A bilingual Spanish book, skin tone colored crayons and guided discovery were all part of a collaborative lesson with students in Mrs. Christine Musante’s kindergarten class at Pomperaug Elementary School (PES) and Dr. Erin Birden, Teacher in Residence for Diversity and Cultural Competency.
The kindergarteners shared in a discussion about why they think people have different skin colors and then engaged in an interactive reading of the bilingual book, All the Colors We Are: The Story of How We Get Our Skin Color, by Kate Kissinger, illustrated by Chris Bohnhoff.
The kindergarteners inspected their own skin and were asked why they think everyone has different skin colors, and where skin color comes from. Students made observations about and described their own skin, as well as shared their ideas and theories. “Because they (skin colors) are different, because we can all be different,” said one kindergartener, and “They are different in different families,” said a different student.
Learning that skin colors come from your ancestors, melanin, and the sun, the students were introduced to skin-toned colored crayons in a variety of shades and identified the crayons that best matched their skin tone. Students read the names of the multicultural crayons and also had the opportunity to describe the color of their skin tone in their own words.They then had the opportunity to make a classroom palette of colors by comparing shades of crayons to other class members’ skin tones.
“The lesson is designed to be an age-appropriate opportunity for our students to demonstrate awareness of their own skin tone and also to express both comfort and joy in the diversity of others’ skin tones,” said Dr. Birden.
“It is an opportunity for our students to see themselves in our classrooms and to develop a healthy identity while directly fostering an awareness and celebration of all skin tones,” she continued.
Further opportunities to explore the book included a video read aloud of the bilingual text in Spanish with Yamira Raimundi, a parent in Region 15 and administrative assistant Pomperaug High School. The lesson will be shared with other kindergarten classrooms across the district. This lesson is one example of the ongoing work in Region 15, for even the youngest students, to actively participate in fostering welcoming and inclusive schools.