This November, as we Read Across SMSD, we are exploring ancestry and identity. The theme, set by the National Education Association’s Read Across America, focuses on books that help students “embrace their identity and the identity of others.”
One featured book title for this month is an elementary-level book called “All Around Us”. The book features a child and her grandpa as they explore the backyard. Together they tell stories, talk about the circles of life, and discuss how they are connected to their ancestors and their own story.
One way Biotechnology Signature Program students explore ancestry and identity is by studying DNA. They were joined recently by Board of Education member Jamie Borgman as the students demonstrated how science and everyday life cannot be separated. Together, they talked about how DNA helps tell the story of our ancestors and provides us one more way to learn about who we are. Click here to see a video.
In the Biotechnology lab, led by instructors Dr. Kenneth Lee and Zulma Perez-Estrella, the students learned to extract DNA from a strawberry. They also talked about how studying and exploring DNA can help us all learn more.
“It can tell us things like where our ancestors came from, who we are related to, what we will look like, and information about our health,” according to Erandi Ramirez, a junior Biotechnology student from Shawnee Mission North.
While DNA can tell us a lot, Elaine Gast, sophomore Biotechnology student from Shawnee Mission Northwest, points out that it cannot tell us everything.
“DNA can tell us what color eyes your grandma has. But, it can’t tell us what her favorite color is,” Gast added. “One way to learn more about ourselves is through stories people tell us and books like the ones we are reading this month.”
Reading and Learning Resources
Read Across SMSD is modeled after the national NEA Read Across America program and led in partnership with NEA Shawnee Mission. Shawnee Mission extends a special thanks to the Shawnee Mission Area Council PTA (SMAC PTA). They provided November books for every school across the district.
Here are Read Across America’s November titles, focused on exploring ancestry and identity:
- Elementary: “All Around Us” by Xelena González
- Middle: “Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for Kids” By: Cynthia Leitich Smith
- Young Adult: “Elatsoe” By Darcie Little Badger
The links above provide activity ideas, discussion and reflective writing questions, related resources, and more titles to try for each age group. Shawnee Mission School District librarians have also provided a list of similar book titles related to the theme. They can be found on this webpage.
What is Read Across SMSD?
Read Across SMSD is a celebration of reading across our community. We encourage reading for all ages across the SMSD in support of our district academic goals and our strategic plan belief that our community’s strength is derived from its diversity. Click here to find out more and participate in Read Across SMSD. Post your participation on social media using #ReadAcrossSMSD