Occupy in the classroom

Occupy Oakland wants teachers to teach about the movement, plus “the role of strikes in movement history,” “the systems and issues this movement is protesting against,” “the possibilities for change this movement is part of envisioning” and “what students need to know about how to stay safe during protests.”

For (very sketchy) lesson plans, teachers can turn to Occupy’s site or the New York Times Learning Blog.

Kristen Burzynski, who teaches eighth-grade science at Community Day School, spent a day on Occupy’s message, reports KQED’s Mind/Shift.

. . . she began her lesson by asking students to think about three slogans of the movement: “We are the 99 percent,” “Human need not corporate greed,” and “Save the American dream.”

Her students had heard these phrases before and recognized the images of the Occupy Oakland camp. Burzynski asked her students, “What do the protesters want?” Responses included money, fairness, and jobs. She answered, “You know, Occupy Wall Street has been criticized for NOT having a distinct goal – a lot of people are saying, What are they asking for? I think it’s cool that you guys are able to hit a lot of things they’re asking for without being told about it.”

To explain the 99 percent wealth disparity, Burzynski asked all her students to try a math problem. She told students to imagine that there were one hundred people and one hundred dollars. One person has 40 dollars. The other 99 people have to split the other 60 dollars. How much would each of the 99 people get? Students mulled over this long division problem, before throwing out guesses, “A penny!” “A quarter!”

Perhaps they need more time on math. Or, since it’s a science class, they could study science: What are the health risks of living without running water or toilets?

Teachers who joined Occupy’s strike cost Oakland Unified about $60,000 to cover the cost of substitute teachers, according to the Bay Citizen. That’s tough on the district, which is laying off staff and closing schools.