A Letter to a Local Mosque, A Local Man of Peace, and a Beautiful Video

By Rob Pike, fourth grade teacher

The first social studies unit in fourth grade at Moses Brown is about world religions. As part of this unit, students learn about religious intolerance and also visit local religious institutions including a church, a synagogue, a mosque, and a Buddhist temple. When recent news reports detailed examples of hate letters being sent to mosques in Rhode Island and around the country we thought it appropriate that the students should be informed of these current examples of religious intolerance. The result was a class decision to write a letter of support to the mosque that had welcomed us with such kindness and allowed us to observe their afternoon prayer. We wrote a group letter on chart paper and then the student’s decorated edges with designs and missives of their own. img_1824

The chance to visit the North Smithfield mosque was profound for teachers and students alike. Imam Ikram, who heads the mosque, does amazing work welcoming school groups of all kinds. Watching him explain Islam to our students with patience, openness, and humor made me realize how hard the vast majority of the Muslim community has been working and continues to work, to make themselves known to the rest of us as safe, moderate, and reasonable people. It cannot have been easy for that community to allow a whole class full of strangers come in and watch them as they do something as intimate as praying, but by doing that they gave us an experience that allowed us to understand them in a way that made them no longer the “other.” We could see how ordinary they were. We could see that they were shy. We could see that, although they prayed in a different way to many of us, in so very many ways they were so very like us.

Shortly before the winter break, Laura Gladding shared with the fourth grade a link to a short video that is intensely hopeful for religious tolerance and peace in our country. The video details Christian and Muslim religious communities coming to terms with each other. Watching this video may make you cry and is likely to make you believe in humanity more than you did before.

The Path, a poem

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As part of middle school’s preparation for Sarah Kay’s event here today, seventh graders have been writing poetry. In class, they read poetry like Langston Hughes’ “Mother to Son” and various Sarah Kay poems. Seventh graders also wrote their own poems with metaphors. We’re pleased to … Continue reading

Opening Doors

Moses Brown has put increased scholarship funding at the center of its vision so that we can continue to attract the most talented and diverse students. We believe that enhancing access to MB will allow us to enroll the best minds and expose our students to the broadest range of perspectives, thereby strengthening the educational experience for our entire community.

Josebet

Josabet Zepeda ’15, MB Alumni Award Recipient 2015

“Going to Moses Brown wasn’t my choice. My mother wanted me to get the education she felt I deserved. My daycare teacher Ms. Benita saw in me the desire to learn from books instead of playing with toys. They saw something in me and wanted to make my life easier by making it a little harder at first.

Growing up in two worlds wasn’t easy. But I will never forget the words of encouragement from so many of my teachers going back to third grade. They saw what my mother and Ms. Benita had seen, and helped me to eventually see it as well. I learned to appreciate my two worlds and become a proud member of the MB community.

Going on the music trip in eighth grade, helping people in the Dominican Republic junior year, attending proms, and getting an Alumni Award would not have been possible without the scholarship and financial aid that Moses Brown offered me.

Thanks to MB, I made unbelievable friends and learned so much. Now in college, I see that things are different. My teachers aren’t there physically to support me every day, but their words and advice will stay with me forever; the experiences I had at MB shaped me into the person I am today.

I can now see what my mother, Ms. Benita, and all of my teachers saw in me since the beginning: a Light.”

Bringing Reflections to Upper School Students

 

 

PhyfeAbby Phyfe

Upper school English

On Monday, April 18, Mixed Magic Theater brought their production of Reflections: Growing Up a Black Man in America, written and directed by Ricardo Pitts-Wiley to Moses Brown’s juniors and seniors. A series of vignettes Pitts-Wiley has spent years honing and which he presented to the public last spring at his Mixed Magic Theater in Pawtucket, Reflections veers through a range of emotions, including anger and humor, as actors Mishell Lilly, Jay Walker, Ricardo Pitts-Wiley, and MB’s own humanities teacher Jonathan Pitts-Wiley presented poems and stories about the issues facing black men.

After the one-hour performance the cast invited questions, and many students and adults wanted to learn about the influences that spurred the play, as well as the issues related within the stories. There were several queries about The Knives I Survived, recited by Jonathan Pitts-Wiley, and the actors recalled their personal experiences of consciousness of their race through life’s daily routines. Though the vignettes were based on Pitts-Wiley’s experience as a black man, there were several questions about the role of black women in this country, prompting talk about Ricardo’s granddaughter Corinne and his wife Bernadet, the latter of whom he brought on stage to respond.

When asked at the end what our audience should take away from the performance, Ricardo shared his hope that the audience learned something from these stories, and that they might “no longer claim ignorance” of the realities to which Reflections refers. This performance also tied in with the student-led book discussion on Te-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me, which took place Wednesday, April 20.

 

 

Learning About Diversity

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The Masks We Live In

How can we as a school help our younger students learn about diversity and the world we live in? During recent diversity workshops for lower school students, younger students participated in a discussion about “boy and girl colors” and heard Pug, a Dog, an original story by Melinda Van Lare. First through fifth grade students attended age-appropriate workshops about gender identity, bullying, racial identity, socioeconomic class and wealth distribution, feminism and sexism, media and toy representations of human figures, and cultures of various countries.

LSDiversityWorkshops021016 - 38 copy.jpgThe workshops also served as an important opportunity for students and teachers from different grades and classrooms across the lower school to connect with one another.

Highlights from the workshops included:

The Skin You Live In – Using the book The Skin You Live In, students learned more about the biology of skin color. They explored the purpose of skin, how it looks and feels, and the similarities and differences between all skin types and colors. Afterwards the children mixed their own paint color and came up with a name to match their skin tone – such as light peach, mine stone, dark tan, and tan-o-man.

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A Toy Like Me: Seeing Yourself in the Toys You Play With – Using a story about mothers in the UK who decided to design dolls that reflected their children’s physical diversity, students were given the opportunity to consider the importance of seeing oneself in the toys we play with. Students then brainstormed how physical differences should be represented in toys and wrote letters to toy companies with their ideas!

The Masks We Live In – Students unpacked the social constructs of patriarchy, sexism, and feminism. Confronting the impact of sexist and over-masculinizing media messages in society, students were challenged to think critically about the masks we all wear relating to gender roles. Students then painted masks representing their societal exterior and personal interior. These masks were displayed outside the fourth grade classroom.

LSDiversityWorkshops021016 - 34Other workshops included reading Red: A Crayon’s Story, My Princess Boy, having a party in which food was divided up like U.S. wealth, learning how to support others against bullies, understanding what it means to be transgendered, and a discussion on multiracialism. Students also discussed the tradition of breads in different cultures while making their own butter, and learned several dances and songs from around the world.

What do a slinky, a paper clip, a stuffed animal, and a magnifying glass have to do with diversity work?

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By Abby Phyfe, US English In October 2015, Liza Talusan, Director of Diversity, Inclusion and Equity at The Park School, led diversity workshops for the entire Moses Brown ninth grade class. The class split into two groups, attending her workshop and … Continue reading