Celebrating Latino culture at Chicago Public Schools

New curriculum focuses on Central and South America and the Caribbean
By: | Issue: May, 2015
April 23, 2015

Responding to the growing diversity of its students, Chicago Public Schools has launched a new curriculum focused on the cultures of Central and South America and the Caribbean.

The Interdisciplinary Latino and Latin American Studies Curriculum for kindergarten through grade 10 is based on the themes of culture, dignity and identity. These elements will be incorporated into literacy, social science, arts, physical education and health, mathematics and science. The curriculum is aligned to the Common Core, Next Generation Science Standards and Illinois state standards.

This is the second cross-disciplinary curriculum that promotes an ethnic culture, says Dalia Flores, the district’s deputy chief of staff. Last year, Chicago schools released a program focused on African American heritage.

Most Chicago students have a Latino or African American background, “so implementing these curricula was a natural fit,” Flores says. “We hope it helps our students not only find cultural similarities, but also honor their unique differences.”

The cross-disciplinary nature of the curriculum means students will be exposed to Latino topics throughout the school day, Flores adds. For example, high school students might read about immigration patterns in history class and then use the data to make scatter plot graphs in math. Other cultural topics include Mayan mathematics, agriculture, El Niño/La Niña weather patterns and the importance of music in Afro-Caribbean cultures.

The required curriculum gives Chicago teachers access to more than 1,000 pages of online lesson plans. While some teachers have already started using it, the district will host special launch events and professional development during the spring and summer.

“We really believe that every student brings a unique culture and identity no matter where they come from, and have a lot to offer in terms of diversity,” says Flores. “That’s what this curriculum is all about.”