In this space we highlight various anti-bias activities and initiatives that our students are involved in. This page will be updated regularly so check back often and see what we’re up to!
Our Youngest Learners Explore Being Kind and Understanding One Another
In Early Childhood, one of the most important things that children work on is building relationships. They learn how to share, how to take turns, and how to negotiate and problem-solve. Preschool and PreK are often a child’s first experience with spending time among other children, away from their parents. We focus a lot on being kind to one another, learning to see another person’s perspective, and making sure that everyone has what they need, even if it isn’t always what they want.
During our walks around the school in September, the students in the Blue Room spent a lot of time looking at signs that other children and teachers had decorated to show support for everyone in the community, but particularly for Black and Brown families. We used that as a starting point to recognize and celebrate our many differences, from skin color to family make-up to abilities. We have learned about one another’s cultures and spent some time reading stories about cultures that are not represented in our classroom. Most of all, the children worked on strengthening existing relationships and developing friendships with students who were new to Lesley Ellis. We had several new students join us in February and March, and the Blue Room students were excited to welcome them into our classroom community.
At the end of March, we invited the students in our classroom to create their own signs to display around the school. After working together to paint the signs, children created and wrote their own messages, which focused on friendship and inclusion:
“Be nice to us”
“Be kind to people”
“Don’t hurt anybody”
“Stop and read”
“Play with me!”
Early Childhood Students Learn About Homes Around the World
Throughout their building and play, the preschoolers have been investigating the many different ways to create houses and shelters. Their investigation has led them to discover that houses can have many different attributes, such as big, small, tall, and short.
After reading Home by Carson Ellis, Homes in Many Cultures by Heather Adamson, and Houses and Homes by Ann Morris, the preschoolers discussed the similarities and differences between their houses and the houses from around the world pictured in the books. We then had a thoughtful discussion about all the things that homes do for people – we sleep, eat, and play in our houses. We also love and are loved by the people in our homes!
Some children then took these ideas to heart in both their building and drawings. They looked at the pictures from homes around the world, and worked on creating houses that looked both similar to their current homes and to those elsewhere in the world.
Kindergartners Explore Ways to Help Others
In kindergarten we often use books as a way to facilitate anti-bias discussions, including how economic differences affect people’s lives. In the book, The Can Man, Tim wants a skateboard for his birthday. He knows his family is not able to afford a skateboard and looks for ways to earn the money. He sees the Can Man looking through trash for cans to cash in for the redemption money. Tim decides to collect cans too, hoping to collect enough money for the skateboard. When Tim learns The Can Man is collecting cans to buy a new winter coat, he decides to give the money to the Can Man. The book led to a discussion about homelessness and how we can help others. The kindergartners offered a number of suggestions, including donating food, clothing, and toys. We have also read A Rose for Abby and Maddi’s Fridge, about food uncertainty and discussed ways we can help others.
Second Graders Study Martin Luther King Jr.
During the month of January, the second graders have been looking at the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. We read the stories Happy Birthday Martin Luther King and I have a Dream. While engaged in group discussions, many students connected Dr. King’s message with the Black Lives Matter movement and how even after all these years, there is still so much work to be done when it comes to justice and equality. Inspired by Dr. King’s work, second graders thought about topics that were important to them. Then they shared the different ways that they could make positive changes for themselves, their family, the community, or the world.
Below is a sampling of some of their hopes and dreams.
Early Childhood Students Create Self-Portraits
An important part of Early Childhood development is understanding differences. This includes not only cultural differences, but physical ones as well. Each year the Purple Room creates self-portraits to help children think about physical features. Using mirrors, they examine their faces and recreate them using markers, pencils, paint, and other mediums.
This month, we used loose parts to create images of ourselves. Children started by choosing an oval piece of paper which best represented the shade of their skin. Teachers then guided them to think about the color, texture and shape of their features. Children could choose from a selection of objects, including yarn, buttons, gears, wood pieces, and hardware bits. In choosing these loose parts, children thought about similarities and differences. Though many children used buttons for eyes, for example, they observed how colors, shapes and details were always unique. Awareness and open-mindedness are the foundation for larger conversations about bias and diversity.
Sixth Graders Address Racism
Our Grade 6 students banded together to create a slideshow of ways they are personally combating racism and sharing ideas for others to do the same. Given the racial justice work individuals all over the country are committing to in the wake of white supremacist violence, our students are joining the efforts being made to become more anti-racist and show ally-ship to marginalized communities. They have learned that one person really can make a difference, and that if everyone comes together to do the work, then we can move toward a more equitable future!
Click the link below to see the pdf slide show that our students put together:
Grade 1 Students Learn About Ableism
Does the Lesley Ellis School provide reasonable access to the building for people who use a wheelchair, walker, braces, or crutches? Grade 1 students in Barbara’s class asked themselves this question recently as they delved into the topic of ableism.
We started our trek at the outside of the building and realized that the Oxford Street entrance had an elevator that reached the lower and first levels. On the first level, we found the stair elevator that would take us to the second floor, where our classroom is located. Using a mock chair to simulate a wheelchair, we could negotiate to move around in our room. We also realized that it would be challenging for a wheelchair to get to the loft’s top part. We had lots of exciting adaptations we could make to the loft, such as a long ramp. Finally, we rolled out into the hall, where we could use the sink to wash our hands and get water. However, the soap and paper towel dispenser would need to be relocated. Off to the bathroom, we found a wide door stall with railings next to the toilet that accommodated our wheelchair easily. Included in the stall was a sink.
Overall, we were happy to find that most of the school building was accessible to people who used wheelchairs, braces, walkers, and crutches. We are continuing this in-depth look at our school building’s ability to meet all its members’ needs as we look at other physical challenges.
Kindergartners Explore Stereotypes
In kindergarten we try to base many of our anti-bias lessons on excellent books, and often the students work on “reader’s response” projects to draw and write about the subjects which the books make the students think about. We’ve read a number of excellent books in the last months.
Julian is a Mermaid is about a boy who is wholeheartedly accepted by his grandmother when he chooses to dress in a style that does not fit his gender’s stereotypical style. Maddi’s Fridge is about economic diversity and how friends help each other in tough situations. Not All Princesses Dress in Pink was preceded by a discussion of “real princesses” and “fairy tale princesses” and a discussion of the word “stereotype.”
When the associated press called the election for the Biden/Harris ticket, we discussed the graphic that showed Kamala Harris’ body creating the shadow of Ruby Bridges, from the famous painting by Norman Rockwell. Then we read the excellent The Ruby Bridges Story about the first grader who was one of the first to be integrated into a school in the American south. We also discussed the many firsts for Harris, as a woman of Indian and Jamaican heritage.
Third and Fourth Graders Learn About the ADA
Explore what it means to be an active ally
Become the change waiting to happen – become an active ally! Within each cohort of third and fourth graders, we came one step closer by uniting hearts and minds, brainstorming various ways we could all shift our view of the world and others around us.
Together, we read the story, All the Way to the Top by Annette Bay Pimentel, with forward by Jennifer Keelen-Chaffins, which outlines the struggles of a young girl who has cerebral palsy and becomes a young voice and activist in the Disability Rights Movement.
From this, we moved on to studying the American Disabilities Act, which celebrated their 30th anniversary this summer, and had in-depth discussions about the protections and rights that this law outlines for the over 60 million Americans that live with disabilities.
Students then examined the illustrations from the text to identify the challenges that Americans with disabilities faced prior to 1990 when ADA was implemented. Though the ADA aided in opening opportunities for those with disabilities, we also recognize that there is still work to be done.
In 3/4 we may be young, but much like Jennifer Keelan-Chaffin, we have a powerful voice that can make change and be used to be an active ally.