Mary Cowhey

Black Ants and Buddhists: Thinking Critically and Teaching Differently in the Primary Grades

What would a classroom look like if understanding and respecting differences in race, culture, beliefs, and opinions were at its heart? Welcome to Mary Cowhey's class in Northampton, MA, where first and second graders view the entire curriculum through the framework of understanding the world and trying to do their part to make it a better place.

Woven throughout the book is Mary's unflinching and humorous account of her own roots in a large, struggling, Irish Catholic family and her early career as a community activist. Mary's teaching is infused with lessons of her heroes: Gandhi, Eleanor Roosevelt, Helen Keller, Martin Luther King, Jr. and others. Her students learn to make connections between their lives, the books they read, the community leaders they meet, and the larger world.

If you were inspired to become a teacher because you wanted to change the world and instead find yourself limited by teach-to-the-test pressure, this is the book that will make you think hard about how you spend your time with students. It offers no easy answers, just a wealth of insight into the challenges of helping students think critically about the world and starting points for conversations about diversity and controversy in your classroom, as well as the larger community.

For professors interested in an examination copy:

Stenhouse is happy to send an examination copy of Black Ants and Buddhists if you're considering it for required reading in your college class. If you adopt Black Ants and Buddhists and the college bookstore orders ten or more copies, the exam copy becomes your desk copy.

Selected Works

"One hell of a read."
–Linda Christensen, author of
Reading, Writing and Rising Up
Families With Power
Families With Power’s goals are grassroots parent empowerment and increasing student achievement.
Integrated Curriculum, Authentic Learning, Child-Generated Investigations
A student's question, "Where do you look for the union label?" sparked an investigation into where our clothing is made, integrating a mathematical data investigation, geography, economics and social justice."
Community Service Learning
First graders learn about compassion, action and change in response to hunger and homelessness int heir community.
Inquiry-Based Science and Standardized Testing
I teach child-oriented inquiry-based science based on the standards not specifically to raise test scores but to raise creative problem solvers, empathetic doctors and ethical researchers.
Family Diversity
Second graders talk about same-sex marriage and family diversity.

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