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Who Owns The Land?: The Sparrow’s Principle and Anti-Gentrification in Philadelphia

Author: Tyriese James Holloway


Overbrook High School

Year: 2022

Seminar: Educating for American Democracy

Grade Level: 10-12

Keywords: gentrification, Marita’s Bargain

School Subject(s): English, Language Arts

This unit is created in order to help students understand the history of ideas of private and common property through contrast of Indigenous and Western Ideas and its tacit relationship to the current school funding structure that afflicts many schools that are under the helm of the School District of Philadelphia. This unit is an extension of a SDP approved text, Marita’s Bargain, and is a supplementary unit used to extend important political questions that are left unanswered or unsaid in the text. This unit aims to help students  explore one of the most pressing social contradictions in the racialized-capitalist framework– gentrification through inquiry based and student centered learning.

Download Unit: Holloway-Tyriese.pdf

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Full Unit Text
Unit Content

Objective(s) of Unit:

  • Support digital literacy skills and efficacy through independent and collaborative research
  • Develop quantitative data analysis through a variety of digital and nondigital sources
  • Foster critical thinking and constructive debate through informed and thorough research
  • Engage with philosophical perspectives and synthesize independent conclusions to property rights and democracy

Background of Overbrook High School

Overbrook High School is a public four high school in West Philadelphia. The 2021-2022 student enrollment is 407 students with 3,494 school aged children living in the school’s catchment area.[1] As per the most recent school survey, 100% of the students are categorized as economically disadvantaged with 31% of students with Individualized Education Programs (IEP).[2] The attendance rate for students who have attended 95% more enrolled days is 24%.[3] The school schedule operates on a five block schedule with 84 minute (double period) classes. Overbrook High offers Honors classes to all of the students and has many athletic opportunities for students to participate. This unit is designed with twelfth grade English IV students in mind, but can also be used for any Civics or Social Studies class for 10th-12th grade students.

Introduction of Unit Content

I teach English IV at Overbrook High School. This unit teaches students how to understand current issues of property rights and democracy in Philadelphia and beyond. Much of this unit will be a post-reading extension of the text Marita’s Bargain by Malcolm Gladwell. The text explores many ideas that are deeply entrenched in the fabric of American identity such as meritocracy and “bootstrap democracy”. While the struggles and sacrifices of Marita are telegraphed explicitly throughout the text, I want students to engage with the question: “What if Marita lived in a financially cogent community where schools were well funded? How would Marita’s childhood have looked if she did not have to spend hours going to school?”. These questions are not leading questions without purpose, in fact, these questions empower students to think beyond the text when considering the political realities that many protagonists (real or imagined) will have the option to survive or thrive in.

Much of this course draws from my personal experiences as a community organizer with the Cesar Iglesias Community Garden and the North Philly Peace Park and my experiences talking to lifelong Philadelphia residents in the West Kensington community and throughout the city.  For the past three years, I have volunteered my time organizing homeowners to take ownership of their personal sidelots in lieu of the impending danger of sheriff sales that empower large corporations to facilitate gentrification in marginalized communities. I am writing this curriculum for three major purposes.  Firstly, with the hopes of privileging and extending students a priori knowledge regarding how their “block” works.  From conversations that I have had with students in my class, I have asked why many of them feel apprehensive when it comes to organizing in their community. By far and wide, students have simply answered with the fact that it is too dangerous to talk to their neighbors in the face of rising gun violence rates. I am hoping that through this unit, students are able to think critically and are empowered to view themselves as motive forces of history. Secondly, I want students to consider and situate the political power of their respective “blocks” in Philadelphia City Politics. In the West Philadelphia community, there are many “guerrilla gardens” that are being built and tended for that are currently under threat of closure by PHA, the U.S. Bank Liens, or the Land Bank. Through work with the Cesar Iglesias Community Garden, we organized outreach through Districts in the city in order to put more pressure on district councilpersons and to create the structure of “Lot Stewards” to siphon responsibility back to homeowners. My hope is that students will be able to understand, comprehend and become empowered to fight against gentrification in the City of Philadelphia.  Lastly, my goal is for students to understand the historical role of property in American genealogies of ideas and juxtapose these ideas with Indigenous concepts of land. With these comparisons, I am hoping to illuminate the consequences of capitalist development to Black renters and home buyers’ attitudes of gentrification in Harlem, Brooklyn and Philadelphia. This unit may serve to challenge their understandings and inspire their personal ambitions to become engaged in a property system that could potentially harm long term Philadelphia residents. These objectives will largely be explored through the book There Goes the ‘Hood  by Lance Freeman in order to explore attitudes of gentrification by Black renters in New York and Philadelphia. Furthermore, another book that will be explored in order to complete this objective is David Boyd’s book “The Rights to Nature” which explores Maori indigenous organizing successes in New Zealand in order to recognize the Waikato River as a living entity. Most importantly, at the center of this political fight is a question that community organizers of the Cesar Iglesias Community Garden have had to wrestle with: “Who owns the land?”. This question forces students to not only evaluate their personal connection to what they consider home and how they perceive green spaces in Philadelphia. It also encourages students to reflect on the history of white supremacist colonial violence that is responsible for the genocide of the Indigenous Lenapehoking tribes and much more.

This course is largely inspired by David Harvey’s Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution, which is a direct reference to Henri Lefebvre’s essay “Right of the City”. Lefebvre’s work has been responsible for inspiring many urban social movements such as the Right to the City Alliance (a coalition of single issue based organizations) that coalesced during the U.S. Social Forum in 2007[4]. However, Harvey goes forward to the fact that the phrase “right to the city” serves as an empty signifier as well as an object of struggle that can only earn coherence and definition through anti-capitalist organizing as a means of class struggle. This is not a political impossibility, in fact, it is inspirational that urban social movements in Brazil were able to influence the 2001 Brazilian Constitution where ordinary citizens were able to participate in “participatory budgeting” to shape the future of their urban environment. I hope that students will feel empowered in knowing that participating in democracy is the highest reflection of their education and to deepen their fascination with property rights, decolonization, as well as urban aesthetics in Philadelphia. I want students to consider the “Sparrow Principle” that was proposed by Jane Jacobs in an article she co-wrote with C. Parin:

“Not a sparrow should fall. That meant that no planning that the neighborhood did should hurt anyone in the neighborhood. Not a person, not a household, not a business, nothing should be at the expense of others. We would not turn into predatory animals for the purpose of some grand planning or somebody’s favor”[5]

[1] School District of Philadelphia. “School Profiles.” School Profiles, Accessed 23 June 2022.

[2] Ibid.


[4] Harvey, David. Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution. Verso, 2019.

[5] Parin C, Jacobs, J. L’Invitee. Urbanisme. September-October 1999; 308:16-25

Teaching Strategies

An objective of this unit is to encourage students to be independent learners and thinkers while learning how to work collaboratively. This is critical for success in my classroom in order to improve classroom management, classroom chemistry and classroom culture. One of my personal grievances since coming back from a virtual school year is the increase of antisocial behavior that is present in the classroom. Students were extremely inhibited to interact with each other and heavily relied on me as their primary teacher as the source of their information. These teaching strategies are in place in order to move away from the “banking model of education” and to help encourage students to see each other as resources for knowledge and co-learning. As this is the first “serious” text that we examine this year, it is important that this culture and interaction is established early.  This unit is created to support four 84 minute classes over the course of six weeks due to block scheduling. It is anticipated that students will work on these assignments both in and out of class.

Classroom Activities

Lesson 1: Imagining Marita’s Future (Write-Pair-Share Assignment)

 CCCS (Common Core Curriculum Standard): RI.11-12.1, W.11-12.3.A, W.11-12.,W.11-12.3.E

Educating for American Democracy Core Theme Addressed: A People with Contemporary Debates and Possibilities

Educating for American Democracy Design Challenge:  Balancing the Concrete and the Abstract

  • Powerpoint Presentation
  • Individualized Google Document for student writing
  • Collections 12 (Marita’s Bargain by Malcolm Gladwell)
  • Scrap paper (optional)
  • Pencils (Optional)

85 minutes

 Classroom Set-Up:

Students could work in rows, however, in my personal classroom set-up, students are in groups of six.  Students may modify seating to work with pairs as they see necessary.

Lesson Structure:
  • Do Now (15 minutes): Students will respond to the following prompt in five to seven sentences: “What is meritocracy? List three examples of meritocracy in American public life.” After ten minutes are completed, students will share their answers with the class. All responses to examples of meritocracy will be recorded by the instructor.
  • Guided Practice (10 minutes): Instructor will review expectations for journal writing with the class. Students will be expected to follow appropriate writing conventions (spelling, punctuation and grammar). Furthermore, students will be expected to cite textual evidence to support their claim.
  • Independent Practice (30 minutes): Students will be expected to respond to the following prompt in two to three paragraphs (10-15 sentences): “Imagine if Marita lived in a financially cogent community where schools were well funded? How do you think Marita’s childhood experience would have changed compared to the life that Gladwell described? Cite textual evidence.”
  • Pair Practice and Share (20 minutes): After independent practice, students will compare and contrast the outcomes that they have imagined with a partner for ten minutes. Afterwards, each pair will share their outcomes with the class.
  • Exit Ticket (10 minutes): Students will respond to the following question on their Google Document: “Reflect on what you have heard from your peers in class. Which outcome did you think was most realistic for Marita? Which outcome did you think was most unlikely? What do you think are the benefits for high school students to be knowledgeable about how their schools are funded?”
Lesson Rationale:

It is fully expected that by this lesson, students would have fully read the essay “Marita’s Bargain” from Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers: The Story of Success. For context, students would have already examined concepts such as “meritocracy” and  students would have had experience with reflecting on stereotypes and expectations impinged on Black-Philadelphian students versus white-surburban students. Also, students would have had, through classroom discussion,  how they may have internalized these ideas. Furthermore, students would have already had experience with quantitative data and how to interpret data tables. In the essay, there are tables reflecting reading scores from low to high income households. While it is not necessary for this particular lesson, it will be critical for students for later lessons.

In connection with the Educating for American democracy framework, students will be addressing the theme of “A People with Contemporary Debates and Possibilities”. As defined by the Educating for American Democracy platform, the theme “explores the contemporary terrain of civic participation and civic agency, investigating how historical narratives shape current political arguments, how values and information shape policy arguments, and how the American people continues to renew or remake itself in pursuit of fulfillment of the promise of constitutional democracy.”[1]. While this particular lesson doesn’t challenge students to consider and evaluate new information and research, it does challenge students to consider the potentialities and consequences of unethical educational practices and the direct effect it has on the youth. Laid bare, the prompt does cause students to evaluate the terrain of American democracy largely through the qualifying word in the prompt, “community”, and this prompt challenges students to think critically about community as a capital-generating organ in the body of the American education system. Many of my (Black)  students are invested in real-estate “property flipping” as a means of creating generational wealth for their families, which in my opinion, is an understandable but short-sighted measure to create any meaningful stability for the Black polity writ-large. My goal is for my students to understand that with property development, there are serious political consequences that should be taken seriously and I am hoping that wherever my students choose in regards for our collective future, that they are fully aware and accountable  of the consequences.

Likewise, this lesson faces the Educating for Democracy Design Challenge, “Balancing the Concrete and the Abstract”. The main question that “Balancing the Concrete and the Abstract” forces students and instructors to navigate is: “How can we support instructors in helping students move between concrete, narrative, and chronological learning and thematic and abstract or conceptual learning?”[2] While this seems intimidating at first, this lesson initiates students’ prior knowledge through the concept of meritocracy. By initiating the class by means of discussing how the idea of meritocracy still lives in our American education system, students will be able to make  personal solutions to the politicized problems highlighted through Marita’s struggle. The tone of Gladwell’s essay leaves the audience with contradictory feelings between the “necessary evil” of the Faustian exchange that Marita has had to make (a great education in exchange for a meaningful childhood)  and a political listlessness that adults are largely responsible for at the expense of our most vulnerable demographic, children. This design challenge will largely be overcome through the fact that students will be forced to consider what did Marita, as a child, deserve in the view of an unfair education system. I am hoping that my students will be held accountable for creating a vision where Marita is not forced to choose between a stable childhood and a great education, and they can have the power to make it happen in Philadelphia.

Lesson 2: Understanding School Funding in Philadelphia (Research Assignment)

 CCCS (Common Core Curriculum Standard): RI.11-12.4,  W.11-12.9, .L.11-12.3

Educating for American Democracy Core Theme Addressed: Our Changing Landscapes

Educating for American Democracy Design Challenge: America’s Plural, Yet Shared Story

  • Chromebooks
  • Individualized Google Document for student writing
  • Scrap paper (optional)
  • Pencils (Optional)

84 minutes

 Classroom Set-Up:

Students should be in groups of four as they are going to rely heavily on each other for this assignment.

Lesson Structure:
  • Do Now (15 minutes): Students will take a questionnaire that evaluates their personal attitudes about property, gentrification and development. They will work independently on a Google Form in their Google Classroom. Students will respond to the following five questions on a scale of 1-5 (1 being “false”, 3 being “neutral”, and 5 being “completely true”).
  1. I believe that owning property is the most important path to narrowing racial divides in America
  2. Gentrification is one of the top issues that minorities face
  3. Property is to be shared, not owned
  4. There is nothing wrong with developing housing as long as you make profit from it
  5. Private ownership of land is the most important feature of American democracy
  • The instructor will chart the data and responses among the class and invite students to explain their positions. The instructor will invite students to ask questions from the class dialogue and put them on a shared classroom “Question List”. Students will take initiative in researching these questions later on in the unit.
  • Guided Practice (10 minutes): The instructor will review key journal entries from the previous lesson and draw the connection between school funding and property values. Students will be expected to reinforce the skill present in Marita’s Bargain, “How to determine the Central Idea” through the reading of “How are Schools Funded?” by Sarah Kloss[3].
  • Group Practice (15 minutes): Students will be expected to work in groups of four. All students will be expected to complete the digital copy of the chart and they will all choose a spokesperson to present their findings to the class. After ten minutes, the instructor will only call on one group to present their findings. Students will be encouraged to add to the chart or to adjust their personal digital copies of the chart.
Central Idea:




Detail 1:





Detail 2:





Detail 3:






Summarize the article (2-3 sentences):
  • Group Practice (40 minutes): Students will be responsible for working in their groups for a Webquest assignment. Students will be responsible for providing the definition for the following vocabulary terms: Operating Revenues, Operating Expenditures, Investments, Pensions, Allocation Method
  • Students will be responsible for examining three websites for the webquest and answering the following questions:
  1. Budget 101 (Understanding the District’s Budget):
    1. Questions for Consideration:
      1. Reviewing the Operating Budget, how is the School District funded? How did it change from three years prior to FY 19?
      2. What percentage of local revenue is generated by real estate tax?
  • What percentage of the District’s budget is spent on schools?
  1. How many (in millions) are spent on secondary education schools?
  2. Review the Operating Fund Allocation Method for FY’19. How many:
    1. Principals can a school have?
    2. Assistant Principals (for a school of 700):
    3. Student Climate Support (for a school of 600):
  3. The FY 19 School Budget:
    1. Press CTRL+F and look up “Overbrook High School”. What percentage are we  in:
      1. Achievement?
      2. Progress?
  • Climate?
  1. College and Career?
  1. Respond to this prompt in five to seven sentences: “After reviewing the data scores provided by the School District of Philadelphia, what do you think needs to change at Overbrook?”
  2. Go to the next page and answer the following questions:
    1. What was the enrollment in 2019? What was the change compared to 2014?
    2. What was the Operating Funded Allotments in 2014? What was the Operating Funded Allotments in 2019? How big was the change?
  • What was the total Operating and Grant Allotments in 2014? What was the total Operating and Grant Allotments in 2019? What do you think was the cause of the difference despite less students?
  1. The Story of Pennsylvania’s per-pupil school funding in two maps and a chart:
    1. Where are the highest concentrations of per-pupil funding located at?
    2. Look at the funding per-pupil for Philadelphian students versus the highest per-pupil funding in the state. Why do you think there is a big difference?
    3. Summarize the reason why the “hold harmless” policy has negatively impacted educational funding in the state of Pennsylvania.
  • Exit Ticket: Students will pick one question from the Question Board presented earlier in class and answer it on a Google Form. Responses will be explored in class.

Whatever is not done in class will be expected to be completed for homework. All students will be  expected to complete all three parts of the webquest. Furthermore, three groups will be expected to review one part of the webquest for review the following day.

Lesson Rationale:

The second part of this unit will be continuing “Our Changing Landscape” as a means to make issues of school funding more specific and local to my students. While students were able to see through quantitative charts in the essay Marita’s Bargain had affected the state of New York, students will be able to see the changes in funding in accordance with the dramatic enrollment change that has happened in Overbrook in the past seven years. Students will be able to not only to develop their quantitative data skills for more relevant work, students will be able to improve their data analysis skills in order to make broader connections to the text. I am hoping that by examining the per-pupil funding statewide, students can make the connection that while Philadelphia county is technically well resourced in reference to the state, they can learn to apprehend the apparent contradiction in how that money is laid bare in their personal educational experience.  Through this investigation, this will further develop the design challenge of “Balancing the Concrete and Abstract”. Many of the abstractions came through the means of the questionnaire in the beginning of the lesson and many students will have already begun the process of being challenged through the means of the Webquest and how schools are funded.

Lesson 3: Indigenous Perspectives on Property(Annotation Clinic Assignment)

CCCS (Common Core Curriculum Standard): RI.11-12.7, W.11-12.1.B, 11-12.2.B

Educating for American Democracy Core Theme Addressed: Institutional and Social Transformation

Educating for American Democracy Design Challenge: Civic Honesty

  • Chromebooks
  • Individualized Google Document for student writing
  • Scrap paper (optional)
  • Pencils (Optional)

84 minutes

Classroom Set-Up:

Students should be in groups of four as they are going to rely heavily on each other for this assignment.

Lesson Structure:
  • Do Now (20 minutes): There will be two parts to this Do-Now.
    • Part I: Ten minutes will be designated to students to report-back with responses to their selected question from the  Question Board provided yesterday.
    • Part II: Students will watch a video on “Indigenous vs. European Settler Views on Property”[4]. Students will complete the following chart during the video and then the class will review the notes.
Indigenous Perspective on Property European Settler Perspective on Property











  • Guided Practice (20 minutes): Teacher will do an annotation clinic for an excerpt from Chapter 8 of “The Rights to Nature” titled, A River Becomes a Legal Person. Before jumping into the annotation clinic proper, the instructor will give important background knowledge of the land struggle between the Maori and the settler Australian legal system. While the indigenous people from America (Turtle Island) and Australia may have different backgrounds and customs, students should be aware that the power structures of settler colonialism are largely similar in Western historical legacies . After frontloading the historical context, the rubric provided for the annotation clinic  is below[5]:

The teacher will model how to annotate important vocabulary words and concepts. Afterwards, students will create questions and reflections  to annotate the text. After ten minutes, the teacher will annotate the text with important reflections and questions from the students.

“To Maori, nature is not simply property or a source of natural resources. There are two important and interrelated concepts at the heart of the Maori relationship with nature that are profoundly different from Western philosophy— whanaungatanga and kaitiakitanga, loosely translated as kinship and stewardship. Whanaungatanga is actually broader than kinship in the sense that it relates not only to relations between living humans, but also to an expansive webb of relationships (living and dead), land, water, flora and fauna, and the spiritual world of atua (gods)– all bound together through whakapapa (genealogy). In other words, the Maori believe that all things in the universe, living and dead, animate and inanimate are related…  [t]hus all the elements of nature are kin.”[6]
  • Independent Practice (20 minutes): Students will write a two paragraph reflection to the following prompt: “Reflect on the questionnaire that you took yesterday. Has the new information about indigenous beliefs about property shifted your thinking? If not, evaluate why Indigenous people’s perspective on property directly challenges our understanding of property.”
  • Dialogue (20 minutes): Students will have an open dialogue about their changes of perspective on private property. These are some guiding questions that will help shape and guide dialogue:
    • Do you believe that spiritual beliefs should have any bearing on how property is approached in a democracy? Why or why not?
    • Regardless of your stance on property, why is it important to understand the history of settler-colonialism when talking about American democracy?
    • What are some ways that we can further educate other people about the violence that Indigenous people have faced at the “benefit” of American democracy?
  • Exit Ticket (5 minutes): Reflect on one major takeaway from today’s lesson, examine and describe the benefits of discussing Indigenous rights in school.
Lesson Rationale:

For this lesson, the Educating for American Democracy theme present is “ Institutional and Social Transformation”. The platform describes this theme as “how social arrangements and conflicts have combined with political institutions to shape American life from the earliest colonial period to the present, investigates which moments of change have most defined the country, and builds understanding of how American political institutions and society changes.”[7]. In this case, it is critically important to understand that how social transformation has happened on Turtle Island is due to the violent history of settler colonialism. While the Lenapehoking are Indigenous to Philadelphia, it is important for students to be aware of the Indigenous people of their respective area.

The major design challenge for this particular lesson is “Civic Honesty” and the question that presents a barrier for this lesson is: “How can we offer an account of U.S. constitutional democracy that is simultaneously honest about the wrongs of the past without falling into cynicism, and appreciative of the founding of the United States without tipping into adulation?” To be direct, this question requires more from the teacher than the students. While many people feel the need for a “level headed” approach, the crux of settler democracy challenges the fundamental legitimacy of American democracy. It is important when having these discussions with students that they understand that conversations about settler colonialism are often overlooked or never given the proper weight it deserves. At the expense of it being labeled as “recidivism”, Indigenous rights should not be soft-peddled and Indigenous rights to land should be an uncompromising principle to stand on when exploring this topic.

Lesson 4: Anti-Gentrification Organizing in Philadelphia (Research and Debate Project)

CCCS (Common Core Curriculum Standard): RI.11-12.7, RI.11-12.6, W.11-12.6

Educating for American Democracy Core Theme Addressed: We The People

Educating for American Democracy Design Challenge: Plural, Yet Shared History

  • Chromebooks
  • Individualized Google Document for student writing
  • Scrap paper (optional)
  • Pencils (Optional)

To be completed in the span of three classes

Classroom Set-Up:

Students should be in groups of four as they are going to rely heavily on each other for this assignment.

Lesson Structure:
  • Do Now (20 minutes): Students will summarize the quotes below and then compare and contrast each author’s vision for humanity. Students will then answer the following question in five to ten sentences: “Taking Marx and Smith, two of the most important Western theoreticians in modern philosophy, to their logical extremes–What do you think would set humankind backwards in the worst way? A world with only private property or a world without self-interest? Use the arguments presented by both Marx and Smith to make your claims.
 “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self-interest. We address ourselves not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities, but of their advantages.”- Adam Smith
The abolition of private property is therefore the complete emancipation of all human senses and qualities, but it is this emancipation precisely because these senses and attributes have become, subjectively and objectively, human.”- Karl Marx

After writing their responses, students will split into two teams and debate their perspective for five minutes. Afterwards, students will reflect on their debate experience.

  • Group Project (To be completed in three classes) :

Students will work in groups of four in order to research property income from a neighborhood of their choice and then research reading scores from a nearby school. Students will draw their own conclusions regarding their perceptions on the relationship between property values, incomes, and student success.

Students will then do research on the big four property organizations in Philadelphia: the PHDC, the Land Bank, and PHA and do an organizational analysis on how these organs facilitate property in the city.  It is my hope that students will understand the underpinnings of American property rights in order to evaluate if it has reached democratic ideals or not.

After the research portion of the unit, students will be divided into two groups based on their personal stances on current American property rights. Student teams will propose important questions that help them to come to their own conclusions about current property rights and how whether or not gentrification (or revitalization) can sufficiently help American students have equitable education. Students will be guided to reflect on Marita’s experience in New York and its current struggles with community changes and how it is related in Philadelphia. Students will pull from their research projects on properties that exist in Philadelphia and the effects of gentrifications in the city. Students will then consider and compare the questions, inquiry questions with the interviews conducted in There Goes the ‘Hood. Students will summarize some of the positives and negatives of gentrification. Furthermore, students will revise their original inquiry questioning based on if gentrification is more class oriented or race-oriented. After making a judgment on the alignment, students will explore the role of the Black gentry in order to tailor their questioning (“Can Black people be gentrifiers? Are they harmful? What are responsible options for college-educated Black folks that may not negatively affect their need for Black social life?).


Students will have the choice to create a Google Site, Google Slide presentation, or poster presentation melding their research and answering the questions that their opposing group has created during Inquiry Based Questioning. Students will also be responsible for creating reading lists, podcasts, documentaries and other media to help educate their respective communities on gentrification/revitalization and property rights. Furthermore, students will be expected to conduct interviews with community members and groups that currently struggle against gentrification in the area. Students will present their findings to the Junior and Senior class body after they are done.

Lesson Rationale:

The Educating for American Democracy theme present in this lesson is “We the People”. The platform defines this theme that explores “the idea of “the people” as a political concept–not just a group of people who share a landscape but a group of people who share political ideals and institutions. The theme explores the history of how the contemporary American people has taken shape as a political body and builds civic understanding about how political institutions and shared ideals can work to connect a diverse population to shared processes of societal decision-making.”[1] The final lesson of this project is largely independent and will require group participation, however, students will be able to make connections with how civic groups were able to respond to gentrification in their communities. As their instructor, I will be giving anecdotal examples of how the Cesar Iglesias Garden responded to the existential threat of losing important parcels of our garden to the U.S. Bank Liens and private developers and be very transparent (as per my ethical responsibility) about my feelings about gentrification. I am hopeful that students who have done thorough research will be able to feel comfortable to challenge my perspectives in order to create an empowered classroom environment where freedom of speech and expression is encouraged.

The major design challenge present for this project, outside of classroom and time management, is “America’s Plural Yet Shared History”. The platform posits the design challenge through means of the question, “How can we integrate the perspectives of Americans from all different backgrounds when narrating a history of the U.S. and explicating the content of the philosophical foundations of American constitutional democracy?”.[2] The perspectives of Americans will largely come through Chapters 1,2, and 4 of “There Goes the Hood” where Lance Freeman gives through oral histories and interviews, New Yorker and Philadelphian perspectives of gentrification beyond race, class and gendered lines. This will be a strong supplement to the thorough exploration of Western and Indigenous perspectives on property that has helped shape the American constitution as we know it today. Regardless of where my students stand, I am hoping that students will extend their knowledge by considering the environmental destruction that over-development has wreaked upon cities world-wide. We are all aware that sparrows need a place to rest.

[1] “The Seven Themes.” Educating for American Democracy,

[2]“The Seven Themes.” Educating for American Democracy,

[3] Kloss, Sarah. “How are our Schools Funded? — Reclaim Philadelphia.” Reclaim Philadelphia, 26 February 2019,

[4] “Indigenous vs European Settler Views on Property | Barry Gough.” YouTube, 20 February 2022, Accessed 23 June 2022.

[5] Special thanks to the Center of Black Educator Development for the resource

[6] Boyd, David Richard. The Rights of Nature: A Legal Revolution that Could Save the World. ECW Press, 2017

[7] “The Seven Themes.” Educating for American Democracy,


Suggested Student Reading List:

De Moya, Jesenia. “Iglesias Garden becomes a safe space for residents seeking ‘sovereignty’ in North Philly.” Philadelphia Inquirer, 28 May 2021, Accessed 23 June 2022.

Freeman, Lance. There Goes the Hood: Views of Gentrification from the Ground Up. Temple University Press, 2006.

Griffin, Ebony. “To protect green space threatened by US Bank liens, immediate action must be taken | Opinion.” The Philadelphia Inquirer, 11 October 2021, Accessed 23 June 2022.

Grubola, Heather. “Philadelphia’s Gentrification: Some Call It Revitalization. Others Call It an Erosion of Cultural History.” 6abc Philadelphia, WPVI-TV, 4 Feb. 2020,

Harvey, David. Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution. Verso, 2019.

Jewett, Marilyn K. “Commentary: North Philadelphia Residents Fight for Its Future, Call to Stop Gentrification and Displacement.” Generocity Philly, Generocity, 23 July 2021,

Lu, Diana. “We asked Philly to tell us what gentrification feels like. Here’s what we heard.” WHYY, 16 March 2018, Accessed 23 June 2022.

Lubrano, Alfred, and Jeff Gammage. “Study: Philly among Leaders in Gentrification,Which Has Pushed out People of Color.” Https://, The Philadelphia Inquirer, 21 Mar. 2019,

“Philadelphia’s Changing Neighborhoods.” Pew’s Charitable Trusts, Pew’s Charitable Trusts, May 2016,

Whelan, Aubrey. “Gentrification vs. revitalization.” Washington Examiner, 23 July 2012, Accessed 23 June 2022.


Boyd, David Richard. The Rights of Nature: A Legal Revolution that Could Save the World. ECW Press, 2017

Harvey, David. Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution. Verso, 2019.

Jacobs, Jane. The Death and Life of Great American Cities. Random House, 1961.

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[2] “The Five Design Challenges.” Educating for American Democracy,