In the pre-kindergarten and kindergarten classes, students are currently undertaking a unit focused on the concepts of “family” and “who am I?”
These questions—which many adults still grapple with—act as a jumping-off point for students taking thoughtful consideration of where they come from and what makes them unique, and starts with creating a poster about their family, as well as a “me” box, or “me” mobile, sometimes drawing or finding creative ways to represent themselves. We spoke with several members of the PK / K team to guide us through this first formative unit for our youngest Hoppers.
In addition to the drawings, or mobile representations, what other activities do you do to help students tackle the question of identity?
We read many books on skin color, different ethnicities, family structures, gender, culture, and religion. All of our easel paintings are intentionally painted with their skin tones. Our library portrays characters of various backgrounds, often represented in our classroom, but also those that are not represented in our classroom. We also invite families in to share their cultures with us. We start with having the parents work with their children to put together a poster of their family, and those are wonderful; they inspire a lot of sharing with the rest of the class. The kids will be eating lunch or snack, and they get to talking about their families, and they’ll get up and go look at the poster. There is all this communication and exchange about families.
Why do we spend the first month of school talking with students about themselves?
It is important that our students are able to make authentic connections with one another and that children learn our world is diverse. We want to talk about all the reasons people are different, as well as what makes us the same.
Why do we ask students this young to consider what is special about them, considering we know they will grow and change dramatically in just the next few years?
Having the children consider what is special about them is the first step to self-love. By acknowledging each other’s uniqueness, children learn to celebrate everyone’s similarities and differences. We honor the whole child.
What can adults learn from these children’s unique perspectives and views on self and individuality?
Adults can learn not to judge; acceptance and connection across differences; appreciation for diversity; to look at the world through a non-evaluative lens. When adults commit to the challenging work of getting to know others, they model the desired behavior we are hoping to instill in our students. When adults take risks and step outside of their comfort zones, children will likely follow suit and expand their friendship circles well beyond their zip codes. Courage, empathy, and tolerance—these concepts and more will be explicitly taught throughout the entire school year. When parents elect to partner with us as we forge ahead in this journey, their child’s life skills in this area will be strengthened.