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Berwyn School Fight added to curricula

Historical+haven%3A+The+Mount+Zion+African+Methodist+Episcopal+Church+in+Devon+has+a+Pennsylvania+state+historical+marker.+Black+community+leaders+met+at+the+church+to+plan+their+next+steps+in+the+Berwyn+School+Fight+in+the+1930s.
Howard Kim / The SPOKE
Historical haven: The Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church in Devon has a Pennsylvania state historical marker. Black community leaders met at the church to plan their next steps in the Berwyn School Fight in the 1930s.

By Howard Kim, Co-News Editor

Beginning this year, TESD officially added the district’s Berwyn School Fight in the 1930s to its third, eighth and 10th grade social studies curricula.

With the addition, students in those grades will learn about the history of the district’s decision in 1932 to segregate its schools and the local Black community’s legal battles throughout the following two years to eventually reverse the change.

The addition to curricula will also focus on where students can see remnants of this history around the district. For example, the Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church in Devon was one of several local meeting places community leaders used to plan how they would fight the school board’s decision and return to integrated schooling.

As a result of this curricula change, students will first gain exposure to this topic in third grade and progressively delve deeper into the history in eighth and 10th grades.

“Our goal is to really give students the appropriate background information that they need to be able to understand these events, so this is their first introduction to it,” said Dr. Matthew Sterenczak, TESD curriculum supervisor for social studies. “It’s not just teaching the school fight, but it’s also this idea of discrimination.”

In eighth grade, students will revisit the topic to focus on the perspectives of the people involved in the Berwyn School Fight.

In 10th grade U.S. History classes, high schoolers will dive deeper into the circumstances that enabled Black community members to fight segregation in the Berwyn School Fight. The additions to the curricula aim to push students to draw deeper connections from history to the T/E community today.

“It’s to honor and understand the legacy of the people that made this community what it is today,” Sterenczak said. “As communities evolve and shift and change, it’s always important to understand what was here before and what are the stories that shaped this community and still have an impact in this community.”

Prior to the official curricula implementation this year, some teachers in the middle schools and Conestoga already independently incorporated parts of this history into their lessons. Freshman Sukanya Menon, a member of the Student Leaders’ Antiracist Movement club and student member of the school board diversity committee, first learned about this part of local history in her social studies class last year.

“Honestly, I was really shocked, considering (my experience) as a student in the district right now and how inclusive we are,” Menon said. “To see the district in such a different position was really shocking for me, especially because it wasn’t even brought to my attention until I was an eighth grader. I was kind of caught off guard.”

Many T/E students, like Menon, first learned about the Berwyn School Fight in middle or high school. The topic remained largely unmentioned at the elementary school level due to the lack of an official curriculum for it.

By including the Berwyn School Fight in third grade social studies classes, Sterenczak hopes that students in the district will learn about it earlier and spend more time building on their knowledge and understanding of it as they get older.

“We want all students to be able to have this experience. We want to deliver it age appropriately. We want to align with our curriculum, but we also want students to be able to understand that this is an important part of history,” Sterenczak said. “The goal was to make sure that we can revisit it to highlight its importance and to build upon the knowledge that we have.”


Howard Kim can be reached at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Howard Kim, Co-News Editor
Howard Kim is a junior and the Co-News Editor of The Spoke. Last year, he served as a Co-Sports Editor. He likes to cover local government and sports-related stories. Outside of the newspaper, he enjoys going on rollercoasters and watching Christopher Nolan movies.