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A Snapshot of Social Justice at CDS



Social justice is at the heart of CDS community. To give you a snapshot, every year CDS celebrates the lives and achievements of Cesar Chavez, Harvey Milk and Martin Luther King Jr. as part of a larger Civil Rights curriculum. Students in all three divisions learn about and investigate the work of these figures among others to understand the impact that dedicated individuals and small groups can have on society. The curriculum below is an example of how CDS students explore the achievements of Martin Luther King Jr. across all three divisions.


  • What we do
    • Learn about MLK’s life and how each person can make an impact on the world. 
    • Learn about and celebrate our similarities and differences.
  • How we do it
    • Read books like Happy Birthday Martin Luther King by Jean Marzollo, Celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day by Joel Kupperstein, Martin’s Big Words by Doreen Rappaport, Celebra el Dia de Martin Luther King Jr. Day con la clase de la Sra. Park by Alma Flor Ada.
    • Reflect and share answers to the question, “what one little person can do?” and discuss how each student can make a difference in the world.
    • Explore similarities and differences with “Family Shares”, mixing skin colored play dough and paint, and reading books like The Colors of Us by Karen Katz. 





  • What we do
    • Learn about MLK and the historical context of the civil rights movement.
    • Learn what it takes to be peaceful leader.
    • Learn to articulate ideas around fairness and empathy and synthesize plans for correcting unfair situations in their daily lives.
  • How we do it
    • Read books about MLK like Martin’s Big Words by Brian Collier and Doreen Rappaport.
    • Focus on MLK as a peaceful leader who stood up against the law but was following his beliefs that all people should be treated kindly and fairly
    • Ask students to think of themselves how they can be peaceful leaders in their own communities

1st Grade

  • What we do
    • Learn about MLK’s life and work.
    • Address misconceptions about MLK and the civil rights movement and have open dialogues about history.
    • Connect MLK to the bigger picture - by learning about MLK we can discover our own hopes and dreams for a better world
  • How we do it
    • Begin with what the students know about MLK.
    • Read books such as The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles, Martin Luther King Jr. Day by Margaret McNamara, We March by Shane W. Evans, Martin’s Big Words, by Doreen Rappaport and My Uncle Martin’s Big Heart by Angela Farris Watkins and Eric Velasquez, and address any misconceptions about MLK and the civil rights movement. 
    • Discuss how MLK influenced segregation laws to be changed. Find ways that we as a class can get involved in our community and make positive change.

2nd Grade

  • What we do
    • Learn about the importance of citizen action and advocacy.
    • Learn about MLK and other people who demonstrated civic action.
    • Empower students to make a difference in their community. 
  • How we do it
    • Do interactive read-alouds about civic action, justice, and being an advocate.  Books include: The Juice Box Bully by Bob Sornson, Sweet Smell of Roses by Angela Johnson, The Harvey Milk Story by Kary Krakow, Paths to Peace: People Who Changed the World by Jane Breskin Zalben, Real Kids, Real Stories, Real Change: Courageous Actions Around the World by Garth Sundem.
    • Brainstorm the injustices we see in our classroom and school and discuss how we each can make change happen in our school. 

3rd Grade

  • What we do
    • Learn about the historical and racial context of the civil rights movement.
    • Learn about the power of children to affect change in their communities, using the examples of Ruby Bridges and the Children’s March.
  • How we do it
    • Read poetry to introduce the ideas of freedom, African American history, Jim Crow segregation, racial terminology and racial slurs.  Poems include: The Negro Speaks of Rivers” and “Merry-go-Round” by Langston Hughes, “Incident” by Countee Cullen, “Caged Bird” by Maya Angelou.
    • Discussions and activities around the history of racial classification and terminology, including reading Let’s Talk About Race by Julius Lester.
    • Looking at the painting The Problem We All Live With by Norman Rockwell, as well as videos and books, to learn about Ruby Bridges and the Children’s March.
    • Brainstorm current examples of unfairness and discrimination and ask, “What could you, as a 3rd grader, do to make things different?”
    • Discuss and respond to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child as it relates to rights we must fight for in modern times.

4th Grade

  • What we do
    • Learn about the connections between poverty, war and civil rights.
    • Learn about Dr. King’s activism, focusing on his opposition to the Vietnam War.
  • How we do it
    • Create a timeline of history from 1400-present day including events such as slavery, WWI, WWII, SF earthquake, Dr. King’s life, Vietnam War.
    • Listen to Dr. King’s speech Beyond Vietnam to learn about Vietnam and the Vietnam War and Dr. King’s opposition to the war. 
    • Discuss the idea of valuing things over people and thinking about what you can do today make our world better?

Middle School

  • What we do
    • Bring an enduring purpose to our celebrations around MLK and Cesar Chavez day by connecting to our school’s theme of “passionate citizens change the world.”
  • How we do it
    • Through a digital journal students will state their hopes and dreams in conjunction with MLK day and the New Year. Students will reflect on their hopes and dreams and commit to a resolution towards positive change, recording their thoughts digitally on:
      • What can one little person do now to make a positive contribution?
      • How can we actively participate in change?
      • How can we speak up for others?
    • Around Cesar Chavez Day students will reflect on their commitments and reflect on whether their commitments towards change have been successful:
      • What changes have we noticed through our actions?
      • What has worked? What has not worked?
      • What more can we do?