The discussion was followed up with a topic that has been permeating in our classroom since the beginning of the school year. We have had many, many discussions now in Kindergarten about how our words (and deeds) matter. We have discussed how what we choose to say (and do)- scary, mean, and disrespectful things to others or around others, this impacts us (and others) in many different ways. I chose this as a perfect introduction to the book I had planned to read today, an excerpt about "Rosa Parks" from a book titled Heroes for my Daughter by Brad Meltzer. The passage began with the words, "Yes, she was tired..."
Immediately after reading the book, the children were asked to each grab a chair and arrange them in a bus-like configuration. They were then asked to stand in a line and were given instructions as to how to, where to, when to, and who could enter the bus. (By the way, a different scenario was given for each reenactment to ease some of the angst of such a young crowd.) Those with a sticker on their hands, those with hats, girls only, boys only, etc. could walk in front of everyone else in line, enter the "bus" first, sit in the front or wherever they wanted, and could enter through the front door and walk through the bus to their seat. Others had a different set of expectations. After our game, we discussed our feelings about each scene and gave mixed reviews.
One child stated, "That was the worst game I ever played!"
Another child said, "I liked it. It was fun. I like games."
Yet another child said, "This game is boring. I had to miss the bus because it pulled off before I had a chance to get back on.... after I paid my money in the front....(I had to) get off... and the bus driver decided to pull off (without him)!"
A fourth child also stated that they did not like that they had to "waste money paying again for the next bus" when it pulled off without them. Two children witnessing the situation offered to give up their seats to the ones that were left behind at the bus stop. Another child, frustrated in one scenario, beamed when they had an opportunity to sit where they wanted in the next. Someone else said, "At least I got a seat." Another child giggled at the beginning of the game and said, "My skin is white, I get to sit in the front." Still other children chose to sit in the back of the bus even though they were technically allowed to sit in the front. All of the children were speechless when, in one bus stop scene, the bus driver drove by with an empty bus and did not stop to pick up anyone.
Further discussion revealed other impromptu feelings that the children had on the subject.
One child commented that, "When we had the turn when 'only the boys' were able to sit in the front, that was like how the Taliban women are treated."
Another Kindergartner remembered the bad feelings felt by one of his classmates of German descent during our Titanic/Lusitania activity back in the fall when someone said that they "did not like the Germans."
|photos by val o. tibbs-wynne|
The Heroes for my Daughter passage ended with "... For standing up for herself-by sitting down-Rosa Parks ignited a movement."
After our morning discussion and activity I thought hmmmmm..."ignited"... like igniting a bomb......like an explosion...... like blowing things up...blowing up ignorance, old ways, and complacency... igniting thought- fresh and innocent, and new ...new ideas and change....and hope. It was an interesting choice of words.
As I have mentioned in the past, Yes, Kindergarten age is young to introduce the subject of racism and prejudice, but not too young. As a matter of fact, some studies suggest that the longer we wait to discuss these topics, the more likely (and difficult) it is for us to be open to them and to change one's mind. One resource on the topic is titled, The First R: How Children Learn Race and Racism by Debra Van Ausdale and Joe R. Feagin
*Feel free to also read the Kindergarten Capers blog post dated January 26, 2012.
Have a peaceful weekend!
(Above & below) The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, across from the National Mall, Washington D.C.