Black history amplified in updated Detroit schools curriculum

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A new history curriculum is being rolled out at the Detroit Public Schools Community District for grades K through 5 focused on the city of Detroit.

And there is no coincidence the new curriculum is released in time for Black History Month. Dr. Nikolai Vitti, the superintendent, made the connection between learning about where you live and having a sense of identity. 

These kindergarten students are Detroiters. For generations the history kids like these have learned in school hasn't always included where they live. What and who they come from.

"History is so abstract," said Dr. Nikolai Vitti, DPSCD superintendent. "And (it is) so far removed from the day to day experience of children that they don't see themselves in the curriculum. Most of the history, frankly, is written about white history and European history. And our children in the school system don't see themselves enough in that history."

"It relates to who they are," said Dana Thomas. Golightly Education Center teacher. "It is a part of their identity. Some of the students have seen these buildings before, they have been to these places. And it is just that much more meaningful. 

This new Detroit history curriculum is being rolled out at Detroit Public Schools Community District - first in grades k through 5. But it signals a continuing shift in what is taught in DPSCD.

"This isn't really about being supplemental," Vitti said. "It is about trying to change the way we teach and the materials that we use."

For kindergarteners analyzing a street car on Congress being pulled by horses transports them to the past. For older kids, the people of the city and the untold stories of early Detroit, might be the focus instead.

The curriculum will be different for students in each grade. For example, children in the fifth grade will learn about free and enslaved Africans in early Detroit.