Jefferson Middle School in Eugene, Oregon, became one of the nation's first "racism-free zones" about 10 years ago through a student-initiated effort. Both students and teachers receive training on cultural awareness/understanding and racism. Advisors introduce the concept of a racism-free zone to students at the beginning of each year. Students have taken a prominent role in promoting respect and understanding among different races and cultures.
Jefferson students are trained in peer conflict management in order to serve as peer mediators. Fifteen students in each grade level are peer mediators, with seventh and eighth graders also serving as peer counselors.
Issues of student diversity are addressed throughout school curriculum, instruction, assessment, and programs at Jefferson. A whole language, literature-based approach to reading is used to support and enhance the multicultural and global concepts reinforced throughout the curriculum. Students write daily in journals, in which they reflect upon the literature they have read. Students are encouraged to develop their oral language skills through multicultural storytelling, dramatizations of multicultural literature, oral reports, and discussion groups. Computers and other technologies are an integral part of classroom instruction.
The multicultural and international focus officially began in 1992 in sixth-grade classes and now includes all grade levels. Language arts, reading and social studies are taught in one three-period block of time in self-contained classrooms, as are mathematics and science. Students learn about the geography, cultures, history, and current issues and problems of Africa, Asia, Europe, and South and Central America, and about the perspectives and contributions of African Americans, Asian Americans, European Americans, Native Americans, and Latinos. Training and materials from Project REACH (Respecting Ethnic and Cultural Heritage) are used to teach students about culture and respect for cultural diversity.
The school recently produced a compact disc titled "Made in the Middle" with original multicultural songs composed and performed by the students.
Of Jefferson's 500 students, 80 percent are European American and 20 percent are African American, Asian American, American Indian, and Latino. Jefferson staff reflect the ethnic and racial makeup of the student body.
For more information, refer to the Jefferson Middle School home page.