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.
The 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.
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.
Other 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.