Sixth Grade Chapel Presentation: Farm Labor Movement

At St. Paul’s, we value community. We exercise skills, knowledge, and mindset to make connections on campus and in the neighborhood that inspire us to be active citizens of the world. As part of our community-building effort, the entire student body gathers in the St. Paul’s Chapel for a student-led presentation almost every week of the school year.
Each grade level --  Kindergarten through Grade 8 -- leads Chapel twice in each school year, informed by curriculum and shaped by the students in that class. Chapel gives an opportunity for the student voice to be heard by their community. 

Each year, the Sixth Grade class presents a Chapel on the Farm Labor Movement, which is included in their curricular unit on farm labor and food justice. Sixth graders design their own chapel presentation based on what they think their community needs to hear. 

Building the Presentation
The ease with which Sixth Graders discuss California’s farm labor movement would strike any St. Paul’s graduate as typical, and yet, the Class of 2021 created a new and different presentation. “We chose intersectionality because it helped the farm workers’ movement to include other movements, too,” explained one student. “We wanted to send the message that people are stronger together. As one, we are more powerful and our voices can be heard.” Another student adds, “Just because you are one race, one gender or even one age, doesn’t mean that you can’t connect with other people who are different over things that are important to all of you.”

Recurring and New Elements: Demonstration, Dance & Dialogue
Each Farm Labor Chapel has included stories of prominent activists and a demonstration of the Huelga movement, those who fought with Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta and Larry Itliong for farmworker rights in California. For many of the nine years that the Sixth Grade has staged a Farm Labor Chapel, there have been student-led demonstrations in front of the church. This year, those demonstrations represented five different groups that staged a march within the Chapel sanctuary: (1) the Environmental Movement, (2) the Black Panther movement, (3) the Chicano Movement, (4) the Women’s Movement, and (5) the Farm Workers’ Movement. The students taught intersectionality through these groups, sketches, scriptwriting, and skits.
Music has always been a part of any social justice movement. Therefore, Sixth Grade’s chapel not only includes music, but dance as well -- a nod to Dolores Huerta who had wanted to be a dancer before devoting her life to the UFW. “We listened to Oye Como Va many times. During lunch, we would stay in and practice,” said one student. “My partner is a dancer, so she taught me to salsa dance.” They wanted to dance, so they made it happen. She went on to describe Mr. de Chalus helping the musicians in the music room. 

St. Paul’s invites parents to be a part of our academic experience as expert witnesses to a given topic. Guest visitors elevate the student experience with first-person accounts. “We heard from a dad who was actually living in the experience,” said one student. “He knew what was happening and was able to talk about it from his point of view. It’s already painful when you just hear it normally, but now it’s not just from imagination. It’s actually happening to certain people.” When asked how their Chapel presentation changed as a result of the parent’s visit. “It made everyone think harder and realize that this is a real experience. And not a good experience, so to treat it very delicately.”

Word of the Day: Intersectionality 
The idea that all social issues are connected
on a deeper level.
Intersectionality brings forth the idea that
racism, sexism, transphobia, etc.
are connected and can’t be abolished individually. 

Student-Led Learning
Sixth Grade teachers Karen Compise and Lili Malabed allow students to design their own Chapel from concept to final product. Students arrive at a topic through a voting process that includes discussion and consensus. Then, they sign up for Chapel presentation jobs that interest them. These jobs bring the idea to life for a broader audience. Among this year’s jobs were: scriptwriting, props, slideshow, sound effects, dance, song, and dress. Their shared vision allowed for collaboration and a smooth workflow. In the end, everyone pitched in where needed to get things done. There’s nothing like vision to ignite the spark needed to put in extra hours on a good project. We celebrate the journey of the Class of 2021 and the gifts they shared with all of us this year in the Farm Labor Chapel.


The Farm Labor & Food Justice curricular unit: 
  • Documentary film screening, Viva La Causa
  • Documentary film screening, Dolores
  • Classroom discussions and Chapel preparation 
  • Simulation
  • The memoir, The Circuit by Francisco Jimenez culminating in a creative project of written word, spoken word and art. 
  • Documentary film screening, Food Chains
  • Civic outreach through letter writing to effect change in the current marketplace 
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St. Paul's Episcopal School
116 Montecito Avenue
Oakland, CA 94610