Throwback Lesson Project

“Night-Blooming Cereus” by Chris Turnham

Chris Turnham is a great artist. We have three of his screenprints in our bedroom, and another one in our family room.* I wish teachers could afford his pieces to display in their classrooms. That’s his work to the left there, a print I’d love to use during our plant growth and development unit.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about how many schools have outdated, cliched books that don’t facilitate pushing students’ thinking. So I wondered what we could do to turn these stereotypical texts on their head and make totally standards-aligned lessons and units of study that view issues through a critical, social justice-minded lens. My goal is to create un-bannable lesson plans that explicitly address past widely-held beliefs.

My first introduction to Chris’ work coincided with discovering a great show in LA that highlighted RetroFuturist designs. This, combined with multiple conversations with picture book author and illustrator Julian Hector about the futurist movement, has led me to an exciting announcement for our class website.

"Who Eats Who" by Julian Hector

Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 1.03.21 PM
“Who Eats Who” by Julian Hector


Each week, in celebration of Throwback Thursday, I will be posting what I am calling:

Aesthetically pleasing retro futurist lesson planning for social justice.

We’ll be looking at how vintage documents and books give us a chance to reflect on our past as a nation, as well as looking into the future to see how we can help make the world a better place.

You’re invited to join in! You can e-mail our design team right here. If you’re looking to get a sense of the kind of documents we’re seeking, troll around the Library of Congress digital collection.

This whole endeavor is also inspired by Bellevue teacher leader Kristin Leong, whose Mostly Appropriate Resources push the envelope as to what’s an acceptable “text” for our students. I love her work and would give just about anything to coteach with her.

I’m looking for not only ELA or social studies lessons; I think STEAM lessons can be an amazing way to develop cross-curricular learning experiences.


Here’s my tentative sweet header as well as a preview of what’s to come next Thursday, where we tackle a GLAD-aligned lesson.

Dog in a circus.

*I know. We’re fortunate. Insanely #blessed fortunate. And I’m aware this privilege shapes the work I do in the classroom. I’m knowing better, doing better, and still learning.

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