Every year, Burke students experience a year-long, integrated civics, equity, and leadership curriculum, grounded in social justice pedagogy. We draw inspiration from our founders' vision: a learning environment in which students become active and socially responsible citizen-leaders, committed to advancing social justice in their communities.
With support from an E.E. Ford Grant and its resident scholar, Dr. Katy Swalwell, who focuses on social justice pedagogy in independent schools, Burke seeks to move beyond traditional models of service, diversity, and leadership in independent schools and to prepare students to become activist allies and leaders in high school and beyond. Mission
"To graduate students with a sense of social responsibility and the skills necessary to engage in effective allyship and ethical leadership by developing our students’ awareness of injustice in their communities and beyond, understanding of its root causes, and a sense of responsibility for dismantling structural inequities to create a more just and equitable world."
In 2019-20, as Burke consciously moves beyond traditional models of service, diversity, and leadership, we will no longer require students to earn service hours outside of school.
Direct service will remain a part of each grade’s experience; however, rather than experiencing service as an endpoint, students will be oriented toward a social change mindset – engaging in critical research, reflection, root cause analysis, and advocacy through long-term institutional partnerships.
Students focus on what it means to be a citizen, past and present, and the identities that have forced some groups to exist at the margin vs. the center of American life. Students apply these questions to their comparative study of American identity starting with the first interactions of native communities to today
Students learn about the cultural, literary, historical and political lives of citizens of the DC area and the southern United States through an interdisciplinary program in history, music, English, values and ethics, and visual arts that explores the Black Freedom Struggle and culminates with a trip to the Deep South. After the trip, students organize and run an all-school assembly program about their learning.
Through a critical lens, 9th graders explore Food Justice in Washington, DC by engaging in direct service, learning, and advocacy at the Capital Area Food Bank, Rosemount Center, Thrive DC, Share Our Strength and within the school curriculum and guest speakers. They also lead a schoolwide food drive, an Empty Bowls fundraiser, and participate in two day-long retreats on leadership equity and inclusion.
Beginning with the question, “What is an important issue facing my community today?,” each student researches, writes, and delivers a soapbox speech on their issue. Students then engage in an oral history project, interviewing individuals directly impacted by their issue and analyzing the intersections of power, people, and places. The year culminates with a “listening party” when they share their learning. The curriculum is delivered in partnership with Mikva Challenge DC, DC Humanities and StoryCorps DC.
A year-long cross curricular examination of environmental justice, storytelling, and labor history prepares students for a week-long experiential learning trip to West Virginia with Experience Learning in Spruce Knob where they learn to appreciate nuance in communities, arguments, and allyship as they draw connections between their communities in DC and West Virginia. Upon returning students lead a Teach In for parents on issues explored throughout the year and on the trip.