The Guardian spotlights gun violence curriculum co-developed by UW–Madison alumna

The work of a UW–Madison alumna and a fellow teacher to address the issue of gun violence in their community was recently spotlighted in The Guardian.

Athena Larios and Melanie Swandby
From left: Larios and Swandby (Photo: Marissa Leshnov/Marissa Leshnov for The Guardian)

Following the shooting death of one of their former students in 2013, Melanie Swandby — who at the time was a fifth-grade teacher at Lighthouse Community Charter School in Oakland, California — and Athena Larios “wanted to be more proactive in addressing gun violence” with their middle-school students. So, the two teachers worked together to develop an innovative gun-violence curriculum.

Swandby earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education and Spanish from the School of Education in 2004.

The curriculum Swandby and Larios developed, which was piloted in 2016, is designed to be incorporated across the school day. For instance, “in social studies, students learned about the second amendment and the history of guns in the U.S., while in math, they looked at statistics using information they gathered through a survey of their neighbors and other community members,” Swandby told The Guardian.

After they launched the curriculum, the teachers continued it for four years. They then shifted gears during the pandemic, and created a digital toolkit in partnership with Vision Quilt so that schools across the U.S. could adopt it.

The toolkit includes case studies, lesson plans for math and history, and strategies for addressing the social-emotional needs of children.

Swandby and Larios said they are hopeful the three-month curriculum can be adapted for different educational settings. They consider it a “humble offering,” and hope it is a starting point for young people to discuss the impacts of gun violence.

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