ATLANTA – Mercer University’s STEM Education Innovation (SEI) Lab partnered with the Atlanta Citizen Review Board (ACRB) in July for a weeklong educator learning program designed to support teachers in creating culturally sensitive curriculum leveraging technology tools for student engagement.

ACRB Educator Fellows Program participants will develop and implement curriculum for the 2021-2022 school year to help students in upper elementary grades through high school understand their legal rights and build awareness for positively interacting with police.

The program’s strategy is focused on community engagement and awareness related to community policing practices, police accountability and fostering cooperation among law enforcement, government agencies, community organizations and residents within the city of Atlanta. 

Fellowship participants engaged in a hybrid learning experience consisting of virtual instruction and field trips with city officials and other guests to explore the environments and experiences of both citizens and police officers. Participants were provided with techniques, tools and insights for their own curriculum development. The participating educators will implement ACRB’s “Knowing Your Rights” curriculum with students in their schools beginning this fall.

“Teaching for social justice and equity requires that educators support their students with the knowledge, skills, tools and resources to effectively advocate for themselves and others within their community and beyond,” said Dr. Felicia Baiden, project lead and assistant professor of elementary education in Mercer’s Tift College of Education. “Through the ‘Knowing Your Rights’ curriculum, students develop enhanced knowledge of their identities as citizens and examine ways to positively engage with law enforcement.”

The weeklong program boasted a lineup of educators, government officials and nonprofit leaders who engaged with the participants. Sessions were facilitated by Mercer and SEI Lab educators Dr. Baiden, Dr. H. Justin Ballenger, Dr. Jami Friedrich and Ph.D. student Stacey Young Rivers. Atlanta Citizen Review Board representatives in attendance included Executive Director Samuel L. Reid III, Naomi Bonman, Charles Curry, Myola Smith and ACRB Chair Cecilia Houston-Torrence.

Featured guest speakers included the Hon. Felicia A. Moore, president of Atlanta City Council; Joyce Sheperd, public safety chair of Atlanta City Council; E. Brian Watkins, deputy district attorney in the Office of the Fulton County District Attorney Anti-Corruption Unit; Sandra Scott, Georgia State Representative for District 76; Dr. Georj Lewis, president of Atlanta Metropolitan State College (AMSC); Dr. Larry Stewart, executive director of the Criminal Justice Program and Police Sciences Institute at AMSC; and Keith Strickland, founder of Making the Transition Inc.

Participants engaged in provocative discussions during the program that focused on social-emotional learning, which serves as the basis for the curriculum development.

“The ACRB collaboration with Mercer University’s STEM Education Innovation Lab in partnership with Atlanta Public Schools educators is a great example of a community working together through a committed effort to make a difference in the lives of our children,” said Reid.

Participating educators also engaged in a community meeting with top-level leadership from the Atlanta Police Department and police sergeants responsible for coordinating and responding to law enforcement incidents in zones that include Atlanta Public Schools. This open dialogue provided educators and law enforcement officials an opportunity to share ideas on supporting Atlanta’s youth and improving the quality of public safety and youth interactions with police in Atlanta.

Dr. Timothy Jones, fellowship participant and principal of B.E.S.T. Academy, emphasized that “engaging in this immersive summer experience between the Atlanta Police Foundation, Atlanta Citizen Review Board and Mercer University was the type of collaboration we need and oftentimes lack.

“Being able to assist in developing educational materials related to community policing practices was both necessary and appreciated,” said Jones. “I learned so much about the role of the ACRB and community policing practices. This was a phenomenal way to support educational outreach efforts in Atlanta Public Schools and the surrounding community.”

The schools represented in the inaugural ACRB Educator Fellows cohort included B.E.S.T. Academy, Harper-Archer Elementary, Tuskegee Airmen Global Academy and Atlanta Public Schools.

The SEI Lab collaboration with the Atlanta Citizen Review Board consists of a series of Citizen STEM projects that will engage community partners in utilizing STEM as a tool for addressing complex societal issues. An overarching goal of the Citizen STEM projects is to showcase the direct connection between STEM disciplines and addressing complex real-world issues. Guided by an interdisciplinary team of experts, the partnership creates opportunities for community stakeholders, K-12 students and college students to apply their learning to act as community change agents.

About the College of Education

Mercer University’s Tift College of Education – with campuses in Macon, Atlanta and the University’s two regional academic centers – prepares more professional educators than any other private institution in Georgia. Named for the former women’s college that merged with Mercer in 1986, the College of Education offers baccalaureate and graduate degrees, and is guided by the conceptual framework of the “Transforming Educator,” which supports those who aspire to grow professionally throughout their careers, while also seeking to transform the lives of students. For more information, visit education.mercer.edu.

Kyle is the director of media relations at Mercer. In addition to being the primary media contact for most academic and administrative units of the university, he coordinates hometown and university news releases and serves as editor of the News@Mercer e-newsletter and Reach magazine.​