Vel Phillips Curriculum Delivers “Experiences, Not Lessons”

October 10, 2016 Wisconsin Public Television Leave a Comment

Milwaukee High School of the Arts social studies teachers Drew deLutio and Kelsey Noack worked with WPT to create “experiences, not lessons” for students to engage more deeply with the extraordinary story of Vel Phillips. A flash drive containing the Vel Phillips: Dream Big Dreams curriculum was recently mailed to social studies educators for grades 6-12, and elementary library media specialists throughout Wisconsin.

Read about Drew deLutio’s experience working on this project:

Vel Phillips curriculum. When my friend and co-worker Kelsey Noack and I set out to develop the curriculum to accompany Vel Phillips: Dream Big Dreams, we were already mired in the challenges of a long winter in Milwaukee Public Schools. Kelsey had already volunteered to develop the curriculum and was gracious enough to bring me on board after I conspicuously read an email over her shoulder regarding the work. As a transplant from Illinois, I’m a little ashamed to say my working knowledge of Vel Phillips was quite limited. Of course, was is the operative word.

I quickly became Phillips’ champion. Her tenacity, resilience, passion, courage … she exuded the kinds of latent qualities present in our own student population. What made Vel different? Where did her grit originate? Her fire? What drove her? If we could answer those questions, we could teach her story. We developed experiences – not lessons; opportunities for students to role play, volunteer, develop relationships and community, be proactive, and harness technology, all valuable exercises in shaping their own learning experiences using Phillips’ narrative as a template. By design, you’ll find very little direct instruction throughout the curriculum. The teacher’s role is very much one of facilitator.

We also tried to design a curriculum that was functional. We know from experience the day-to-day challenges of lesson planning and implementation. We know how precious and valuable those few daily instructional minutes are. Therefore, we tried to ensure the lessons can “stand alone.” As opportunities present themselves, teachers can show a particular scene or segment in class and use the corresponding lesson to develop a particular understanding of Phillips’ life and its impact on the City of Milwaukee and State of Wisconsin.

Drew deLutio
Milwaukee High School of the Arts

If you have questions for Drew or about the curriculum, or you would like to request a flash drive containing the curriculum, please contact [email protected].

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