INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Ninety percent of the students at Ignite Achievement Academy at the historic Elder Diggs School are African-American.
The school’s co-founders wanted their teachers to use a curriculum that reflected this.
“We impact students by making sure to infuse history and culture into their curriculum so that they see themselves reflected in the curriculum and make connections, deeper connections with learning,” said Shy-Quon Ely, co-founder and head of school at Ignite Achievement Academy.
Instead of learning about earthquakes from a book on the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, one class at Ignite Academy read about the devastating earthquake that rocked Haiti back in 2010.
Students say because of this learning model they’re more engaged.
“It kind of brings it to life and helps everybody understand it a little bit more,” said Markis Pay, a sixth grader.
Teachers at the school explained that they feel empowered.
“In the past I had received some criticism for infusing this information in the curriculum we were teaching but to come here and this is where they’re doing this intentionally, I’ve been loving it,” said Jukobie Russell, a fourth grade teacher.
This cultural infusion isn’t just happening inside the classroom.
The school colors come directly from the Pan-African flag. You can find that flag displayed prominently in the school’s entryway. In addition to that, every student at the school takes classes on African drumming and dance through a partnership with a local dance company.
“When we express and show that there is a wonderful and rich historical element to the African experience and perspective it does something for psychology. It also does something for self esteem,” said Ely.
And that "something" is a feeling these school leaders want students everywhere to experience.
“We need to make sure that we are educating others with all perspectives and so I don’t think it’s just for schools that are predominately African-American. It should be incorporated throughout all schools,” said Brooke Beavers, co-founder and head of school at Ignite Achievement Academy.
The curriculum the school uses is called The Historic Journey, which was created by Gary Holland of Indianapolis. The Historic Journey looks at things like African heritage before America, slavery and resistance and the civil rights movement.