Ask any student what the hardest part of school is and the answer will surprise you. In fact, geometry and physics aren’t even on the list. Most students state that the most difficult part is learning how to fit in, dealing with students with very diverse backgrounds and experiences, and how to break down social barriers.
Seeking a solution that deals directly with the root of cliques, bullying, racism, violence and teasing, parents Yvonne and Rich Dutra-St. John started the concept of Challenge Day in 1987. The idea of Challenge Day was a way to end oppression that is found in every part of the world, and to build a connection that creates genuine empathy among people. Since its conception, Challenge Day has been featured on Oprah Winfrey’s show and is now a weekly reality show, “If You Really Knew Me” on MTV.
Challenge Day encourages participants – parents, students and educators alike – to create change by noticing how people are treating each other. Students can see what they can do to change the social environment of their school by stepping out of their comfort zones. It asks the questions most students don’t think about:
- Are people in your school treated equally?
- Do you like the way people are treated?
- Have you ever wanted to step in when someone was being bullied or teased?
- What are we pretending that we don’t see?
The goal of Challenge Day is to open up the minds of students to see others in the school community (including teachers and parents) as people, rather than the stereotypes that fit them. This allows students to embrace differences in a way that reaches far deeper and leaves a lasting impression for long term community building.
So how can you create your own Challenge Day in your school? Start by getting students involved. Making time for a Challenge or Unity Day is one way to create a welcoming classroom where students feel valued, respected and appreciated.
On this site, in the complimentary resource, “Bridge Builder Unity Day” you are provided with activities to prepare students to become advocates for a more inclusive world by:
- Using stories to bridge differences and create a more welcoming community.
- Discovering differences and similarities so that everyone feels valued and respected
- Listening to and participating in stories and activities which bring to life being an “insider” and “outsider” in various social situations.
- Becoming aware of their own prejudices and stereotypes
- Understanding how cultural pride, identity and race are impacted by racism
- Learning how to take a stand for each other to strengthen and build community.
Click here to download the BridgeBuilder Unity Day Teacher resource