Hi there, Rabbit Run!
Hope everyone is enjoying this warm weather! During February we have been learning about Black History Month through changemakers like Dr. Mae Jemison (astronaut), Augustus Jackson ("Father of Ice Cream"), Garrett Morgan (inventor of the stoplight), Ella Jenkins (musician who we LOVE), and Christian Robinson (author/illustrator who we LOVE)! We still have some more changemakers to learn about, including Oge Mora (a favorite author/illustrator), the Williams Sisters (tennis!), Bessie Coleman (pilot), Barack Obama (president), and more! At this age/developmental stage, we do not bring conversations about oppression or violence or racism, but rather center the conversation around Black Joy! And, of course, we don't limit it to February, although we do spotlight BHM in February.
As you know from our ancestor map project earlier in the year, the way we talk about skin color in our classroom is through the three factors that determine our skin color (melanin, the sun, and our ancestors). We know that no one's skin is actually black or white but rather many different shades of brown. We discuss how we use the word Black to describe people who were born in Africa, or whose ancestors (parents, grandparents, great-grandparents or further back) come from Africa. We include conversation about the equator, and the beautiful, deep shades of brown skin that people who live near the equator have, because they have lots of melanin to protect them in the hot, sunny climate.
I'm compiling some of our favorite music and books by Black musicians and authors to share with you. We listen to/read these throughout the year, and are some of our classroom favorites. Hope you enjoy!
BHM playlist:- Odetta – The Fox
- Nina Simone – Feeling Good, Good Bait
- John Coltrane – my favorite things
- Duke Ellington – In a Sentimental Mood
- Elizabeth Cotton – Shake Sugaree
- Mulatu Astatke – I Faram Gami I Faram
- Jon Batiste – Nocturne No 1 in D Minor
- Stevie wonder – Superstition
- Darondo – Didn’t I
- Ibeyi – River
- Sister Rosetta Tharpe – Didn’t it Rain?
- Billie Holiday – Blue Moon
- Leon Bridges – Coming Home
- Big Mama Thorton – Hound Dog
- Eartha Kitt – C’est Si Bon
- Ella Jenkins – Wade in the Water
BHM booklist:- Mae Among the Stars, Roda Ahmed
- The Day You Begin, Jacqueline Woodson
- My Princess Boy, Kilodavis, DeSimone
- Black is a Rainbow Color, Angela Joy, Ekua Holmes
- Thank You, Omu, Oge Mora
- Hair Love, Matthew A. Cherry
- Your Name is a Song, Jamilah Thompkins Bigelow
- Me and Mama, Cozbi A. Cabrera
- Red Shoes, Karen English
- I Am Every Good Thing, Derrick Barnes
- You Matter, Christian Robinson
- Mommy’s Khimar, Jamilah Thompkins Bigelow
This month in Rabbit Run..
Hello Rabbit Run,
We have had a busy month back after winter break with lots of learning and celebrations! When we returned, we learned about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We read the books, We March, and Sometimes People March. The children made birthday cards for him, we told stories of his life, read books about all kinds of people coming together, and I decorated the classroom with photos of him both in action and just hanging out, smiling and enjoying his family. The conversation and materials focused on fairness and Black Joy rather than violence or oppression, as is developmentally appropriate for this age group. We talked about how he was a leader, but he did not do it alone- lots of good people stood beside him.
This week we began learning about the Lunar New Year! We are reading books about children and families who are preparing to celebrate by cleaning their homes, cooking traditional foods, traveling home to be with family, decorating altars, wearing red for good luck, giving red envelopes and gifts, and going to festivals and parades to see fireworks and the dragon or lion dances. Many thanks to Dominik's family who sent in some beautiful books today, and we read about how the new year is celebrated in Vietnam. They also sent some traditional almond cookies, which we ate together and were a big hit!
As we learn about Lunar New Year celebrations, we are also learning about the Chinese zodiac calendar. This year is the year of the Rabbit everywhere except Vietnam, where Cat takes the place of Rabbit. Today, the afternoon class had fun learning which year they and their friends were born in. We have a lot of roosters, dogs, and a couple monkeys!
We are also learning about, eating, and sewing little pomegranates! Each day there are a few slices on the shelf, and whoever chooses can take it to a table and remove the seeds to eat. Some children love the crunchy, sweet, juicy seeds, while others don't care for them. When we don't like the taste of something, we practice saying, "I don't care for this," "this isn't for me," or "it's not to my taste." We never force but always encourage trying new things, and I always say it is okay not to like it. This way they remain open to trying new things when we have new food prep on the shelves, or when visitors bring us a treat, and we can dislike something and still be respectful about it.
Hope everyone is having a good week so far!
This month in Rabbit Run...
Hi Rabbit Run,
Happy Friday! I want to start off with a few important housekeeping reminders, as we have noticed not everyone has what they need at school.
- Please make sure you have sent a shoe box with several pairs of extra clothes inside
- Please label everything! Every piece of clothing, container, water bottle, napkin, fork, etc!
- Send a wet bag for taking home wet/dirty clothing. If your child is having lots of accidents, you might send two!
- Please send snacks separate from the lunchbox so your child can easily retrieve them during the morning work period
Thank you! Now to the good stuff!
We have had a great first two weeks of the school year! Everyone is settling into their routines and we love watching all the new friendships forming. We have been playing lots of group games at our Gathering (circle time) that allow us to get to know each other, practicing Grace and Courtesy lessons, singing new songs, and reading some wonderful books. Our favorite games have been Busy Bee, Busy Bee, The Hokey Pokey, Here We Go Loopy-Loo (Pete Seeger), and Help! (in our afternoon class).
Grace and Courtesy lessons model for children how we do certain things in the classroom in respectful and orderly ways. We have practiced how to line up, how to sit at the Gathering, how to walk around other people’s work rugs, how to quietly observe a friend, how to ask for help, how to come when a teacher calls your name, how to say excuse me, how to raise your hand, and how to push in a chair. First, I model it, then I ask who else would like to do it, and everyone who raises their hand gets a turn to model (everyone always raises their hand)! Through repetition and practice, these become our classroom norms and foster a calm, responsible and thoughtful community. And the kids love it! Check out our Instagram to watch some of the children practicing “How to observe a friend without interrupting their work.”
You may have heard some new songs come home, like What Are You Wearing, This Is My School, the Rainbow song, or the Mango Fandango song. We are currently learning some sign language to accompany the Rainbow song, which they love. We also use sign language in the classroom regularly. Some of our most used signs are: bathroom, play, water, help, thank you, please, wait, ready, finished, sitting, eating, and I need space. Try asking them how to say one of these things in sign language, using only their hands!
At the beginning of the year, I like to start by reading books that reflect all different kinds of families, especially the families in our classroom so that everyone feels seen and special. Each book emphasizes that it’s love that makes a family. Included is the book, All the Colors We Are: The Story of How We Get Our Skin Color. It is full of information about the three things that determine our skin color: melanin, our parents and ancestors, and the sun. It includes information about geography, the equator, the poles which ties in beautifully to our geography/earth science curriculum. Skin color is something all children notice, and by giving them the correct information to talk about our skin and our similarities and differences we support each child’s natural development/understanding of self and respect for others. We always start off the year heavy on respect for self and others, and noticing how we are the same and different is at the root. I've found it fosters an enormous sense of love and community building right from day one.
We have also been reading and learning a lot about airplanes! We have a big airplane enthusiast in the classroom who has shared his interest with the rest of us and we are all learning together! This week you may have heard about the Wright Brothers, Amelia Earhart or Bessie Coleman- curious and brave pilots we are reading picture books about. Perhaps they have told you there are airplanes that carry trucks, cars, and mail; or airplanes that land on ships in the ocean; or that the smallest plane in the world is called the Bumblebee. Can you tell they are loving learning about pilots, planes, and flying?!
A reminder that we do Show and Tell every Friday! We invite children to bring an object they would like to share with the class: rocks, flowers, shells, nature in general, books, art, things they have made, coins, artifacts, found objects, plants, etc. Please leave toys, stuffed animals, and characters at home.
If your child is new to RR, please expect to hear from me over the course of next week to let you know how the transition has been. And as always, please reach out with any questions or thoughts! Here’s to a great first two weeks!
This month in Rabbit Run Cottage
Hi Rabbit Run!
I had an email prepared to send that is just FULL of resources, articles and info surrounding the most common topics brought up during conferences, but then I discovered the show "Old Enough" on netflix, and so I will save that "big" email for another time and send this one for now. "Old Enough" is a show about Japanese children and tots running errands independently for the first time. Of course their families have prepared them for this level of independence through small steps, repetition and practice, and not just sent them out on a whim. What a beautiful thing it is to see these children embracing freedom along with the requisite responsibility, and how aligned it is with the Montessori ideology! The episodes are short and sweet and downright heartwarming. I highly recommend watching.
In addition, NPR published an article about it a few days ago, and it is a great read! Below are the highlights, although I highly recommend taking a few minutes to give it a full read. Since most of the resources I intended to send post-conferences were around practicing independence at home and addressing limit/boundary-pushing behavior, this article is really right up our alley! The author talks about her child's own boundary-breaking behavior and how, when given the opportunity for autonomy, it all stopped. Now, I don't recommend sending your kiddo out the door solo this evening to buy milk, but take a look at the step-by-step list to help build the skills and self-confidence a child needs to successfully run an errand independently and maybe make a plan to begin working towards this in the future (of course, based on where your child is in terms of age and ability).
If you give it a watch and/or read, I'd love to hear what you think!
"It's not so much about raising "free range" kids – the term often used to describe children who are free to play and explore around their homes and neighborhoods on their own — but rather it's about raising smart, capable kids whose parents enable them to practice autonomy without sacrificing safety. Kids who have the skills they need to handle the responsibility."
"Autonomy has oodles of benefits for kids of all ages. Studies have linked autonomy to long-term motivation, independence, confidence and better executive function. As a child gets older, autonomy is associated with better performance in school and a decreased risk of drug and alcohol abuse. "Like exercise and sleep, it appears to be good for virtually everything," neuropsychologist William Stixrud and educator Ned Johnson write in their book The Self-Driven Child."
"The biggest gift parents can give their children is the opportunity to make their own decisions," psychologist Holly Schiffrin wrote in the Journal of Child and Family Studies. "Parents who 'help' their children too much stress themselves out and leave their kids ill-prepared to be adults."
This month in Rabbit Run...
Hello, Rabbit Run!
It’s March! Over the past month, we celebrated Valentine’s day, quite a few birthdays, and have been centering Black voices for Black History Month in our books, music, and conversation. In our classroom, we talk often about skin color and the three factors that determine our skin color (melanin, the sun, and our ancestors), and we know that no one's skin is actually black or white but rather many different shades of brown. We discussed the term "Black” and “African American” and how it is used to describe people whose family/ancestors come from Africa.
We discuss the equator, and the beautiful, deep shades of brown skin that people who live near the equator have, because they have lots of melanin to protect them in the hot, sunny climate. The children always point out Ms. Laura's beautiful brown skin. We also discuss how people with lighter skin have ancestors who come from cool, less sunny climates, and have less melanin in their skin. We look at our globe and our map, point out the equator and the continents that touch it, and talk about how people of all skin colors live all over the globe now no matter the climate thanks to our many modes of travel and transportation. My favorite book for this is “All the Colors We Are: The Story of How We Get Our Skin Color”- perfectly informative and age appropriate.
We also talk about Black musicians (they are in love with Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder right now!), authors, and book characters who we have present in our classroom who we love. At this age/developmental stage, we do not bring conversations about oppression or racism, but rather center the conversation around Black Joy and make sure there is representation within the classroom. Skin color is something all children notice, and by giving them the correct information to talk about our skin and our similarities and differences we support each child’s natural development/understanding of self-identity and respect for the identity of others.
Something else exciting is happening starting this month! We are now able to open the classrooms up to 2 parents/caregivers for Celebrations of Life (birthdays)! If your child has a birthday coming up, we welcome you to join us in-person (masked) while they take their trips around the sun! We’ve got lots of Spring birthdays, and are very excited to bring this tradition back. We are also very excited about the Open House this Friday. Come join us at 1 to tour the classrooms and take a closer peek at your child’s learning environment!
Hope everyone is having a wonderful week so far, the community playdate today was lovely- it is so nice to be in community again!
Also please enjoy this article:
This month in Rabbit Run...
Can you believe it's December!? Over the last month we have had so much fun celebrating a ton of birthdays in Rabbit Run! The children love seeing the photos of their friends growing throughout the years, and as I walk around showing the pictures you will hear a chorus of, "awww," "she's so cute!," and one child who often remarks, "adorable!" We all sing "The Earth Goes Around the Sun" as the child walks around the sun holding our painted globe. After all their trips around the sun, the birthday child then serves their friends the treat they brought (all while wearing the cloth birthday crown). It's a lovely celebration and we have enjoyed having so many friends to celebrate this month.
During November, we had a special ballet unit on the shelf with nomenclature cards for the parts of a pointe shoe, ballet positions, as well as photos of our changemaker, Maria Tallchief, the first Native American (Osage) ballerina and the first American prima ballerina. We read a few books about ballet, our favorite was "Boys Dance," a rhyming book about ballet practice for a group of young boys ("perspire" was our favorite new vocabulary word we gleaned from this book). There was also a pair of small pointe shoes for them to practice putting on and lacing up. Our changemaker for December is Dr. Mae Jemison, an engineer, physician and NASA astronaut. She was the first Black woman to travel to space. We have photos of Dr. Mae Jemison, a book "Mae Among the Stars" about Mae as a child, a set of nomenclature cards that teach the parts of an astronaut space suit, and a set for the planets.
In the afternoon, we have had so much fun learning about reptiles, and playing reptile bingo! So far their favorite is the Stinkpot Turtle, for obvious reasons :) They are also very excited and interested in the difference between soft shelled eggs (reptiles) and hard shelled eggs (birds). We have a really amazing, complete snake skin on the shelf, and this has added to our discussion.
Thanks to everyone for the mask and coffee donations- we are all set for a while! Thanks also to those who purchased us items from our wish list, we are so appreciative. As we enter holiday season, here is an article I love about telling family stories and how it shapes children's understanding of their own identity- both who they are and where they come from. Listening to family stories builds connection, models narrative storytelling, supports language comprehension, and you can do it no matter where you are. Children of this age love and are captivated by true stories, and especially those that pertain to them and their loved ones personally. Hope you enjoy!
What kids learn from Family Stories...
This month in Rabbit Run...
Hello Rabbit Run!
Happy Wednesday! It has been a fun and busy October in Rabbit Run so far, with some decorative pumpkin projects, Monarch butterfly activities, Bat lessons and books, ghost finger puppet sewing, pumpkin and bat purse sewing and so much fall themed practical life and art works on the shelves. We also planted radishes, garlic, swiss chard, winter squash, rosemary, lavender, lemon balm and oregano in the garden. We have been listening to lots of music, reading new books, and playing some new games. Here's some of what we love this month:
Music we love:
- The Garden by Einstürzende Neubauten
- The Fox by Odetta
- Serenade for Strings Op 22 Tempo di Valse by Dvorak
- Come Meh Way by Sudan Archives
Books we love:
- When We are Kind by Monique Gray Smith
- Awâsis and the World Famous Bannock by Dallas Hunt
- Stellaluna by Janell Cannon
- Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry
Songs we are singing:
- Come Little Leaves
- Full Moon Overhead
- Robin in the Rain
Each year, near the end of October I introduce a holiday that originated in Mexico, and that some people celebrate in the United States as well: el día de los muertos- or the Day of the Dead. We will be making an ofrenda, or offering, in the classroom, and I invite you all to bring photos of friends, family, pets, or any loved one who has passed away and who you would like to remember and celebrate. We will begin building the ofrenda next week (October 25) and add to it through November 2nd. You are also invited to bring little objects that remind you of loved ones who have passed away. (But please remember that little objects are often greatly admired and coveted by children, so please don’t send anything that you would be devastated to lose. And please be sure to label photos and objects so that we can get everything back to you safe and sound!) We will be discussing the celebration in a very “First Plane of Development” way. Here is how we will talk about it.
The Day of the Dead is a celebration that began a long time ago with the Indigenous peoples of southern Mexico. The ancestors of these Indigenous peoples were the first people who lived on that land, and many Indigenous people still live there today. The holiday lasts three days, October 31, November 1 and November 2. Friends and family gather together to remember people they love who have passed away. They create beautiful ofrendas with marigold flowers, brightly decorated sugar skulls, candles, beautiful painted skulls, photographs, and the favorite foods of loved ones who have passed away. They tell stories about them and talk about how they miss them. They may feel happy and sad at the same time. Sometimes people go to the cemetery where their loved one is buried and they decorate it with flowers and candles and their favorite foods. Some people spend the whole night there celebrating in the candlelight. Some people dance and have parades where they paint their faces like calaveras. Every town has a celebration that is a little bit different. Although, Day of the Dead celebrations began in Mexico, now they happen all over the world, in places like Peru, Bolivia, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, the Czech Republic, Brazil, Guatemala, Belize.
This celebration shows children one way to celebrate the lives of people (and pets) they love who have passed away. Many children have told me about dogs or cats who have died, as they try to wrap their minds around what that means. I have also had children who have lost siblings, grandparents and close family members, and for whom this celebration has given them a chance to talk about and process what it means to love and lose someone. Death has touched some families more than others, but it is a conversation that comes up at school much more often than many might expect. I hope that this bright, beautiful celebration will help build positive relationships to life and celebrations of those we love who aren’t here anymore, as well as open up opportunities for children to talk and process what it means when a loved one (human or animal) passes away. Of course there will be no judgment about each child/family's beliefs about what happens to people or where they go when they die. My response amidst differing opinions is simply: different people may believe different things, and that is okay. I will share photos on Instagram as we begin to build the ofrenda. I will also share photos of the books we will be reading and the activities on the shelves.
This month in Rabbit Run...
Hi Rabbit Run,
Can you believe we are already coming to the end of our first month of school?! We have spent the last weeks learning our classroom routines, learning about each other, fostering friendships and community, and generally settling into life in Rabbit Run. You may have realized by now that we do a lot of singing in our class! I find this to be a great way to gather the attention of the children, to center ourselves, and to come together as a group. I wonder if anyone has come home singing At the Beginning, the Rainbow Song, Five Brown Buns, Mama, Mama I want a Mango, the Continent Song or Frisky Whisk the Squirrel? I'll post some of these on our Instagram this week so you can follow along!
In our classroom there are many processes, or certain ways we do things, in order to make the classroom run smoothly and allow the children to be as independent as possible, but there are really only three "rules" which we practice: we take care of ourselves, we take care of others, and we take care of the things we use. Our processes and routines always come back to these three things. We have been practicing all of these over the last few weeks, with the older, experienced children ushering the young and new kids into the classroom culture. Today we read a book that really seemed to hit home for many children, it is called When We Are Kind, and it describes simple actions that represent kindness towards ourselves, our friends, and the earth. We went around the circle and children who wanted to offered stories of when they were kind to someone else/themselves/the earth or when someone was kind to them. It was lovely, and really reinforced the care that our school life centers around. I highly recommend this book for home libraries to stimulate thought and conversation around social-emotional development.
Your children may also come home speaking about who is in their family, what they/their family looks like and what other families might look like. We always begin the year with a focus on identity- our own and those around us. We read books that stimulate conversation around identity, whether it is family structure, shades of skin color, self-expression and clothing choices, hair type, eye color, etc. We lay a foundation of respect as we recognize the similarities and differences between each and every one of us.
We also practice being "upstanders" or people who stand up for fairness and what is right. This week on the playground a group of boys were saying, "No girls allowed in the boat!" So in the classroom we practiced what you can say if you hear someone telling a girl they can't play. Each child who wanted to stand up and practice took a turn saying, in their own way, "That's not fair, everyone can play at Cedars" or "Girls can play too!" or "The playground is for all of us!" We practice being an "upstander" in many different scenarios, usually when I observe a certain situation unfold and think of how we can incorporate making it right in our class culture.
I'm attaching two articles I love, one about how children from 3-6 prefer participating in real life work over imaginary play, meaning children would rather help prepare dinner with a caregiver than pretend to play kitchen with fake food and tools. The other article really expands on the idea of care that I spoke of above. Self-discipline in Montessori classrooms grows through this idea of caring for people and the things we use. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do! As always, please don't hesitate to reach out with any questions or comments!
Reality over Fantasy:
Self Discipline in Montessori:
This month in Rabbit Run...
Good morning, Rabbit Run!
Can you believe it's already May?! The year has flown by! During April we studied the life cycle of bees, as well as the parts of the honey bee. We read The Honeybee Man, Honey Makers, and The Beeman. We talked about the different roles of each bee within the hive family. We recited a poem about bees by Aileen Fisher that many of the children have learned by heart. And of course we observed all the bees flying amongst the wildflowers on our own school campus. Here is the poem.
There wouldn't be Sunflowers
Wouldn't be Peas
Wouldn't be Apples
On Apple trees
If it weren't for fuzzy old
Buzzy Old Bees
From off their knees.
We also have been learning about the Wildflowers of Texas. It has been awesome to see the children identify them at school and to listen as they tell me about the flowers they have seen at home and in their neighborhoods. Some of the flowers in our set are: bluebonnets, prairie fire (or Texas Paintbrush), buttercups, milkweed, rain lilly, verbena, sunflowers, Texas prickly poppy, Texas thistle, and blue eyed grass.
Coming up in May, we will be making connections between the birds we have been learning about and of those the ones that cast pellets. Last week a child found an owl pellet on the playground, which sparked great interest in casting pellets and the diets of these birds. I followed their interest by ordering some Great Horned Owl pellets online and we will be dissecting them next week when they arrive to determine what their diet is and what they ate. We have bone identification charts, pellet identification charts, and we are ready!
We have been singing the song Spin, Spider, Spin for a while now, and the children know all three verses plus the chorus. Yesterday I called them to the Gathering by playing the version by Patty Zeitlin. They were so excited and blown away that the song we have been singing together is a "real song" :) After playing this version I played the version by Dan Crow, and then the version by Ceilidh-Jo Rowe and Matthias Weston. It was a really cool study in the ways people can take the same thing and make it their own in a way that it sounds very different. There were some requests that I tell the parents/grown-ups the names of all the versions so that they can listen at home- so here you are! This song has also helped us navigate moments where there is a spider in the classroom and rather than squish it or feel afraid I will simply say "it's a tiny harmless spider" and the children present will respond with the next lyric of the song "the kind that catches flies" which is a lovely approach for us. I will then catch it in our Bug Catcher and release it outside.
Hope everyone has a lovely weekend. Happy May!
Hi Rabbit Run!
What a lovely stormy Saturday morning, we are finally getting some much needed rain! During the month of March, Rabbit Run worked hard in our garden to get it ready for spring. The children weeded the beds, pruned the bushes and removed dead branches leftover from the winter storm, and they unearthed many earthworm friends in the process. Now we have planted cherry tomatoes, green bell peppers, yellow pear tomatoes, a strawberry patch, rosemary, mint, and poppies. Our irises are blooming, as well, they weathered the snow/ice storm and are bringing the children so much joy. We have all been enjoying watching our sages, salvias, roses, and coneflowers come back with bright green new growth! We have also been listening non-stop to a new favorite song "The Garden" by Einstürzende Neubauten. A great one for this rainy morning, as the primary lyrics are "you can find me if you want me in the garden, unless it's pouring down with rain."
Spring in the classroom also means our bird, bee and flower units are on the shelves! Last month we focused a lot on the birds we see around Austin, their size/shape/coloring, as well as the size/shape/coloring of their eggs, and nesting habits. We have been discussing the change in seasons and seasonal cycles. This week I added to the shelves, introducing the life cycle of the honey bee, parts of the honey bee, and a Texas Wildflower identification work. Many of them have already learned some of the wildflower names, and have been working to identify them around campus as well. This might be a nice time to plan a visit to the Wildflower Center so they can continue this learning. Check out our class Instagram to see photos of all of these units in action! @rabbitruncottage
Lastly, I am sharing some slides from Curious Parenting that offer ideas for shifting language and using positive phrasing. These simple shifts in language create huge shifts in parent-child relationships, child development, emotional regulation, self-awareness, and a child's future relationship both with self and others. Curious Parenting has a great blog that I encourage you to check out, too!
Hope everyone has a nice weekend! And just a reminder that Conferences are next Thursday and Friday!
Good evening, Rabbit Run!
This month we have been celebrating Black History Month in the classroom. In our classroom, conversations about skin color are not unusual, and in fact skin color is a topic that comes up at school regularly, much more often than most parents might assume. Often, we think that if we don’t acknowledge or address differences in skin color then we are teaching our children that everyone is the same and should be treated the same. Though the intention is good, what we don’t realize is that in not addressing our differences we are promoting a colorblind approach to the world- and colorblindness is actually a form of erasure. For First Plane children trying to understand and adapt to the world around them, colorblindness is confusing and creates a foundation of misinformation from which stereotypes and bias grow. It is our work to give children the language to talk about difference in skin color in a positive, constructive, factual, and celebratory way.
We can give them information that celebrates difference, promotes inclusion, and lays the groundwork for equity and anti-bias thinking. We simply notice difference and explain it (Skin color is defined by three things: our ancestors/parents, the sun, the amount of melanin in our skin. If your family came from a hot, sunny place, you have more melanin in your skin- you have darker skin. If your family came from a cool, less sunny place, you have less melanin in your skin- you have lighter skin). We offer language to describe the shade and hue of their own skin (You are the only one who gets to choose the words to describe your skin color- no one else). Just this week, children in our class were choosing beautiful words to describe their own skin: peach, pink, chocolate, almond, cream, brown, olive, and tan. We offer language to be a courageous bystander (It’s not okay to say someone can’t play because of the color of their skin. It’s not okay to say that about her skin- she gets to say what color her skin is. We all have different skin color and we are all beautiful.)
When we give children the tools- they use them. They are noticing subtle differences in each other’s skin tone- last week I overheard, “Your skin is a little bit lighter than hers. And mine is a little bit darker than yours.” They are also noticing bigger differences in skin color, and talking about it in beautiful, understanding ways, “Your family is from Southern India, and it’s really hot and sunny there, right?” “Yes, we are from Southern India, not Northern, and it’s hot and sunny and I have more melanin.” They notice changes in their own skin, “In summer, my skin gets darker when I am at the pool a lot.” Children are going to notice these differences whether we give them the language and tools to navigate them or not- that is the nature of the Absorbent Mind- so it is our work not to shush them or avoid the subject, but to give them the facts.
We don't limit these conversations to the month of February, but we are taking this month to specifically celebrate Black figures from musicians, to scientists, to doctors, to artists, and we have many more to come. So far, we have talked about and listened to the music of Nina Simone (Feelin' Good, Good Bait are favorites). We have learned about Dr. Mae Jamison, a doctor and astronaut who did experiments with weightlessness in space (read: Mae Among the Stars, Roda Ahmed). We have talked about Matthew Hensen, an Arctic explorer who was credited as the first to reach the North Pole, with the help of the Inuit. We have looked at photos of dancers from the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater. We have listened to the songs River and Eleggua by the Afro-Cuban sisters Ibeyi. Still to go on our list is Bessie Coleman( (pilot) Lewis Latimer (inventor), Wangari Maathai (doctor, environmentalist), Gordon Parks (photographer), Jean Michel Basquiat (painter, artist), Duke Ellington (pianist), Maya Angelou (poet and writer), and we are open to suggestions! Our time will not be spent talking about oppression, but instead celebrating wonderful people who contribute in amazing ways to our world.
If you would like to do some more reading about how to talk to kids about Race, here are some helpful articles. I will also include a list of children's books about skin color that I love.
Thank you and have a great week!
Reading for adults
How to Talk to Kids About Race and Racism
How to Talk to Kids About Race: Books and Resources That Can Help
The Things Parents Don’t Talk About With Their Kids…But Should
The Colors of Us, Karen Katz
Shades of People, Shelley Rotner, Sheila M. Kelly
Happy in Our Skin, Fran Manushkin, Lauren Tobia
All the Colors We Are/Todos los colores de nuestra piel: The Story of How We Get our Skin Color/La historia de por que temenos diferentes colores de piel, Katie Kissinger
Whoever You Are, Mem Fox, Leslie Staub