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Bonnabel High Students Stand for Social Justice with Mathematics

Bonnabel High student Torrence Bardell explains his school discipline project to a community member. Bardell’s group took first place.

Students at Bonnabel Magnet Academy High used the lessons they’ve learned in class to make a difference in their community. The school hosted a math social justice day in May. Students invited their families and members of the community to view projects they created that fused mathematics with social justice.

“I feel the entire point of school is to get our kids to be change makers,” said Bonnabel Magnet Academy High math teacher Erica Swanson.

Swanson organized the event, along with fellow Algebra I teacher Angelica Robles and English teacher Cynthnia Thompson.  Students spent weeks developing their projects, but incorporated math skills they developed over the entire school year. After exploring their own personal values, students were asked to select a social justice topic that mattered to them. Topics ranged from bullying and school discipline to immigration and global warming.

Bonnabel High tudent Harold Contreras shares how his project will impact immigration issues in our area.

A major data analysis lesson helped students dive deep into their topics. Student groups then conducted background research to develop a way to make a difference..

“It is really like a business analysis,” said Swanson.

Swanson said her students have participated in larger social justice events before that encompassed the greater New Orleans area. She wanted this year’s project to feel more connected with the student’s own home. That local touch made opening the doors to the public that much more important.

Bonnabel High English students focused their social justice projects on career readiness.

“If our kids are going to put the time in to generate these fantastic ideas about the community and how to support the community,” said Swanson, “then we really need to bring the community in for the conversation.”

The community aspect also allowed students the chance to pitch their ideas. Judges selected a first, second, and third place group. One of the things that most impressed Swanson was how all of the groups came up with projects they could actually implement to make a difference in their community.

“It’s the most fascinating thing to watch them not only putting these skills to use, but them knowing their own impact and power,” said Swanson. “Students are typically the generation that changes the world. So we should be working every day to empower kids.”