Every year around the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I bring up and topic of making changes in the world with students. To do so, we first need to examine the parts where changes are needed. When presented the question of "how can we make the world a better place?" often students might think of materialistic item (i.e. more toys, more parks, etc) and that is developmentally appropriate for this age group. Those are things that they can connect to with their own experiences. However, the conversation with this group of students immediately led to responses saying:
*pictures taken after I posted the writing on window, hence the glare.
During the first few weeks of Kindergarten, we are spending much of the time learning about ourselves and each other. One aspect that we focused on is how we are all different in many ways including skin color. After reading It's Okay to be Different, by Todd Parr, and Colors of Us, by Karen Katz, we studied our own differences and skin colors more closely. A series of lessons were planned using ideas inspired by NAECY's Anti-Bias Curriculum approach, by Louise Derman-Sparks and Julie Olsen Edwards.
Students first compared each other's skin color and formed a "color line" from the darkest to lightest. Then using Binney & Smith Crayola's Multicultural Colors and a couple of darker brown and black shades of tempura paint (because the Crayola set was just not enough to represent all of our shades in the classroom) we each found our exact mixture to match our skin tone by mixing it directly on our arms until it blends in completely (kind of like finding your foundation at a beauty store).
Next, we printed that mixture onto a paper plate and used that to be the face of our self-portraits. As we made our self-portraits, we paid close attention to our facial features, hair style, texture, and how we represent ourselves with clothing. Some students chose to make a mirror image of themselves on the day of the project, some decided that there were other outfits that better represent them as a whole.
During my first attempt at "skin color mixing" part of this lesson, I planned it at the end of the day during the first week of school thinking it would be a relaxed community building activity. I forgot to take into consideration of how much sitting and focus it actually takes and that many of my kinders are still adjusting to this full day schedule of elementary school. We barely got through finding the mixture of the color for the first student and needed to end the activity early.
After that first attempt, I made some edits to this lesson to how I taught it to preschoolers. Back when I taught preschool, when we were finding the mixture to our "true" skin colors, it was done during circle time and the whole class got to participate while each child had a turn. That was back when the student to teacher ratio was 1:8 and it was made possible. I attempted to do that with my 24 kindergarteners, it was too much sitting and waiting for them to sit through 24 turns (I learned it the hard way). Instead, I presented the idea as a whole after the "color line" activity, and approached each table group (6 students in each group) individually while the rest of the class was working independently which made it much more manageable and while students still got to participate in small group. Afterwards, we all examined the results together as a class.
Educator & Researcher
My passion for working with children started at a young age. I’ve been working with young children for over ten years and through my experiences, I have noticed that there’s a lack of emphasis on Ethnic Studies in most Early Childhood (ages 0-8) classrooms. As an Early Childhood Educator, I’m curious about how to incorporate Ethnic Studies into the daily curriculum in a way that invites young children to build self & community love, appreciate & celebrate diversity, and be reflective learners.