Cal Humanities

"The understanding of a culture comes from hearing the language, tasting the food, seeing personal interactions, experiencing the traditions, and so much more in context."

— Elizabeth Laval & Candice Pendergrass, Sikh Youth Public History Project

"The understanding of a culture comes from hearing the language, tasting the food, seeing personal interactions, experiencing the traditions, and so much more when it is in context."

— Elizabeth Laval & Candice Pendergrass, Sikh Youth Public History Project

List of Civics + Humanities Middle Grades Grants

Grants Awarded in 2023

Planning Grants

Youth Voices: Exploring Identity and Representation Through Filmmaking
Film Independent Inc, Los Angeles
Project Director: Sarah Berkovich

Film Independent will research and build a program to serve middle schoolers in exploring issues of representation and identity in film/media. The project team will partner with John Muir Middle School (Los Angeles) to conduct focus groups with approximately 60 students about understanding of media and how they identify with on-screen narratives; and engage with their teachers to assess how this program could help enhance topics of civics and humanities courses.

Artists as Changemakers
Kala Art Institute, Berkeley
Project Director: Gisela Insuaste

Kala Art Institute will work with a small research team and youth advisory board to plan and design an arts integrated civics and humanities program for middle school youth (ages 10-14, grades 6-8) focusing on artists as changemakers and creative problem solvers. Kala will work with neighboring schools in the tri-city area where Kala is located and where Berkeley, Oakland, and Emeryville come together. Building on Kala’s Artists-in-Schools, field trips, and onsite youth art programs, the project will combine studio art practices for middle school students with walking tours, podcasts, and storytelling that will ground us in neighborhood history and provide a platform for youth to explore subjects and issues relevant to their lives and the world around them.

Telling Our Story: Chicano Park
Outside the Lens, San Diego
Project Director: Liliana Hueso

Outside the Lens will develop a program for youth in grades 6-8 to study Chicano Park, learning its history and how the practice of civil disobedience at this site can serve as a model for present-day civic engagement. Students will study the history of Barrio Logan and Chicano Park, the Chicano mural movement, histories of civil disobedience, and elements of architecture and urban studies. Students will document their work through digital photography and video, answering the question, What can we do to create a better world?

Implementation Grants

Anne Frank: A History for Today traveling exhibit and peer learning in Los Angeles area schools
Anne Frank Los Angeles
Project Director: Margrit Polak

Anne Frank: A History for Today is a unique traveling exhibit created by Anne Frank House in Amsterdam and hosted by local schools. The project uses peer to peer learning to teach the history of the Holocaust from the perspective of Anne Frank and her family Middle school student docents in the Los Angeles region will be trained to lead tours of the exhibit for their classmates, to better understand the dangers of racism and antisemitism, the importance of democracy and freedom for defending the rights of all citizens and how bystanders can become upstanders.

Project Citizen: Empowering Community Engagement
Center for Civic Education, Calabasas
Project Director: Donna Phillips

Teachers will facilitate The Project Citizen: Empowering Community Engagement (PCECE) for approximately 100 students, who will engage cooperatively as a class to identify a problem in their community, research alternative public policy-based solutions, and develop and present a solution to others in their community. In addition to increased knowledge of public policy and government, students of PCECE will demonstrate improved civic and cooperation skills and increased community engagement. Upon the completion of this project, newly created resources will be available for classes beyond this cohort, further increasing inclusion and benefits.

Amplifying Sanctuary Voices: Exploring Migration Project
East Bay Sanctuary Covenant, Berkeley
Project Director: Daphne Morgen

This project will build on Amplifying Sanctuary Voice’s (ASV) rich repository of multimedia migration stories to create resource guides for middle school educators and students. ASV will partner with its youth advisory board to adapt existing materials for middle school students and develop lesson plans with activity ideas and discussion prompts. ASV will organize interactive classroom presentations and field trips to its exhibits and to community-based nonprofit organizations. Their curriculum will expose students to first-person narratives, highlighting different aspects of home and displacement and representing people from different countries living in California.

SF Japantown Then and Now
GenRyu Arts, San Francisco
Project Director: Melody Takata

SF Japantown Then and Now is a program that explores a San Francisco neighborhood and community that has continuously faced discrimination, oppression and displacement in the last 117 years. Drawing from experiences of different generations of Japanese Americans, youth in the program will engage with community members, artists, and activists who will share about social justice challenges and triumphs in their efforts to preserve its history, cultural identity, and home within the neighborhood of Japantown from 1900s to today. As youth learn about the history of Japantown, they will reflect and share stories of Japanese Americans at public Youth Showcases.

Kosokehkimal – Indigenous education and field trip program
Mariposa County Arts Council Inc.
Project Director: Clay River

The Mariposa County Arts Council (Arts Council) will implement a field trip program to Wahhoga Village, the Southern Sierra Miwuk Nation’s Teaching & Healing Center, in Yosemite National Park for middle school youth in Mariposa County. As part of a free, spring/summer day camp program, youth will spend five sequential days at Wahhoga participating in apprenticeship education from Tribal Elders and Indigenous educators. In this way, students will learn about/experience Miwuk history, culture, Tribal archeology, language, music, and contributions to medicine, arts and land stewardship. Ultimately, this experience will deepen students’ understanding of the historical and contemporary issues surrounding cultural resilience and the sovereignty of Indigenous peoples through the complicated lens of the National Park Service.


District-Wide American Music History Course
Music Preserves Foundation, Santa Ana
Project Director: Patti Compton

This project will develop a fully online interactive American Music History course that instills students with an appreciation for diverse cultural history and the civic engagement required by multiple generations of young people to move our society forward. Students will learn history from diverse perspectives and connect the dots between music, art, and civic engagement throughout American history. Students will encounter the Great Depression and the New Deal through country and folk music, study the era of segregation through rock and roll, see the era of civil rights riots through Motown, and study black pride through soul music.

Building Empathy
Pasadena Educational Foundation
Project Director: Sehba Sarwar

Building Empathy will engage 130 middle school students in the Pasadena Unified School District to explore civil liberties issues. Students and teachers will study different communities’ histories and engage in research of past and present struggles for civil rights. The project will take place during school hours in classrooms and field trips to museums and cultural sites. A vital aspect of this project will be peer learning. High school students who are currently participating in a similar project will work with middle school students to share their own learning, research, writing, artwork, and other forms of expression on the theme of civil liberties and civic engagement.

Building an Ethos of Care: Listening to and Documenting Lessons from Elders
Bay Area Writing Project 
Project Director: Hillary Walker

Building an Ethos of Care focuses explicitly on the theme of care as civic participation. During summer youth programming, the project will support middle school students to take on the role of citizen photojournalists, exploring and capturing, through conversations and images, how the idea of care can be both an aim and end result of civic discourse and action. Students will interview elders, learn photography, and create photo essays that explore questions like: How do we care for each other, and what are the implications for civic issues? How have our elders experienced care in their lifetimes, and what lessons might they share?

Empowering Civics in Middle School
Riverside Unified School District
Project Director: Carolyn Power

Riverside Unified School District (RUSD) will expand its civics education program, currently offered at the high school level, to the middle school level. Students in grades 7 and 8 will learn to write a speech about a topic they care about or complete a civic engagement project about an important topic in their community. RUSD will implement Mikva Challenge civics curricula and engage their professional development services to train teachers and students. Students will showcase their work at two events hosted by RUSD: a fall Soapbox Riverside event and a Spring Civics Showcase.

Telling Our Stories Across Generations
Voice of Witness, San Francisco
Project Director: Erin Vong

In this seven-week program, students from Willie L. Brown Middle School and seniors from Sequoia Living engage in a series of interview-based storytelling and community building exercises. The project theme is ’How Did We Get Here’? and focuses on stories of howstudents, seniors, and their families came to the Bay Area, as well as their current relationships to this place. In initial sessions, students and seniors ask each other: What was your journey to this country or community like? In subsequent weeks, students will unearth new layers of the story through prompts and activities, including a culminating field trip to the Oakland Museum of California where students and seniors will experience the exhibitions together and make connections between California history and their own lives.