Spotlight on DEI in Lower School Classrooms: November 2021
Exploring and celebrating peoples' unique differences helps our youngest students learn about their own identities. Students learn to respect and appreciate differences and that they bring us together as humans. Using books and hands-on activities, teachers in our youngest grades have engaged deeply in this work, embedding this kind of learning within the academic program. Read about some of the DEI learning that has been taking place in our Lower School classrooms.
In first grade, students discussed identities and what makes them similar and different. They’ve talked about how individuality is worth celebrating because it makes the class strong! Some books that have aided in these discussions have included: The Crayon Box that Talked; Same, Same but Different; and Your Name is a Song.
In third grade, students read The Colors of Us by Karen Katz prior to drawing and coloring their own self-portraits. The book served as a springboard for a celebration of the diverse skin tones within a single class of students. When coloring their own self portraits, students carefully chose skin-toned colored pencils and compared them to their own skin. They enjoyed looking to see what Crayola had named “their” color and if they needed to layer several colors to try and better match their skin tone. The activity sparked an inquisitive, positive, and organic conversation about skin tone and led to beautiful self-portraits that represent our diverse students and community.
In fourth grade, students investigated the origins of Pennsylvania and brainstormed solutions that 17th century explorers could have used to live peacefully with the Native Americans. Students studied the origin of the word “Indian” and how “Native Americans” and “Indigenous Peoples” are more appropriate terms. Students also studied William Penn’s “Holy Experiment” where he brought together people of all different religions to live harmoniously and respect each other’s differences. Some fourth graders have reflected on their own religion and religious differences within the classroom.
In fifth grade, students have been reading Home of the Brave, which tells the story of a Sudanese refugee, and discussed what people leave behind (both literally and figuratively) when confronted with war, violence, and extreme hardship. Toward the end of the novel, students will also discuss the importance of the title and the overall meaning of “belonging” in the United States. It is a deeply impactful story that taps into the fifth graders’ empathy cores!
Mrs. Posner read the book Dumplings are Delicious to students K-2. This book, which was shared with her by second-grader Jack C., is all about the variety of dumplings around the world⸺empanadas, pierogies, mandu, paranthas, etc. After the story, students talked about different family dishes and traditions that have been passed on. Several students were proud to share their backgrounds and connections and some even brought in family recipes the next day!
The Shipley School is a private, coeducational day school for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students, located in Bryn Mawr, PA. Through our commitment to educational excellence, we develop within each student a love of learning and a desire for compassionate participation in the world.