they meet, and the larger world.

Black Ants and Buddhists offers no easy answers, but it does include starting points for conversations about diversity and controversy in your classroom, as well as in the larger community. Students and teachers investigate problems and issues together, in a multicultural, antiracist classroom.


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I am looking forward to discussing this book with my MA Education cohort at Mills College. It excites me to read about the concrete ways that this teacher prepared her students to be citizens in a community. Critical thinking is shown to be organically learned and manifested in a balance from teacher to student and back again. Experiential learning rather than expectation of regurgitation. Peace as practice is not given but lived
A must read for teacher and parents.

User Review - Flag as inappropriate

It does not correctly state what Christians believe. This is for educators working with primary grades? I only read the one sample page and saw that inaccuracy

Selected pages


Black Ants and Buddhism
1 Introduction
2 Compassion Action and Change
A Day in the Life of the Peace Class
4 It Takes a Village to Teach First Grade
5 Talking About Peace
6 Learning Through Activism
7 Teaching History So Children Will Care
9 Seeing Ourselves and Our Families Through Students Eyes
10 Responding When Tragedy Enters the Classroom
11 Building Trust with Families and Weathering Controversy
12 Going Against the Grain
Take This Hammer

8 Nurturing History Detectives

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About the author (2006)

Mary Cowhey has been teaching first and second grade at Jackson St. School in Northampton, Massachusetts for nine years.Before becoming a teacher, she was a community organizer for fourteen years. She has won numerous awards for teaching, including a 2002 Milken National Educator Award, an Anti-Defamation League World of Difference Teacher Recognition Award, and a National League of Women Voters Award.

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