11 May

Talking with 5th Grade Students about Race Ethnicity, and Nationality

Submitted by Dr. Mirangela Buggs, Director of Diversity and Equity Engagement

In February and March, I had the pleasure of working with the 5th grade around matters of diversity and equity. Given our racially, ethnically, and culturally diverse community at D-E, Ms. Lewis and 5th grade teachers thought it was important for students to “lean-in” to some discussions that shape their lives and realities as young people.  For the first session in February, Ms. Lisa Wittner, the 11th grade Dean, came along with me, and we together created an experience for 5th graders to engage in some learning and open talk about race, ethnicity and nationality. We facilitated a workshop “Talking About Race, Ethnicity and Nationality” which involved some interactive activities and spaces for conversation. Students learned the definitions of and differences between race, ethnicity and nationality, and they were asked to work in small groups, to engage in some personal reflections, and to be in dialogue with their 5th grade peers.

In March, Upper School student members of the INSPIRE club— Autumn, Leroy, Angie, India, and Haley—along with Ms. Debbie Rivera Murphy, Upper School Director of Student activities and Community Services, Dr. Mirangela Buggs, and Ms. Wittner returned to co-facilitate a second workshop with 5th graders to help them continue the conversation. 5th graders had the opportunity to hear from, learn with and be led by older students in this important second dialogue where students reflected more deeply, sharing their personal experiences and observations about race and ethnicity in their lives and at school.

We were all so excited to do this work with 5th graders. The Upper School students, especially, were moved by the experience. They discussed later how they wished they had opportunities to talk about race, ethnicity and nationality when they were in lower school. Research shows that racial identity, attitudes about race, and racial bias develop among very young children in our society. Thus, the invitation to initiate a safe space for these conversations with young students at D-E was important, fun and hopefully impactful.