Submitted by Sophia Dorner, Ericka Collado, Ed. D, and Jennifer Koteles on behalf of the Lower School Diversity Professional Learning Group (Madison Farrar, Ashley Gray, Sandra Harrison, and Mary Heveran)
“In union there is strength.”
Our Diversity Values statement reads “The worth and dignity of every person at all levels of work, study, and play are paramount at Dwight-Englewood across any artificial lines of exclusion.”
In aligning with this mission, the Lower School sought to become one with the Middle and Upper School during two special days of reflection in April-Holocaust Remembrance Day and A Day of Silence. The Diversity Professional Learning Committee under the guidance of our new Director of Equity & Diversity Engagement, Dr. Mirangela Buggs, took hold of the vision with a slightly different focus. The days leading up to Wednesday, April 11th, A Day of Unity, and Friday, April 27th, A Day of Acceptance were used to prepare students for a school-wide emphasis on love, kindness, individuality and acceptance.
Wednesday, April 11, 2018-A Day of Unity:
To connect our students to the continued celebration of our commonalities and differences as they experience the concepts of unity and peace, we used the transformative art pieces created with Maureen Bennett last year. Bennett, a visual artist, who works in oils, acrylics, pastels, graphite, mixed media and collage helped us to create Giant Eames cards with photographs of each child’s hands holding a decorated egg they created on top of a color-coded backdrop. A group photo with all of the eggs for each grade was taken showing the children the unification of their class, and grade level, bringing the focus back to unity and peace for us all. For the Diversity Professional Learning Committee this was important because this final concept solidifies the idea of how we need to unify despite our differences to stamp out hate that leads to disharmony in the form of hate crimes and atrocities like genocide. Last year’s Eames cards were distributed to the grades that the children are currently in so that they could revisit their work, with our youngest children, preschool 3 and 4, receiving the cards of our 5th grade graduates.
The classroom teachers led all children in reading and/or viewing the story The Crayon Box That Talked by Shane Derolf. They guided the children into reconfiguring the Eames cards to create a “Unity Tower”, as well as led the children in completion of a new art and literacy activity. In this activity, all children decorated their own crayon with their photo or self-portrait at the center. Students then used the other side to respond to the sentence starter “I am unique because…”. Crayons and towers were displayed in the halls for all to see.
Friday, April 27, 2018-A Day of Acceptance
Our support of the Day of Silence, is presented as A Day of Acceptance, and actually began the Friday before the national day of recognition with the creation of a Peace & Unity chain by the students of the Lower School. This chain was created using a specific color to represent each grade level. Each student was provided with a single strip of colored construction paper on which to write a word or draw a simple picture of encouragement. Classroom teachers linked the strips for their classes and then strips were linked by grade. The end product was delivered to the Upper School GSA as a gift of support to be used at their assembly program on Monday, April 23rd.
On April 27th teachers shared with their students that at D-E we believe in treating everyone fairly and equally. National Day of Silence is a day when some gay and lesbian people and their families and friends choose to be silent. The silence on this day is meant to show support for gay and lesbian people who are afraid to talk about who they are. The silence is meant to show others that it is wrong to treat gay and lesbian people and their families differently. Students had the option of wearing an anti-bullying sticker of support. The entire school read the story Stella Brings the Family by Miriam B. Schiffer. Each grade had a discussion about different types of families. This day and the activities align with the Dwight-Englewood diversity values statement and encourages our children to treat everyone fairly and equally because in union there is strength.