Puzzler changes education one crossword at a time
Courtenay Brown | 8/15/2013, 9:45 a.m. | Updated on 8/15/2013, 9:45 a.m.
But Dunn said that these experiences help the teenagers in his workshops believe in his work.
“That’s why when I go into the school and work with youngsters, I say, ‘Look, your story is my story. There’s nothing that you can do that I haven’t done. Get kicked out of class? Been there, done that. Get locked up? Been there, done that,’” Dunn said.
Dunn hopes that his more advanced series of puzzle books for high-schoolers, which cover self-esteem, bullying and juvenile injustice, will help improve the school systems in New York City—especially after the recent announcement of what Dunn called the “disappointing” standardized test scores that were released by the Department of Education last week. Only 46 percent of African-Americans in New York City did well on the tests.
“Under Bloomberg, it’s about taking a test and passing a test,” Dunn said. “Real learning isn’t taking place; they are just teaching to the test.
“What my puzzles do is provide more meaningful content and a more engaging environment for students because there are stories about them and reflects them in a positive way,” he added.
While there are several schools across the boroughs that have already incorporated “Puzzles for Us” into their curriculum, Dunn said that he has received some backlash about his books.
“Some are not really comfortable with the idea of puzzles ‘about us,’” he said. “But a lot of the textbooks don’t tell our story in an accurate way. I tell folks that these are the missing pieces, the stuff you don’t really get to hear about.”
Dunn will continue to help others put the pieces together with the kickoff of the “Meet Mr. Puzzles” national book tour, which is set to kick off this September. The proceeds will go toward education programs in urban areas that are currently facing financial challenges. He is also developing a “What I See is What I Can Be” coloring book that will feature illustrations of famous African-Americans like tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams and music legend Bob Marley to inspire children at a young age. Also in the works is a puzzle that Dunn hopes will help educate people about the history of Harlem, which he said is “disappearing fast.”
“Because of gentrification, the landscape of Harlem is changing,” Dunn said. “This is a way of preserving the history. The book would be a snapshot of Harlem as it exists now, for the historical record.”