The Power of Storytelling: 7 Reasons to Incorporate Stories in Your Classroom

Download “The Power of Storytelling” here

Stories do so much more than merely entertain; they can boost brainpower, build bridges, and even impart a little wisdom. If you need a reminder about the power and promise of storytelling, here are seven wonderful—and maybe even surprising—reasons to make stories part of your teaching toolbox: 

1.        Instill values.

We all know the phrase “the moral of the story.” That’s because it’s so much easier to convey values—anything from the virtues of hard work to the need to respect others—through stories. And this educational technique has been around forever—from the Bible to Aesop’s Fables to fairy tales and nursery rhymes.

2.        Make writing easier.

If students get in the habit of telling stories, which require a sort of composition in the brain, they are likely to find the act of writing easier. They will be used to searching their memories for relevant details, organizing the narrative, and thinking about how and what they want to communicate to their audience.

3.        Nurture empathy and understanding.

By sharing our individual stories and personal histories, we tell other people who we are. And by listening to others’ stories, we learn who they are. In the classroom, listening to each other’s stories helps us see each other in new ways, to understand where other people are coming from, and what makes us all unique or the same. In this way, stories have the power to foster empathy and new connections among different groups of students.

4.        Help them make mental connections—and maybe even do better in math?

There’s a reason we use “story problems” in math class. A new study suggests that preschool children’s early storytelling abilities are predictive of their mathematical ability two years later []. This study echoes other recent research on the value of storytelling to teach the “whole brain” using the multiple intelligences and the integration of thinking in the left and right brain.

5.        Boost critical thinking.

We all know there are two sides to every story, and what better way to help students truly comprehend that than through storytelling. Just as one student’s version of an event may be quite different from another, so one nation’s perspective on history might be very different from ours. By exploring different versions of one event or story, you can open students’ minds to new ways of thinking.

6.        Pass on new language.

Just as they do in reading, listeners pick up new words and language patterns through stories. They learn new words or new contexts for already familiar words. The more stories they hear, the more they pick up on narrative patterns and start to make predictions about what will happen. That experience helps readers at all levels tackle new and challenging texts.

7.        Banish boredom.

It may seem obvious, but stories are simply so much more fun than lectures, workbooks, and the chalkboard. When students’ minds start to check out—or their bodies start to slump—reenergize the mood in the classroom with a storytelling lesson or activity.

For more ideas and resources on storytelling in the classroom,
check out the FREE resource available
Storytelling : A Toolkit for Bridging Differences & Building Community




A school is a community of people with common values and goals about the importance of education. A school is also a collection of folks with tons and tons of differences: different ages, different family and ethnic backgrounds, different physical and intellectual abilities, religious affiliations, life experiences and on and on. When we need to solve problems, it means we can have five, ten, fifteen different perspectives on how to solve them. Or all these differences can be a source of antagonism and conflict.

Maybe it seems as though we should just know how to treat each other and work together well, but it’s not always that easy, especially as our communities become more and more diverse. Just as you need to practice to play an instrument or learn math formulas or get better at a sport, learning to live and work well with all kinds of people takes skill, practice and clear guidelines or rules. Respectful conversations don’t just happen; we must plan for them to take place.

From the first gathering, have your class agree upon guidelines for respectful, productive communication. People tend to be more cooperative with rules into which they’ve had input. But don’t think that takes care of it. Don’t hang up your list of guidelines and never look at them again. Practice with your students. Ask them consistently and periodically – how are we doing with listening? How are we doing with waiting until someone else finishes before we talk? Are we expressing our opinions without putting anyone else down?


Sensitivity or censorship?

Controversy is brewing over a new edition of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, which seeks to replace all 219 instances of the “n word” with the word “slave.” While the publishers’ intent is sensitivity, many people consider the change a dangerous case of censorship.

For educators, issues like this are especially thorny. How do we teach our students about the difficult realities of history—and explore American literature’s place in that history—without creating a contentious classroom? Do we omit difficult facts and language, or do we confront them? And when we do confront them, how can we create an environment that helps our students speak openly, think critically, and exercise compassion?

Find lesson plans like What’s Racism Got To Do With Me ?, We All Have A Race and Keep the Peace! available free at: RaceBridges Studio

Schools and Cultural Biases

animated-peopleAs difficult as it may be to admit, we all have cultural biases. No one is as culturally sensitive or aware of everyone else in the world all of the time. Educators have the unique responsibility to be unbiased as part of the job description, but it’s not always an easy task. In order to manage cultural biases, it is first important to acknowledge what those biases are. 

How can teachers and schools recognize cultural bias and cope with the difficulties they present? Below are a few tips for identifying and managing cultural biases, and for helping students to do the same.


  • Research your own cultural background. Know your own heritage. Encourage your students to do the same..
  • Practice self-reflection. Journal about how you see yourself, your students, they way that you teach. Reflection produces awareness. Once aware of your own thoughts and biases, you can re-direct them..
  • Care about your students. Take the time to let students know that you care about them. Show it. Do and say things that illustrate to students that they matter to you..
  • Share with students – be vulnerable with them. Let them know your cultural traditions. This can be a little tricky in public school settings. When you share, teach your students to be open-minded and respectful. Create an environment that values an awareness and appreciation for the backgrounds of others..
  • Set aside time for students to talk about their own backgrounds. Use small groups or share as a whole class. Allow time for questions..
  • Encourage students to work with students different from themselves..
  • Do not expect one student to represent an entire culture. Do not assume that their personal experiences and traditions are true for everyone of that culture. They are individuals..
  • Investigate carefully the texts chosen for classroom use. Make sure they are culturally inclusive..
  • Differentiate lessons. That is, create lessons thoughtfully – appeal to as many different learning styles as possible. Visual, auditory, kinesthetic, cooperative, tactile, verbal, artistic, linear thinkers, non-sequitur thinkers (abstract), etc. Incorporate the use of Multiple Intelligences ( in the classroom. The more learning styles appealed to in the lessons, the less the chance will be for cultural bias to develop..
  • Dispel stereotypes. Talk about them. Prove them wrong. Share how they make people feel. Stop students when they display this behavior..
.For more ideas on the themes of bias –
others – and our own — please check out
our RaceBridges Studio site


Remember the Holocaust

images The Holocaust : National Days of Remembrance

The US Congress established the Days of Remembrance as our nation’s annual commemoration of the Holocaust.

RaceBridges remembers the Victims of the Nazi Holocaust in World War II Europe. We remember too the aging survivors of the Holocaust.

The Holocaust was the state-sponsored, systematic persecution and annihilation of European Jewry by Nazi Germany and its collaborators between 1933 and 1945. Jews were the primary victims—six million were murdered; Roma (Gypsies), people with disabilities, and Poles were also targeted for destruction or decimation for racial, ethnic, or national reasons. Millions more, including homosexuals, various faith groups, Soviet prisoners of war, and political dissidents, also suffered grievous oppression and death under Nazi Germany.

The theme of of the 2011 Days of Remembrance is Justice and Accountability in the Face of Genocide : What Have We Learned ?

RaceBridges invites you to listen to these four original short stories told by professional storytellers. These stories remember the Holocaust,  and are about people who escaped from the Holocaust and their enduring witness . . .


Use these stories for personal reflection or for student and group discussion.

Further Information :


Be inspired. Be uplifted.

Kwanzaa is an annual festival celebrated in many African American communities, churches, schools and homes December 26 through January 1.  This ritual was created in 1966 by Dr.  Karenga of California State University, Long Beach, CA.  It is celebrated throughout the USA and around the world and is born of values from Africa.

When the Kwanzaa ritual is celebrated fully there are seven values or principles that are remembered and valued on each of the days of Kwanzaa. They embody the strengths, solidarity, struggles, dignity and hopes and goals of the community.

The 7 Kwanzaa principles are :

Umoja (Unity) To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race.
Kujichagulia (Self-determination) To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves.
Ujima (Collective work and responsibility) To build and maintain community together and make our sister’s and brother’s problems our problems and to solve them together.
Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics)  To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses together.
Nia (Purpose) To make our collective vocation the building of our community to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
Kuumba (Creativity) To do as much as we can to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.
Imani (Faith)  To believe with our hearts in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness of our struggle.


The Kwanzaa seven principles have a universal message for all people – good will. These values stress the importance of uniting people through shared beliefs and acts, resulting in the strengthening and celebration of family, community, and culture.* 

In our uncertain world of unstable economies, war-torn countries, and growing concerns of safety, Kwanzaa is a holiday with harmony and joy at its crux. It brings people together – all countries, all religious traditions, all classes, all ages and generations, and all political persuasions – using the common ground of celebrating the African culture in all its historical and current diversity.*

The 7 principles or values of Kwanzaa are rich in motivation and inspiration, even if you are far from the African American community. Here are some ideas to generate some teaching modules in your classroom or school. In this article, the final four values are highlighted. (The first three Kwanzaa principles are featured in an earlier article. Scroll Down.)

Inspired by Kwanzaa, consider these activities for your classroom or group:

    • Create opportunities for students to participate in business experiences, such as: school store operations, fundraisers, cafeteria purchases, concessions, etc.
    • Allow students to vote on how certain monies will be spent, such as fundraiser money.
    • Give students chances to budget money set aside for field trips or picnics. What should the money be spent on? What are the priorities?
    • Let students complete order forms and meet with community store owners.
    • Inform students of WHY. Don’t simply teach blindly, TELL the students why they are learning a particular concept. Apply it to the real world.
    • Practice goal-setting with students. Offer incentives and rewards for successful achievement.
    • Offer opportunities for students to interact with each other in problem-solving situations.
    • Practice “green” habits in the classroom, and encourage the students to participate. Assign tasks. Recycle. Reduce electricity usage. Minimize trash.
    • Provide space for the science or consumer science departments to grow a garden, plants, or flowers. There could even be a flower sale in the spring that students could collaborate.
    • Spruce up the landscaping – let students plant along the sidewalks or front entrance of the school. There could also be seasonal crafts put together for inside the school.
    • Offer opportunities for students to show school spirit. Pep rallies. Assemblies. Clothing with school insignias that can be purchased. Talent shows. Basketball games that have students vs. teachers. Team or department contests. Challenges between grade levels.
    • Hang posters school-wide that boast school support, and encourage positive student interactions.
    • Involve parents in school activities. There are always opportunities for parents to volunteer, chaperone, or assist in activities.


*(n.d.). Retrieved 11 1, 2011, from Africa Within:


Be inspired. Be uplifted.

Kwanzaa is an annual festival celebrated in many African American communities, churches, schools and homes December 26 through January 1.  This ritual was created in 1966 by Dr.  Karenga of California State University, Long Beach, CA.  It is celebrated throughout the USA and around the world and is born of values from Africa.

When the Kwanzaa ritual is celebrated fully there are seven values or principles that are remembered and valued on each of the days of Kwanzaa. They embody the strengths, solidarity, struggles, dignity and hopes and goals of the community.  

The 7 Kwanzaa principles are :

Umoja (Unity) To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race.
Kujichagulia (Self-determination) To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves.
Ujima (Collective work and responsibility) To build and maintain community together and make our sister’s and brother’s problems our problems and to solve them together.
Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics)  To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses together.
Nia (Purpose) To make our collective vocation the building of our community to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
Kuumba (Creativity) To do as much as we can to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.
Imani (Faith)  To believe with our hearts in our people, our parents,our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness of our struggle.


The Kwanzaa seven principles have a universal message for all people – good will. These values stress the importance of uniting people through shared beliefs and acts, resulting in the strengthening and celebration of family, community, and culture.*

In our uncertain world of unstable economies, war-torn countries, and growing concerns of safety, Kwanzaa is a holiday with harmony and joy at its crux. It brings people together – all countries, all religious traditions, all classes, all ages and generations, and all political persuasions – using the common ground of celebrating the African culture in all its historical and current diversity.*

The 7 principles or values of Kwanzaa are rich in motivation and inspiration, even if you are far from the African American community.  Here are some ideas to generate some teaching modules in your classroom or school.   In this article, the first three will be highlighted. (The final four principles will be featured in an upcoming article. Scroll Up.)

Inspired by Kwanzaa, consider these activities for your classroom or group:

    • Encourage students to work together to complete school-wide tasks. Consider these ideas: canned food drives, fundraisers for the school to achieve school improvement goals, picnics, volunteerism, field trips that promote teamwork, etc.
    • Put together group projects.
    • Gather students for assemblies with community-building as the theme.
    • Encourage students to work assignments/projects through to completion.
    • Set up positive reinforcement goals with students.
    • Set goals with students – daily and future.
    • Include activities in the classroom that are both short-term and long-term.
    • Encourage students to stand up for what they know is right.
    • Set up assignments and activities that utilize groupwork and partner work.
    • Establish and enforce no tolerance policies for bullying, drug use, violence, etc. at school.
    • Create student leadership opportunities for students to excel in.
    • Design occasions for students to succeed in responsible tasks.


*(n.d.). Retrieved 11 1, 2011, from Africa Within:

Reflecting on Dr. King: Taking a Stand: Teaching Our Students to Consider Those Less Fortunate

What can students learn today about the highly influential Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.? So much is accessible for students to learn about the man and his works that it is impossible for students today to be a part of our society and not know of him. He changed our country, our mentalities about liberty and human rights. It is nothing short of amazing what one man with a powerful voice can accomplish in a fleeting period of time.

Students should be able to take away from a study of his life and accomplishments the strong set of values
that he possessed. Values that he saw as so basic, everyone should have them.

He was, and still is today, a commanding authority on the rights of the individual. He spoke for those who had no platform and no hope. He opened doors that had been sealed shut. He encouraged volunteerism and a serving spirit. 

Below is a list of service opportunities that students could participate in during the school day, either in school or in the community. There is no more fitting place for Dr. King’s values to be put into practice than with the youth of today. Explore these opportunities with your students, and let them choose  one or many to participate in. When students are allowed a voice, their voices become much stronger.

  • Organize a food drive
  • Make crafts for kids in the hospital or those in nursing homes
  • Shovel snow, rake leaves, sweep floors, etc. for neighbors
  • Paint a mural in the community
  • Clean up an area of the community that needs work (parks, for example)
  • Plant trees for the community
  • Research your community to see what their needs are
  • Help out at an animal shelter
  • Deliver meals to the elderly
  • Babysit for a single parent for an evening
  • Collect recyclables
  • Serve meals at a homeless shelter
  • Organize a clothing drive for kids in need


Explore the many free lessons, resources and videos with themes of community building and inclusion found on our web sites. 

Reality Check: Truths and Myths of the Native American People

.What do you know about the Native American culture?
.What are the stereotypes and realities?

What do today’s schools and teachers know about the Native American people?

Take the quiz below to see if you and your students can
identify the truths and myths of this culture.



  1. T or F    All Native American tribes live in tipis.This is untrue. While several tribes live in tipis, not all Native American tribes do. Encourage students to explore the dwellings of other tribes, and why tipis are not appropriate housing for all tribes.*.
  2. T or F    Native Americans worship nature and animals.False. While Native Americans hold great respect and honor for nature and animals, they do not worship them. Their belief system centers on one creator who goes by many names. Be sure to clarify the difference with students.*.
  3. T or F    A medicine man and a shaman are the same thing in Native American culture.Couldn’t be further from the truth. In Native American culture, a medicine man is someone who uses herbs to treat illness or injury. A shaman in of European descent, and have no connection to the Native American culture at all. Be sure to use correct terms when teaching students about the Native American people.*.
  4. T or F    Native Americans are lazy or refuse to work.Untrue. To understand this perception, it is necessary to know the background of this culture. Once America was “discovered,” Native Americans of all tribes were expected to completely adapt to the new culture. This meant changing beliefs, ways of life, clothing, personal appearance, dwellings, etc. When the Native Americans refused to adapt, misconceptions of work ethics developed into full-blown stereotypes that still exist today.*.
  5. T or F    Native Americans are uncivilized savages.Just plain wrong. The terms “uncivilized” and “savage” imply that these people were blood-thirsty for battle. While some Native American tribes are considered warriors (often at war), it should not be taught that every tribe was seeking to kill. Also, these words suggest that Native Americans ran about without any system of morality. Native Americans had (or still have) their own system of laws and punishment.  Living by a different set of guidelines does not characterize civility.*


*(n.d.). Retrieved 9 5, 2011, from

Fresh Ways to Explore the Gifts and Values of Black History Month in the Classroom


Black History Month is celebrated in February. Black Americans have contributed greatly to the growth of our nation. From artists to inventors. Engineers to authors. Judges to athletes. This culture has so enhanced our country that it is impossible to imagine what America would look like today without the accomplishments and ideals of black Americans.

How can schools and teachers call attention to these fine citizens and their achievements while allowing students to utilize their interests, talents, and creativity? Below are some engaging new ideas for exploring the black culture in the classroom during black history month.

  • Create a Soulfood Feast. Allow students to research or bring in recipes for soulfood. They design a placecard identifying their item (even its contents). Set up a day and time for the occasion, and students can bring in their creations that they made at home. Students can eat lunch in the classroom this day, sampling each other’s food..
  • Put together an internet scavenger hunt. List questions that highlight the gifts and values of black history month and have students research online to find the answers. Provide the websites where students will be doing this searching.
  • Offer an unfair or prejudice activity. Divide class into teams. Make this a trivia contest, but gradually let students see that only certain groups receive much easier questions. Once students recognize this, lead a discussion about how it felt to be treated differently or unfairly and how it felt to watch others be treated unfairly. Tie this into the theme of black history month..
  • Check to see if any local theater groups have performances centered around the holiday, and take students to a live performance..
  • Contact your local public libraries. There will often be special activities arranged here that would tie to black history month..
  • Have students research a famous black American. Then, they could create a 3D display of this person for the class or the school. Include pictures/photos, quotes, accomplishments, etc. on the display. Everyone can go on a gallery walk to view each other’s works. Consider offering prizes for the most creative, detailed, thorough, etc. works.

For further units related to Black History and many other diversity themes go to : RaceBridges Studio

Celebrating Black History Month

……………bhm-back….. ..

Celebrating Black History in Classrooms, Group or For Private Reflection

Here is a selection of units and lesson plans for use in Black History
Month or for any time . . .


Celebrating Black American Arts

This short, but flexible lesson plan provides a variety of options for students to become familiar with African American culture including through research and presentation.  Options include the contributions of African Americans to dance, art, music, food/cuisine, and science.

Download Celebrating Black American Arts (PDF)


Connecting The Dots:

Racism, Activism, & Creating a Life
by Storyteller Michael McCarty

African American Storyteller Michael McCarty tells his true story Connecting the Dots: Racism, Activism & Creating a Life.

Racism in Chicago … the Black Panthers …Activism and the institution … Expulsion from High School …. Drugs …. Searching … Journeys around the world … Stories and people that shape us ….Ways and paths to self-discovery … With humor and hope the storyteller “connects the dots” in his life.

Invite your students in to explore their responses to McCarty’s challenges, dead-ends and the people and events that shaped his life’s journey.

Let Michael McCarty’s story inspire conversation among your students (and faculty) about the issues of racism, standing up for one’s beliefs, working for change in the world and in our lives and the power of stories to inspire and connect.

Complete text and audio download of this story come in a short version and a long version.   Connecting the Dots is an ideal discussion starter for college age, young adults and justice and peace groups. Lesson Plan provides questions and activities..

Click here for Connecting the Dots


We All Have a Race: Addressing Race and Racism

A lesson plan that helps students to understand the concept of race better, to distinguish between prejudice and racism, and to learn ways to stand up against racism and to act as allies with students of different races. This is a basic beggining unit to consider race and racism with respect and discovery.  Teacher guide and student activities.

Click here for We All Have A Race


A White Girl Looks at Race:

Davey Crockett; Us vs Them; The Dr. King March

3 Short Stories by Storyteller Susan O’Halloran

Three  short stories set in Chicago in the 1960′s amid racial separation, change and conflict.

Susan O’Halloran tells of meeting her first Black child as a young child herself, of the racial attitudes in growing up on the southwest side of Chcago and her memories of feeling’locked in’ when Dr. Martin Luther King came to march blocks from her home.    Gripping and moving stories of the past, challenges for the present.  Texts, teacher guide and student activities with audio downloads.

Click here for A White Girl Looks at Race


From Flint Michigan to Your Front Door:

Tracing the Roots of Racism

By Storyteller La’Ron Williams

African American Storyteller La’Ron Williams tells about his experience growing up in Flint, Michigan, where he felt nurtured by a supportive African-American community. Yet even at an early age, Williams knew there were threats to his safety when he saw on the front cover of Jet Magazine the picture of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old boy who had been killed by bigoted Whites in the South.

From that jarring moment onward, Williams describes the experience of growing up in parallel worlds: a Black world that loved and mentored him and a White world that, even in its most benign expression, assumed a “neutral status” that for African-Americans was neither neutral nor benign. Using examples from the media and from his own experiences in a town divided by racial tension, Williams creates a story that tells the truth about American racial hierarchy while also offering hope for all those eager to transcend its legacy. Full text of story, audio downloads and student activities included.

Use this story as a way to introduce topics related to race, to deepen your conversations about the distinctions between personal and institutional racism, to address race and unconscious bias in the media, or to provide another way to celebrate African-American Heritage Month in February

Click here for From Flint Michigan to Your Front Door


Icebreakers !

Student Groups: Strategies that Facilitate Positive Interactions

How many of us have felt uncomfortable approaching someone new to a group we are used to? Unsure of what to say to them? Worry that they may find us strange or abnormal? Concerned that we may not have anything in common with this new person? Students are no different. They encounter regular situations of interacting with someone unfamiliar. Below are some helpful activities for creating warm, welcoming atmospheres for students in your classroom who are not afraid to spend time with someone different from themselves. 

Begin the school year (or new term) with icebreaker activities that allow all students to interact with one another simultaneously. Leveling the playing field makes group interactions much less intimidating for all. Below are a few examples of icebreakers:


Identify and Match a Pair!

  • List out several pairs of items that belong together such as peanut butter/jelly, salt/pepper, pencil/paper, chair/table, chips/salsa, milk/cookies, cheese/crackers, etc. (Feel free to add cultural pairs, celebrities, fictional or historical characters, etc.).
  • Write the items on notecards, one item per card.
  • Randomly tape one card to the back of each student. (Make sure that you have a match for every item. You may need to participate if you have an odd number of students.)
  • Students must ask yes/no questions of other classmates to try to figure out the item taped to their back.Once students have determined their own items, they must seek out their matching pair..

Snowball Fight!

  • Each student writes down three bits of information about themselves on three separate sheets of paper – no names on the papers.
  •  Have students crumple up the papers into balls.
  • Snowball fight for 30 seconds! (Students love this part!)
  • When time is up, students retrieve 3 random papers.
  • Each student reads the papers, and the class tries to determine who is described on each paper..

Who Is It?

  • Create a list of experiences (at least as many as there are students) that students can relate to.  Students must go around the classroom and ask classmates who identifies with each experience. Only one name can be recorded on the list for each experience. This requires all students talk to every other student in the room, while minimizing the fear of approaching someone new because everyone is doing this. Here are some sample experiences to include on the list:
    • Hates broccoli
    • Broke a bone
    • Traveled to or lived in a foreign country
    • Speaks more than one language
    • Has more than 3 siblings
    • Plays an instrument
    • Has gone camping
    • Has been on a boat
    • Has attended a concert.

Tons more ideas


Write a Bio-Poem! This is an 11-line poem that students complete about themselves, and then share with the class. It is a great way for students to learn about each other, while developing more comfort with others in the room. Below is a link where you can find the template for this type of poem:



If you like this subject you will enjoy RaceBridges resource

INCLUDING EVERYONE: Small Changes to Create a Welcoming Classroom

Building Bridges

Bridging the Different Worlds of our Students


America today is filled with people from all over the world – different cultures, different customs, different beliefs, different religions, different backgrounds. American classrooms need to reflect that, and need to use the varying backgrounds of its students to facilitate the learning of its students. After all, students learn most effectively when new material is built on a foundation that is familiar to them.

How can teachers effectively teach lessons in multicultural classrooms? How can classrooms become inclusive to all students?   Below are some tips to help schools and teachers celebrate the diversity in the school, and use that diversity to reinforce academic lessons in the classroom:

  • Hang up a world map in your classroom, and have students put a pin in the area where they (or their family) is from. Then, use the map as a conversation starter to build understanding and awareness in the students..
  • Have multicultural literature available for students to peruse in your classroom. Use the books in lessons, or allow class time for students to browse through the books on their own..
  • Bring in artifacts for students to examine. Anything “hands-on” allows students to connect more effectively with the culture..
  • Have a cultural food day in the school. Allow students to bring in samples of a favorite cultural food. Students can tell about the food: where it is from, what is in it, when it is eaten, how it is made, why it is a favorite for them, etc. Students can taste other cultures in this activity, and can talk about the experience in the classroom. This could be a fantastic project with both academic and personal gains..
  • Use cultural stories as journal prompts or other writing activities. Anything that students can relate to personally is much easier and more effective than random subjects..
  • Encourage group work. Create projects and activities that require partners or small groups of students to work collectively and cooperatively to achieve a set goal/purpose. Outline the project guidelines and grading procedures, so that students know what is expected of them. Allow them to make decisions and solve problems as a group..
  • Create a project that focuses on researching and designing a display about the countries represented in your classroom. Assign countries to small groups of students, and have them put together information about that country. You might include maps, flags, customs, history/background, photos, etc. Students can present this project to the class. Keep the displays – put them around your classroom!.
  • Play multicultural music in the classroom…
  • Invite family members to share about their background to the students.


If you like this subject you will enjoy RaceBridges resource

INCLUDING EVERYONE: Small Changes to Create a Welcoming Classroom



People march for equal rights, integrated schools, decent housing, and an end to bias. Aug. 28, 1963 in Washington D.C. Photo: Warren K. Leffler, courtesy of Library of Congress

A young black man orders a sundae at a southern lunch counter and, instead, winds up at a (black only) hospital with multiple cuts and bruises to his head, a smashed cheekbone and broken ribs. A young girl is knocked off her feet as fire hoses, strong enough to tear bark off a tree, are aimed at her and her mother. Four little girls prepare for Sunday morning services when a bomb rips through their church and ends their short lives. White, black and brown people link arms and sing “We Shall Overcome” after Dr. King’s thunderous voice declares again and again,

“I have a dream!”

For some of our students these images are long-ago history. For many of us, they are lived history. But whether we are younger or older, the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Movement in Birmingham and the 1963 March on Washington For Jobs and Freedom can be an opportunity to revitalize our dedication to creating a country that lives its ideal of “opportunity for all”.

Too often the Civil Rights movement is taught as a set of events frozen in time. We even hear that phrase “post-racialized” America as if the struggles of the Civil Rights era are done and complete. We do our students a disservice when we don’t make them aware of how rights can be won and lost and, in fact, have been several times over throughout our country’s history. The idea of progress has dominated American culture for centuries as if “onward and upward” is a guarantee. To function in civic life, students must know that American ideals are not yet reality and, therefore, as citizens, they have a very important part to play.

What solutions might our students conceive for today’s civil rights issues such as: Housing, jobs, unequal medical care, a path to citizenship for immigrants, protecting the right to vote, monitoring and enforcing civil rights laws already on the books, the wealth and education gaps between whites and people of color plus a criminal justice system which has led to a “new Jim Crow” through mass incarceration targeting men of color.

In a misguided attempt to protect our students from harsh truths or to wish the challenging parts of our country away, we may be missing a chance to re-invigorate our students’ democratic spirit. The 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Movement can be a wake-up call that “equality and justice for all” is a work in progress and an ideal about which we must be ever vigilant.

For more information:

About the events in Washington D.C.:

KEEP THE PEACE: Small changes for a big difference

As one year ends and another starts anew …
Here is a free gift for you during these
December days . . .
A RaceBridges unit called KEEP THE PEACE!


“Keep the Peace!candles32-138x300
Preparing for Conflict, Dealing with Anger and Creating Communities of Harmony”
A Teacher Resource

We celebrate the Holidays with the feasts of Hannukah, Christmas and Kwanza.We mark a brand New Year with resolutions for our students, our school and ourselves.


These occasions express the longing for renewal hope and peace.
We invite you as a teacher, leader or parent to consider the ways of peacemaking..


Creating safe, welcoming communities is the job of the entire school – teachers, administration and students..


In facing this challenge even small changes can make a big difference.This resource suggests some mini lesson plans and ideas for “keeping the peace” in your classroom or school.


Activities can be done one at a time or put together into a longer event



Peace on Earth : Winter Celebrations Encouraging Peacemaking

When snow covers the ground and temperatures dip, schools and families look forward to celebrations of the season. They may be celebrations of Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or of many other sort. Regardless of the differences in the merriment, one constant is held by each – peace.

Our country has spent years engaged in a battle to protect and ensure the survival of peace into the future. Most of today’s students, however, do not remember a time of peace in our country. For these students, all they know is our country at war. For them, it has been a lifetime of dissent. It is time to gather together in peace, to celebrate peace, and to teach our children how to respect and get along with others. How do schools and teachers begin to teach and enforce something that our country cannot seem to overcome today? What can schools and teachers do to encourage peacemaking in students?   Below are a few tips.

  • Implement and enforce a zero tolerance to bullying
  • Implement and enforce a school code of conduct
  • Involve students in activities that build school unification
  • Promote volunteerism or activities that aid communities and neighborhoods
  • Invite guest speakers to talk to students about personal experiences
  • Allow students to share personal experiences
  • Sponsor mediation activities for  students to participate in, and teach mediation strategies
  • Provide leadership opportunities and experiences for students
  • Study the peace aspect of different celebrations, different cultures, and different time periods
  • Read about times when choices were made that did not reflect peace
  • Teach that it is possible to agree to disagree, and to understand without losing credibility
  • Teach that not every problem has an easy or quick solution, that it is more commonly a long process
  • Encourage students to experience setting guidelines
  • Highlight empathy .



The many lesson plans and resources on this site will
aid you with ideas and exercises for bringing inclusion
and welcome into your classroom or group.
Of special interest :  Keep The Peace ! Resource

For more like this, go to: RaceBridges Studio
RaceBridges Studio Videos


Passing for WASP


By Carol Birch




Trying to assimilate into another culture is a difficult task. In an effort to fit in with the population in their inner city and later suburban city, storyteller Carol Birch recounts personal experiences she had with this difficult task. The desire to be American has everything to do with uniqueness and nothing to do with being just like everyone else. Listen as Carol shares how her father embraced all of his cultural heritages.


Storyteller Carol Birch believes this statement: “To build a bridge from one culture into another and make pluralism a cause for celebration, we have to have one foot firmly planted in who we are.” However, in exploring her Polish and Scottish roots, Carol wonders if she’s really been living what she teaches. Join her as she recalls personal family stories of her cultural background, and celebrate as the family embraces their heritage.

Classroom Reflections & Activities:

  • Have students find out about their own cultural backgrounds, and then share these with the class.
  • Provide time for students to research what a WASP is, and why it is part of American history.
  • Give students an icebreaker activity that allows them to ask about the cultural heritages of the other students. Create a worksheet with a list of things for students to investigate about their fellow classmates, such as: find a student whose cultural heritage speaks Spanish, find a student whose cultural heritage practices a religion different from your own, find a student whose cultural heritage celebrates a holiday you are unfamiliar with, etc. This allows students the opportunity learn about others in a non-threatening way..

Watch the video now



Explore our many other free storyteller-videos and
lessons for classroom, group or individual use :
RaceBridges Studio Videos


How do you counter your biases when you feel them arise?
How do you feel about those who demonstrate bias or even racism?
Do you believe people can “unlearn” their biases?
We can manage our biases.

What we think, we become.
– The Buddha


Brain research is important to the educator.  It seems every day we hear of a new discovery about how behavior and emotions are linked to brain chemistry and development. Many traits and behaviors that were once attributed to character or upbringing can now be linked to specific sites and functions of the brain.

As teachers, we are particularly conscious of the advances in brain research as it reveals why some students excel in certain subjects while others struggle and how to differ teaching methods to capitalize on particular periods of brain development.

And what we have gained from brain research in the fields of mental health and education applies to issues of bias as well. We now understand that it “makes sense” for our brains to categorize those who differ from us and to assume that we are better than others. 

But just because it is “natural” for our brains to work this way doesn’t mean that we have to accept prejudice and discrimination as a fact. Rather, knowing how our brains work allows us to move our focus from feeling guilt about our own biased thinking and judging our students’ prejudices to learning how to counteract what our brains do naturally and teaching our brains to work in new, egalitarian ways.

Below you’ll find a classroom activity to go deeper into the issue and some ideas and thoughts to help inspire you on the journey. With a little knowledge we can remove some of the “heat” that attends most discussions about racism, stereotypes and prejudice and, instead, focus on solutions.

This brief lesson-starter suggests activities without being overly prescriptive so that you can adapt the activity to your classroom.


There is evidence that our biases can be altered: we can be “primed” so that we tap into unconscious biases or so that we avoid those biases. For example, a study was done where some subjects were told a positive story about a person from an ethnic group while others were told a negative story. Afterwards, subjects were asked to interview a member of that same ethnic group for a job. The subjects’ attitudes towards the interviewee—who behaved the same with all subjects—corresponded to the story they were told before the interview. This is an easy experiment to try with your own class and then discuss. You can design your own lesson or follow the suggestion below.


(1) Choose a bias you would like to address (gender, race, age, even another school).

(2) Create two slips of paper: one slip of paper says “Think of a [name of group] who frightened or angered you” while the other slip says “Think of a [name of group] who is a role model of leadership.”

(3) Give half of your class the “negative” slip of paper; give the other half the “positive” slip of paper. Don’t allow them to look at each others’ papers. Allow them a few minutes to write down their thoughts.

(4) When students are finished, show a picture of an anonymous person from the group you are focused on. Do not use a picture of someone students know; this will skew the results. Ask students to write down 2-4 words to describe the person in the picture. Have a few students share their opinions.

(5) When you have heard a variety of opinions, ask students to speculate about why they see the picture differently. Then ask students who see this person in a positive light to raise their hands; then ask students who see this person in a negative light to raise their hands. Finally, reveal that students were asked to think about the group in different ways before looking at the picture. Ask students if their opinion of the person in the picture corresponded to the slip of paper they were given. Discuss.

(6) Action: Ask students to discuss how they might use this new knowledge to prevent biases from clouding their attitude and behavior in the future. Have students practice this strategy for a week and then report back to class.


Lesson plans for your classroom that address our biases and encourage students to “out think” their own brains.

On this RaceBridges Studio site:


  • Fine, Cordelia. A Mind of Its Own: How Your Brain Distorts and Deceives. New York: Norton, 2006.  Chapter 8 “The Bigoted Brain” is especially helpful..
  • Gilbert, Daniel. Stumbling on Happiness. New York: Vintage, 2005.  On pages 178-87 and 191-2, Gilbert focuses specifically on bias and how we selectively choose information to support our own world view...
  • Van Hecke, Madeleine L. Blind Spots: Why Smart People Do Dumb Things. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2007.  The chapters on bias (chapter 6) and categorical thinking (chapter 7) clarify why our brain slants information to fit our biases and prefers to work in simple categories. Each chapter also offers ways to challenge these “blind spots.”


Explore the many lesson plans, resources and short videos on this RaceBridges Studio site.
Many of them deal with biases and stereotypes.

Also see our short video stories : RaceBridges Studio Videos

On the Bus: Saved by an Angel


By Jon Spelman



Imagine you are a young girl all alone traveling on a bus when suddenly, a situation erupts that could end your life. What do you do? How can you save your own life? Listen as Jon Spelman tells this suspenseful story with vivid details.


Storyteller Jon Spelman tells one of many stories from a collection of his entitled, “I Still Believe.” This particular story is told from the perspective of young girl who is in the midst of a terrifying experience that could have horrifically ended her life, were it not for the kindness of a stranger. Listen as Jon recounts this harrowing event with complete realism.

Classroom Reflections & Activities:

  • Select several of these videos to view in class focusing on youths showing kindness in their communities. Choose a few relevant to your class demographics, and create some small group discussion questions to go with each video.
  • Brainstorm with students a list of things they can do in the school for others that show kindness. Then, have students narrow list to the top three ideas and have students vote on what they think is the best idea. Implement the idea in your school. Encourage students to reach out to other students in need and show kindness.
  • Lead a class discussion on fear. Ask students to share a time when they were very scared. Find out what fear looks like and what could have been done to alleviate their fear.


Watch the video now.


Explore our many other free storyteller-videos and
lessons for classroom, group or individual use :
RaceBridges Studio Videos

Nurturing Civility in Schools

“Yes, we need civility now more than ever. The teaching of civility begins in families, is further nurtured in classrooms and schools, and comes into full bloom as students become young adults, parents, community members, and citizens. And then, hopefully, the cycle begins anew with the next generation.”      -Mary Kimball*

When we think of how we want our children to act and of how we want them to treat others, it is easy to give a clear description. It is not, however, so easy to detail how to go about teaching children to value others – their opinions, beliefs, and backgrounds.

Because civility is based on consideration and respect toward others, it is important to first teach our children to be respectful of others. How can we translate this into lessons and activities at school?   Below are a few tips for incorporating civility in your classroom and school:

  • Encourage the basics of politeness – please and thank you..
  • Model civility. SHOW how you want students to behave toward others..
  • Allow sharing by students in class, giving time for others to ask questions for understanding..
  • Stop unwanted behaviors firmly, clearly, and consistently..
  • Create a list of classroom expectations by students. If they create it, they will show ownership and more self-accountability to adhere to the expectations..
  • Construct lessons that embrace the differences of students..
  • Generate regular opportunities for students to not only interact with one another positively, but collaborate with each other. Group projects, presentations, class activities, etc..
  • Make time to discuss cultural backgrounds. Celebrate whenever possible..
  • For a smile, visit the link below detailing George Washington’s Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior.(It would be nice if many of them could be used in schools today, though!)


*Kimball, M. (2011, 3). Retrieved 5 12, 2012, from Weilenmann School of Discovery:


.For further ideas and classroom activities on civility see RaceBridges
resource Be Civil ! and Keep the Peace.

Civil Rights : Not so well-known, but No Less Essential

The Little Rock Nine

As we settle in this February to observe the accomplishments of so many notably important and influential black leaders, let us celebrate those who are not as easily recognized as champions of civil rights. Take the time to share with students many relevant black Americans who impacted the growth of our nation to become a land of the free. Many people and organizations helped to lay the foundation and framework for the Civil Rights Movement. Below is a list of some very important black Americans/organizations and their footprints that helped to lead the way for more prominent leaders who facilitated change.

Individuals & Organizations Important to the Foundation of the Civil Rights Movement:

  • Edgar Daniel (E.D.) Nixon – NAACP Montgomery chapter President; worked closely with Rosa Parks
  • Congress of Racial Equality (CORE)
  • Freedom Riders
  • Interstate Commerce Commission
  • Freedom Summer
  • Greensboro Four – Ezell Blair Jr., David Richmond, Franklin McCain, and Joseph McNeil
  • Ralph Johns
  • Stokely Carmichael
  • Little Rock Nine
  • Carpetbaggers and Scalawags
  • Freedman’s Bureau

Visit these sites for some great videos and valuable bits of information:



Explore the free resources and lessons
that focus on Black History Month and
many other Diversity themes for your
classroom, school or organization..



Not just another day off : How teachers can help students celebrate Dr. King’s Birthday

Dr. King Day : Turning Dreams Into Deeds

On January 16, will your students be thinking about the real reason for the national holiday? Or will they simply think of it as one part of a nice three-day weekend?

For so many students — and teachers alike — the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. is just another day off, rather than an active celebration of the life of America’s most prominent peacemaker. White students in particular may not think this holiday has much to do with them. And with an African-American leader in the White House, today’s young people may be thinking that racism is a thing of the past — a problem for older generations, not theirs. But in spite of great strides made since the Civil Rights era, racism still presents serious challenges for America. 

King Day offers a timely opportunity to remind students of these challenges, and encourage them to reverse the damaging beliefs, behaviors and systems associated with discrimination. So what can you do? The educators at RaceBridgesforSchools, a nonprofit initiative that offers free lesson plans on diversity and community-building, have these suggestions to help you bring Dr. King’s message and mission into your school.

  1. Promote service learning.Many people are not aware of the service component of the holiday: in 1994 Congress designated the King Holiday as a national day of volunteer service. Instead of a day off, Congress asked Americans of all backgrounds and ages to celebrate Dr. King’s legacy by serving the community. Do this at your school by organizing a day of service: students can serve at a soup kitchen, plant trees or deliver meals to homebound persons..
  2. Write a commitment pledge to racial unity at your school. King Day is an excellent time to develop and commit to a pledge against racism. Get students and faculty engaged in the process where all can contribute in a reflective and honest way to write this pledge. Have the completed pledge printed up in a large format, and encourage school administrators to adopt the pledge, distribute it, and have the students say it together at a special time during the week before King Day..
  3. Start an anti-racism or diversity club for students and/or faculty.Now’s a great time to form a group that focuses on many of the challenges Dr. King spoke of. You can begin by discussing issues and themes of ethnic and racial differences and conflicts at your schools, and move on to consider what positive actions you would like to take as a group to address these issues..

Martin Luther King’s son, Dexter, in a speech initiating the national holiday for his assassinated father, said, “The holiday for my father is not just for black people…the holiday for the birthday of my father is for all people of goodwill everywhere.” As schools work to recognize and celebrate Dr. King’s legacy, MLK Day can become more than a day off, and a more meaningful celebration for students of all backgrounds.

For more ideas about celebrating the birthday
of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. –and resources and
lesson plans for encouraging diversity year round —
visit RaceBridges Studio

New special takes a fresh look at diversity in America

In his new special on the USA Network, Tom Brokaw examines the current state of racism, religious freedom, and civil rights in the U.S., and shares stories of Americans working to reach across barriers, change attitudes, and foster more united communities.

View the special here:

“Bridging the Divide” explores not only how America’s population has changed in the nearly fifty years since the beginning of the civil rights movement but also looks at the impact of the economy, technology, and social media on modern American perspectives. By introducing the “champions of change,” ordinary citizens doing extraordinary work, the program also highlights new ways we can all help to overcome intolerance and injustice.

Find free lesson plans like Claim It!, 10 Ways to Educate For Anti-Racism, Seeking Harmony: Create a High School Diversity Club at RaceBridges Studio

Reflections on Minidoka



Searching for a resource for Japanese American experiences in World War II relocation camps? Alton Chung tells the true story of his journey and encounter with an 89 year old former internee who made her first visit after 66 years. This personal and challenging story is food for thought for all of us.


Alton Chung relates the true story of his journey to the Minidoka Relocation Camp site at Hunt, Idaho and of his encounter there with an 89 year old former internee. She was 23 years old when she left this Japanese American incarceration camp and this was her first visit back to the site after 66 years.

Touring the old camp evokes emotions and thoughts of loved ones and life at Minidoka during World War II. The internee shares personal memories of that time and how the internment affected her life. The story provides a view of relocation camps that allows us to experience the difficulties encountered and, hopefully, encourages us to think differently about others.

Classroom Applications:

  • Create a webquest (an online scavenger hunt) for students to uncover information about incarceration camps
  • Visit a WWII museum
  • Write journal prompts for students to respond to daily.

Watch the video now



Explore our many other RaceBridges videos for
Asian American Month or any other time of the year.


nahm-2011-450November brings us Thanksgiving  — one of the biggest holidays in our country.  It is a special time of year where we are reminded of our blessings, and encouraged to express gratitude for all that we have.

November is also Native American Heritage Month. As educators we carry the responsibility to address the complicated and painful aspects of our history that occurred between the pilgrim settlers and Native people of this land.

November also gives us the opportunity to become more familiar with the contemporary life of the First Nations People  The more we learn the more we are able to transform our disappointments and anger over the past into action today working together for a more just world. 


This classroom activity leads students through a process of observing, reflecting and posing questions in response to images of European settlers and Native American or First Nation people to explore issues of inclusion and exclusion today.

This activity can be built around images in your textbook, images around the school, or through the resources available through the Library of Congress website:

First, ask your students to make OBSERVATIONS along the following lines:

What do you notice first?  What is small but interesting to you?  What do you notice that you can’t explain?

Next ask your students to share REFLECTIONS on where the images came from.  Why do you think somebody made this? Who do you think was the audience for this item?  If someone made this today, what would be different?

Finally, ask you students to pose some QUESTIONS in response to the images.

Who…?  What…?  When…?  Where…?  Why…?  How…?

Ask students to draw contemporary parallels to the way that Europeans and Native people were portrayed.  For homework, ask students to bring in images from current media that reflect similar themes of exclusion between people today.  Ask students to present on the images by making observations, sharing reflections, and posing questions.

You could make these images into a collage and use it as the starting point for a class pledge for a more thoughtful Thanksgiving holiday.

Classroom Pledge:

This Classroom or Group Pledge is a way to draw together the main outcomes of your sessions with your students about Native Americans.   This text is simply a model that

can be developed in your own situation and context – with a few students or many students

or participants,

As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving table, let us remember that we are part of creating history today with our actions.  We’ll do what we can to be inclusive in our own lives.

Today we remember those who have been left out of the discussion, the decision-making and the fellowship of our school and of our country.

We remember times during which we have been left out or we have excluded others.  And we remember times when others have extended their hands in welcome to us or when we have been the ones to include others.

May we remember to include all people at the tables at which we sit in the future.  There is room for all of us.

Ideas for Lesson Plan Starters :

  • Students could read the Presidential Proclamation of Native American Heritage Month and then investigate the people the President refers to as distinguished “inventors, entrepreneurs, spiritual leaders, and scholars”..


  • Students could do a very local and current assessment of issues of power today by focusing on what groups are not “at the table” of decision making at your school or in the community;
  • Students could research what Native tribes lived or live in your region and investigate the particulars of those communities now;
  • Students could research the stories of how their families came to the United States, where they settled, who used to live there, who lives there now and then share those stories during class time..

Reminders for Teachers

  • Remember that conversations about power and historical accuracy can be complicated and uncomfortable for students on all sides of the issue.
  • Lay the groundwork to create a non-judgmental climate in the classroom to honestly explore these issues.
  • Research Native history and contemporary life in your region so that treatment of these questions is not only historical, but also present.


RaceBridges Resources

Go to these RaceBridges lessons on this site for further exploration . . .

  • New – Celebrating Native American Culture and Encouraging Awareness. Streamlined Lesson Plan.
  • The Spirit Survives : The American Indian Boarding School Experience: Then & Now by Storyteller Dovie Thomason. Lesson Plan and audio download with classroom activities.
  • Search Across the Races : by Storyteller Gene Tagaban. A Native American Looks  at his mixed identities. Lesson Plan and audio download with classroom activities.
  • New – Gratitude.  Streamlined Lesson Plan and classroom activity for around Thanksgiving.
  • Thanksgiving : Who Is Missing From The Table ? Reflections and activities around Thanksgiving for classroom, school or group use.  Resource.

Other Recommended Resources


You can find many other lesson plans and videos
on a variety of diversity issues and themes
at RaceBridges Studio and RaceBridges Studio Videos


Name Calling: Effects and Prevention Tips for the Classroom

We all have experienced the shame, frustration, and hurt associated with name-calling. Name calling is purposefully hurtful, as the whole premise behind the activity is to cause pain. Some students simply enjoy hurting others, while others join in to avoid being targeted themselves.

Name-calling can have long lasting effects on students, and schools need to be as proactive as possible with this highly prevalent form of bullying. Below are some general effects that name-calling can have on students, as well as some tips for creating a classroom and school that strives to build strong, capable, and well-rounded students.


  • Low self-esteem
  • Depression
  • Bullying of others
  • Suicide
  • Irritability
  • Moodiness
  • Poor grades
  • Decreased appetite


Explore the many free lessons, resources and videos with themes of community building and inclusion found on our web sites. 

Music That Heals

Few things in life are easier to identify with than music. It can heal a broken spirit, celebrate life, share a story, vent a frustration, make a point, and bring people together. Language often doesn’t matter – emotion does. Feel the music, and you can understand the message.

Students struggle with understanding new or unfamiliar concepts – both academically and socially. They learn best when there is a strong foundation of knowledge first, that is, something that they already know. Students love music. Find out what music they like, and use it to build understanding. Teach a new concept with it. Use music to build empathetic relationships between your students. Find common ground in dissonance and ignorance through song. 

Does your classroom feel like a battle ground? Is there dissension amongst your students? Do you see bullying or gang issues on the rise in your school? Is classroom management more prevalent than instruction in your classroom? Try using cultural music, and watch the positive effect it has. Below are a few examples of how to bridge cultural gaps in your school through music:

  • Listen to it – play music quietly in the background during work times.
  • Incorporate cultural music when studying specific cultures. For example: when discussing Japan’s role in WWII, share music of that culture; when reading works of literature by a Middle-Eastern author, listen to music of that culture, etc.
  • Find and make available any cultural instruments. Encourage students to share talents if they know how to play an instrument shown, or if they can perform any cultural music.
  • Create projects that allow students to research a particular genre of music relevant to the time period being studied.
  • Study the lyrics of cultural music and their meanings. Connect them to figurative language in Language Arts.
  • Build artwork around the sound of the music..



Besides building bridges with music, there are
many other creative ways to open the eyes and ears
of your students to people who are different than themselves.

Consider the short videos at RaceBridges Studio Videos



Multicultural Education: Making Sure Everyone is Included

The world today is filled with many different cultures. An important job of education, then, is to draw attention to these cultures – their values, traditions, and people.  It is through this awareness that all students will feel a sense of belonging and worth, and will be able to respect those around them who may be different from themselves.

How can schools make sure this happens – that everyone is included?   Below are a few tips for creating a multicultural classroom:

  • Support cultural curiosity. Encourage questions and discussions on culturally based topics.
  • Show respect. Facilitate discussions on stereotyping and bias, and its negative effect on others.
  • Be open. Discuss individual backgrounds and customs as a class.
  • Discuss similarities. Share with students the values that nearly all cultures connect with: peace, justice, equality, freedom, compassion, etc.
  • Include educational materials that carry a diverse voice. For example, math story problems and grammar exercises should use multicultural names, readings should address various cultural traditions or should be of culturally diverse authors, and art projects should include typical cultural objects or crafts.
  • Empathize. Put yourself in students’ shoes. Recognize what it might be like if you were in their place.
  • Educate yourself. Attend workshops and in-services that enlighten, read books and articles that inform, participate in trainings that promote awareness..


The many lesson plans and resources on this site will aid you with ideas and exercises for bringing inclusion and welcome into your classroom or group.

See : RaceBridges Studio and RaceBridges Studio Videos


Mr. D’s Class


By Antonio Sacre


Some of the most poignant and beautiful writings are created by students simply sharing their life circumstances with one another. Powerful and moving, this story told by Antonio Sacre is a true personal experience that shows that anything is possible and that all students should dream big. Listen as Antonio relates his time spent with a class of high school seniors, the connection he made with them, and their remarkable achievements.


Thirty teenagers from twenty countries, one Jewish teacher, and one Cuban-Irish-American storyteller (story artist, Antonio Sacre) set out to publish a book of writing in one of the poorest and most challenging high schools in Los Angeles. Will fear and distrust stop the project before it begins, or will they stand together?

Classroom Reflections & Activities:

  • Big project: have students create a class anthology of their own. What would their story be?
  • Introduce a poetry assignment to students that talks about who they are – struggles, talents, dreams, etc. Bio-Poems are great examples of this type of work.
  • Brainstorm with students several questions they think would be important to know about someone. Then, have students interview each other. Interviewing sessions could be videotaped and class biographies could be created.


Watch the video now


Explore our many other free storyteller-videos and
lessons for classroom, group or individual use :

RaceBridges Studio Videos


We already know that Columbus did not “discover” America as there were people hairalready living here. But what if some of the first to settle in the northern hemisphere weren’t even First Nations but Asians?

A team of Danish scientists have uncovered a tuft of dark brown hair in Greenland that has led them to theorize that 4000 years ago there was a tribe of humans that trekked from North Asian to settle into what is now called Greenland. The DNA collected from the hair traces back to Asians, not Native Americans or the Inuit people who live there now.

This suggests that the first humans to colonize the American Arctic were Asians/Siberians, distinct from the first people who arrived in America more than 14,000 years ago.

Of course, the research goes on but the theory suggests that the travels of early Asian groups may have been wider than previously considered and that perhaps there were multiple migrations from the Bering region into the American Arctic.



Groups build their identity by saying who they are. There’s nothing wrong with that. But when we go beyond a description of who we are and start to place judgment on who’s “more than” and who is “less than”, we get in trouble. We human beings are endlessly creative at coming up with these better than’s and less than’s. Therefore, we are limitless in how many prejudices we can have.

One way to identify your prejudices is to think of any group with which you identify –city dweller/country kid, athlete/theater person, smart/not interested in academics, Republican/Democrat. Then, identify any groups viewed as different from or in actual opposition to your group.

Trust me, if any group is seen as opposite or very different from your group, you will have been given some misinformation about them. Catholics have been given misinformation about Protestants and Protestants misinformation about Catholics. Young misunderstand old and old misunderstand young. Smokers think nasty thoughts about non-smokers and non-smokers say negative things about smokers.

What jokes do people tell about a neighboring state to yours? If you live in Minnesota, you know the Wisconsin jokes, but you don’t necessarily know what they say in Montana about people who live in Idaho. It’s almost like sibling rivalry. You’ll mock your brother or sister because they’re in close proximity and you’re defining yourself against them.

Groups also define themselves in part by who they are not – nothing wrong with that. It’s just when we start to rank who’s cool (us) and who’s not (them) that we get in trouble.

As a human being we have a limitless supply of prejudices. Sometimes, no matter what we do, we can’t seem to get rid of our initial negative judgment about individuals or groups of people. Often we learned our stereotypes and prejudices when we were frightened and we can’t seem to stop that first emotional reaction that goes on inside of us.

However, here’s the good news: if we become conscious of our judgments, we can stop ourselves before we ever treat someone badly. That’s called managing your prejudice and that’s something you, all of us, can do.

Making Promises : Creating a Diversity Pledge

The Benefits of Creating a Diversity Pledge in Your School

What is a diversity mission statement?

Basically, this is a statement that tells what the school’s purpose is in reference to diversity. It should tell why they have this purpose, what they believe, and the goal they hope to achieve for the future of diversity in the school.  diversitypledge

What is a diversity pledge?

This is a promise, or an oath, made in support of diversity. Often completed with a simple signature, this is a powerful action. It brings with it a strong sense of what the future should look like.

What are the benefits of diversity mission statements and pledges?

  • Mission statements bring clarity and understanding to students, families, and communities about how your school connects with diversity. It tells what your school believes, and how it incorporates those beliefs in everyday school functions and activities..
  • Diversity pledges solidify commitments from participants – students, staff, teachers, and administration. It establishes a set of expectations to be enforced. Pledging to support diversity at your school is a promise to adhere to respectful and inclusive behaviors and attitudes..
  • Diversity mission statements and pledges form bonds, foster respect, and build trust within a school..
  • Unlike so many other things in life, these bring people together. Despite their differences, mission statements and pledges provide unity..
  • They encourage new experiences, and support the pursuit of knowledge of the world we live in..
  • They build strong people skills, as diversity in classrooms allows students to work collectively with students of other cultures..

How can you rally your students and school toward diversity pledging?

Schools can often supplement or reinforce the pledge through the use of T-shirts, buttons, wristband, pencils, banners, posters, flyers, and leadership groups.

Check out this website for great examples of mission statements for your school:

Check out this website for simple directions on how to write your own mission statement:

Making A Difference This New Year

At about this time of year, our New Year’s resolutions can begin to wane. Our doubts creep in and we can begin to think we’re too insignificant to make a difference in our own lives, let alone anyone else’s. However, add a little imagination and who knows what we can come up with? Here are three examples.

Two neighbors in a small American town far removed from the Middle East were discussing the tragedies taking place in those countries. They came to the conclusion that despite being so far from these tragedies, there had to be something that they could do, and voila! They came up with the idea to bring Israeli and Palestinian youth to their north suburban neighborhood for a program of four weeks of peace and fellowship. That program ran for three summers, touching the lives of over 40 young people.

In another example, a doctor relayed a story of how one day – while he was in the middle of surgery! – he realized that he and the doctor assisting him were both presidents of their respective religious congregations, one a mosque and one a synagogue. They decided at that moment to bring their congregations together to create a dialog between them. The two congregations had several surprisingly open and heartfelt meetings, visiting each other’s places of worship and learning about each other’s religious and cultural heritages. This interfaith work has continued in various other forms into the present.

The third example centers on a leadership program for high school students, in which  students were tasked with the creation of service projects. One year, some students came up with the idea of holding a Senior Prom in which they would invite Seniors – that is, senior citizens – and hold an intergenerational dance.

Over the backyard fence, in the school or work hallways or, even over surgery, it’s so easy to complain about what isn’t working. But these people asked instead, “What can we do?”

This is the time of year when New Year’s Resolutions start to fall away. But, maybe, our ideas of what we could accomplish or inspire this year haven’t been large enough to excite and motivate us.

Ask yourself, “How can I turn my frustrations and concerns into a force for good? How can I make a difference in the world this new year?”

Majority Becomes Minority: The Browning of America

images3America is in the midst of a big growth spurt – a wave of increases in the populations of minorities. The Hispanic communities all over the country are swelling in numbers, and are now the largest ethnic minority group in America – totaling 16% of the entire country’s population. Furthermore, it is projected that it will reach 30% of the population by the year 2050.*

*Hispanic Heritage Month. (2007). Retrieved 8 1, 2011, from

How will this rapid and vast growth affect America’s schools and students? How do schools address the huge influx of Hispanic students in schools?

  • Textbooks and other student materials will need to adapt to include this change in population, like they have adapted in previous circumstances (gender inclusion, for example)
  • ESL, ELL, and bilingual programs and teachers will increase in schools as the population increases
  • Differentiation in lessons and activities will continue to be a necessity, even a requirement
  • Lessons involving awareness, acceptance, and tolerance will be mainstays
  • Respect for others and their system of values will become more and more relevant
  • Family support will be essential in schools, parents will need to really step up to back student learning

In sum, families and schools will need to seriously work together toward student academic achievement. It is no longer enough for only schools to accommodate the needs of its population. Communities will need to avail programs to facilitate adults in the learning of the English language, so that families can better partner with schools.

Our government needs to re-evaluate how funding reaches schools, and how students are tested. Schools cannot handle the massive increase of student needs without the assistance of community and government programs, and the support of families.

For ideas and activities for the classroom or for youth and
young adult groups in and around Hispanic Heritage Month
go to :

Life Stories: Celebrating American Indian Heritage Month in Your Classroom in November

First established through a joint resolution by Congress in 1990, National American Indian Heritage Month is now recognized annually each November. It’s a time to learn more about the history of American Indians, and for educators and their students, it’s a perfect opportunity not only to celebrate the heritage of native peoples, but also to share a variety of “life stories.”

Although American Indian Heritage Month hasn’t always been officially recognized, most American children learned something about “Indians” in elementary school. At that age, many of us were taught about teepees, wigwams and headdresses; few of us learned much of the real history of First Nation peoples, or heard their personal stories. The stories we did hear, such as that of Pocahontas, were rich in mythology but offered little insight into what it truly means to be Native American.

And while almost all cultures use stories to document their cultural and religious heritage, and to show how the past influences the present, Native Americans have a particularly rich history of storytelling. Indigenous storytelling includes not only legends, history, poems and spirituality, but also deeply personal observations about the world and each person’s place in it.

With that in mind, schools can broaden their celebration this month through storytelling. Teachers can help students learn about the personal experiences of First Nation people, and encourage students to think about their own “life stories,” especially in terms of race, identity and belonging.

The educators at RaceBridgesforSchools, a nonprofit initiative that offers free lesson plans on diversity, have developed resources that can be used to celebrate American Indian Heritage Month — and to get students thinking about their own life stories:

  • I Am Indopino: Or, How to Answer the Question, Who Are You?” by professional storyteller Gene Tagaban. In this story (which accompanies a complete lesson plan), Tagaban talks about his combined Cherokee, Tlingit and Filipino ancestry, as well as his family’s exploration and eventual acceptance of their own complex identity. Tagaban’s story, touching on themes of family, lineage and the human relationship with the natural world, will resonate with students searching for their place in the world and a sense of belonging..
  • The Spirit Survives” by First Nation storyteller Dovie Thomason recalls her family’s experience in the Indian boarding schools, to which American Indian children were taken by force to be assimilated into white culture. Dovie’s story and the associated lesson plan, available free from, exposes students to historical events that aren’t taught in most schools. It also touches on themes of cultural identity, inclusion and exclusion, and the power of education.


By sharing stories such as these, teachers can offer a more meaningful celebration of American Indian Heritage Month this November. And in the process, students may learn more about their own uniqueness and the deep connections we share with people of different backgrounds.


For the text, audio and lesson plans of “The Spirit Survives:
The Indian Boarding School Experience, Then and Now”

as well as “I Am Indopino: Or, How to Answer the Question,

Who Are You?” visit



Learn More About Kwanzaa

Kwanzaa is a relatively new holiday, first created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga. Some have gone so far as to say, it’s not a “real” holiday because it is so new. But whether a holiday was created last year or centuries ago, someone and some people created it because it filled a deep human need to ritualize what gives us strength and meaning in life. The fact that Kwanzaa celebrations grow each year within the African American and Pan-African communities worldwide shows that this holiday has become an important way to reinforce what it means to be of African heritage and a lover of community, justice and equality.

Here is a short video that explains the broad strokes of the holiday and the official website and book by Dr. Maulana Karenga.


Kwanzaa: A Celebration of Family, Community and Culture by Dr. Maulana Karenga (Los Angeles: University of Sankore Press)


Rosie RiveterCultural norms are not static. They change when it’s politically and economically expedient to do so. When so many men joined the armed services during World War II, women were needed to work in the factories and other businesses. Rosie the Riveter who could do the hard work of welding and construction, became a household caricature. Posters and advertisements on the radio and in magazines said, “Come on, ladies. You can do it. You’re strong. You’re capable.”

But when the war was over and the service men came back to their jobs, the media began emphasizing the stereotype of women as delicate beings, incapable of “men’s work.” The cultural script became, “A woman’s place is in the home.” (Of course, lower class whites and women of color were often exempt from this “feminine” stereotype because they had always been needed to do the low-paying jobs. They were saddled with other stereotypes.)

It’s wise to remind ourselves that every person and every group has stereotypes about others. However, certain groups of people have had more power to broadcast their stereotypes to wider audiences. The people who have that power don’t necessarily have to hate the folks with less power. They just have to set things up to benefit themselves with no thought of how it affects others.

Sometimes, we think of stereotyping as an inevitable human activity. But we can see how societies use stereotypes by watching how stereotypes change over time. Stereotypes are not inevitable. If they’ve been created, then we can un-create them if we’re aware of how we’re being used and being primed to think in Us and Them’s.

Here is an excerpt from her play on Rosie the Riveter, by storytelling, Judith Black.


Creating safe, welcoming communities is the job of the entire school—teachers, administrators,

staff, and students—but even small changes can make a big difference.

This resources suggests some mini-lessons and ideas for “keeping the peace” in your classroom.


  • To identify causes of bullying, harassment, and/or violence
  • To understand the importance of creating safe, welcoming school communities
  • To identify and practice strategies for preventing and disrupting bullying, harassment, and/or violence
  • To encourage community building through activities and storytelling.


By the end of this lesson, each student will:

  • Understand the deeper roots and causes of prejudice and violence.
  • Have created and practiced strategies for de-escalating tense situations.
  • Have shared and listened to stories designed to encourage empathy and community building..

Download the “Keeping the Peace” Resource




If you are interested in this subject you might like
for Addressing Bullying at School




Justice Fighters: Models for All

The Civil Rights Movement was a critical time in American history. It was a time when thinking changed, values changed, and laws changed – thanks to some exceptional people and their drive to attain equality for all. These people, often at great personal risk, challenged what beliefs existed and revolutionized our country for the better.

Let us celebrate the accomplishments of the brave Justice Fighters that helped to establish the free world in which we live today. Teachers and schools can identify these individuals and their achievements throughout the school year – it was they who fought for our right to do so. May we not only learn from their examples, but follow in their footsteps. 

Below are a few of the Justice Fighters of the Civil Rights Era and what each is most known for:


The above heroes and ‘sheroes’ of the struggle for civil rights are indeed celebrated.  RaceBridges invites you to also explore the lesser known and everyday heroes that are alive today and very often are a part of your students’ communities and neighborhoods.  Use our stories and short videos to unearth new stories of resilience and achievement and set your students exploring.



List of Civil Rights Leaders. (n.d.). Retrieved 5 4, 2012, from Wikipedia:

JUNETEENTH: A Celebration For Today

Did you know that in some states the news of emancipation from slavery didn’t reach people until much later – in the case of Texas not until two and a half years later? The Emancipation Proclamation was made official on January 1, 1863 and, yet, Major General Gordon Granger of the Union juneteenthArmy was not able to read the news of freedom in Texas until June 19, 1865.

Some say it was because a messenger was killed on the way to deliver the news. Others state that President Lincoln’s authority over the southern states was precarious and so a deal was struck to allow one last cotton harvest in Texas. Others say it was pure greed and cruelty: the slaveholders weren’t about to give up their free labor source without resistance.

The “Juneteenth” order read:

“The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer.”

 For the formerly enslaved and those who supported them, initial shock evolved into jubilation which quickly turned into the reality of navigating a way forward in a country in which African Americans had had no legal status or rights. Currently, this day is celebrated to commemorate all that has been accomplished and to give a model of hope and persistence for all that lies ahead.




International Holocaust
Remembrance Day : January 27th.

Designated by the United Nations General Assembly,
International Holocaust Remembrance Day, 27 January,
is an international memorial day for the victims of the
Holocaust. This was the genocide that resulted in the
annihilation of 6 million Jews, 2 million Gypsies (Roma
and Sinti), 15,000 homosexual people and millions of
others by the Nazi regime and its collaborators.
This year’s Remembrance Day has the theme :
Children and the Holocaust.

RaceBridges Studio invites you to reflect with your
students, faculty, organization or group on the
many meanings of remembering the Holocaust.
View some of the short RaceBridges Studio Story videos
by professional storytellers or about the Holocaust
or Holocaust related themes.

Let us not forget. Let us be vigilant.



Who is a Friend? German-Jewish Reconciliation After the Holocaust
by Storyteller Gail Rosen

Who is my friend and who is my enemy? Gail Rosen, a Jewish storyteller,
goes to Germany and makes a surprising connection to a German man
who lived through World War II.


Ancient History ? Do Stories of the Holocaust Matter ?
by Storyteller Gail Rosen

Gail Rosen tells the story of a Holocaust survivor. Why tell a story
that is not your own? How does understanding other’s stories
help us think about our own place in history ?


The Day the Nazis Came
by Storyteller Syd Lieberman

An excerpt from Syd’s book Streets and Alleys, this is a true story of
the day the Nazis spoke at Lovelace Park in Evanston, IL and Syd’s surprising reaction.


Remembering Lisa Derman
by Storyteller Jim May

Lisa Derman, resistance fighter, Holocaust Survivor, and president
of the Illinois Holocaust Memorial Foundation, died at the Illinois Storytelling
Festival, on stage, while telling her story of survival. In this story, Jim gives
an eye witness account to her life and her last moments and some of her
final words: “…the time will come for all of you to care, to answer the call
and stand up and do what’s right.”


One Righteous Man : The Story of Raoul Wallenberg (An Excerpt):
Aunt Helen

by Storyteller Syd Lieberman

This excerpt contain Syd’s Great Aunt Helen’s account of what happened
to her during the Holocaust. Syd taped his aunt’s story and tells the story in her voice.

Indian Boarding Schools — Part One

NOTE: As we take the month of November to celebrate the contributions of the First Nations, we want to witness also the sad truth of attempts at the genocide of the American Indians and their cultures. Particularly, we take this month to focus on the Indian Boarding Schools. We offer these four articles because as the saying goes “those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it”, but also because we cannot support and celebrate our American Indian students, friends, co-workers and neighbors without understanding the context in which their very survival has taken place and their many contributions have been made.


Imagine a government that you don’t trust, that has already killed so many in your group and broken promise after promise, coming to your door and demanding that you hand over your child. The government officials promise your child will be back from their “school” in the summer but year, after year, after year goes by and your child is not returned. This and similar stories were repeated in First Nation homes from the late 1800s to the twentieth century as American and Canadian Indian children were taken from their homes to attend United States government-run Indian boarding schools.

At the schools, the children were forced to give up their native language as well as their spiritual and cultural practices in order to look and sound like European Americans. They were forced to wear western dress, to cut their hair (a mark of shame in many First Nations’ cultures), to have “kerosene rubs” to lighten their skin, to be indoctrinated into western religions and to endure long hours of forced work duties. Those who did not cooperate or tried to run away were often harshly punished and beaten. The geographic isolation and separation from their tribal and familial support system made far too many of these young children easy targets for sexual predators.

A 1928 study titled “The Meriam Report” found that infectious diseases were widespread at the schools because of insufficient nutrition, overcrowding, poor sanitary conditions and weakening from overwork. Death rates for First Nations children were six and a half times higher than any other ethnic group. Yet, the schools continued. Young adults, some who were married with their own children, were also separated from their families and sent to the schools. At its height, there were 153 Indian Boarding Schools in the U.S. The highest recorded number of children in Indian Boarding Schools was 60,000 in 1973.

After the 1973 protest by American Indian Movement activists at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, a resurgence in American Indian pride and activism put an end to the worst of the boarding schools. Some boarding schools still exist today for students who would not otherwise have access to education on their reservations. Today, the staffs of these schools are primarily Native American. The students’ languages and cultures are supported. Young ones are no longer told that their spiritual practices worship “false gods”.

Below are statements from two people who attended Indian Boarding Schools. A friend of mine, storyteller Elizabeth Ellis, often says, “If someone can stand to experience it, then I can stand to hear it.”

NEXT WEEK:  Why would we want to know about and even teach about this tragic period in U.S. History?  –  Part 2

Indian Boarding Schools — Part Two

Why is it important that we acknowledge and even study about the existence and the abuses of the Indian Boarding Schools? 

  1. We cannot build any kind of future on a foundation of lies. Some children, thank goodness, had some positive experiences at some Boarding Schools. However, the secrecy and manipulation that surrounded the entire initiative to assimilate Indian children (“Kill the Indian in the child”) damaged and still affect possibilities for future collaborations between First Nations and any institutions or organizations of the dominant culture. Trust cannot be rebuilt unless the whole truth is told, full responsibility is taken and those responsible are held accountable. Furthermore, we can never find remedies for problems, unless we first examine and understand the nature of those problems. We cannot transform something without first acknowledging that it exists..
  2. Knowing the truth of this travesty gives a context for the devastation experienced in many Indian families and communities for the last several generations. While similar social ills are present in every community, the lasting effects experienced by any who were taken or those who know and love someone who was kidnapped, tortured and held against their will makes the mental health, domestic violence, drug abuse and fractured family issues within Indian communities more understandable. It is important not to give credence to those who would re-stereotype First Nations (“Oh, that’s why ‘they’ are that way…”), but to put responsibility on those who caused the widespread need for these coping mechanisms and insist that the demands from the Indian nations for more mental and physical health resources, adequate housing, superior education and such be met..
  3. The unimaginable scope of this tragic chapter in U.S. and Canadian history should put an end to any minimizing of the Indian experience. Sometimes, the planned genocide of Indian people is dismissed as if a card game has ended: “You lost; get over it.” The Truth and Reconciliation Hearings in South Africa, Canada and other countries have shown that healing is dependent on the WHOLE story being witnessed and heard. It supports the victims in their grief process, gives them the validation and exposure of the perpetrator they seek and helps them understand and accept the unquenchable longing for all that was lost. In an article by Judith Lewis Herman entitled “Justice from the Victim’s Perspective”, Herman states, “Community denunciation of the crime was of great importance to the survivors because it affirmed the solidarity of the community with the victim and transferred the burden of disgrace from victim to offender.”.
  4. In addition, acknowledging these crimes makes it possible for the descendants of the perpetrators and for those of us who have benefited from white skin privilege to acknowledge what we may have indirectly gained because of this planned genocide. For example, I may not have direct dealings in the fact that people’s lands were taken or that others were forced into labor camps. We are never at fault for what happened in the past. This is not about good and bad people. Most of us are good people who would never knowingly hurt others. It is about understanding that any  wealth or advantages that come my way are not simply because my ancestors “worked” hard but acknowledging that my position in life is attached to an inheritance in blood. Again, this realization is not to make us walk around guilty and impotent.  Owning the whole truth can make us powerful allies, open to taking part in the need for reparations and any other acts of justice that can begin to tackle the need for redress..
  5. When one group seeks to conquer another, their repertoire of repression is all too similar. When any culture or country is colonized by another, children become part of the playbook for take-over and are easy pawns in the game. In the 1650s, when England was colonizing Ireland, during one decade, over 100,000 Irish children were taken from their parents and sold as slaves in the West Indies, Virginia and New England. In Australia, aboriginal children were stolen from their homes from 1909 to 1969. As recent as the 1950s, 22 of Greenland’s children were sent to Denmark for the start of a larger experiment to create an elite-group of Danish-thinking Greenlanders who could go back to Greenland and affect (or infect) the education and other institutions there. Again and again, this belief in the superiority of one group over another and the foisting of its ways upon the oppressed group fails, but leaves in its wake a terrible legacy of death and destruction (half of those 22 Greenland children were dead by their early twenties). Knowing about the Indian boarding schools, unfortunately, gives us a quick, shorthand understanding of the challenges facing oppressed groups around the world..
  6. Learning and teaching about the Indian Boarding Schools also gives us a context to celebrate and be inspired by all the ways Indian people have survived and even thrived given all the genocidal attempts on their communities. The Boarding Schools unwittingly created lifelong intertribal friendships and a new spirit of Pan-Indianism into this century. American Indians have and are accomplishing notable contributions in every field of endeavor throughout the Americas. The fact that so many Indian children and adults were able to call on a spirit inside of them that could not be extinguished, no matter what was happening to them externally, provides a testament to human strength and to a nurturing, indwelling grace that can inspire all of us. 


NEXT WEEK: The U.S. and Canada apologize to First Nations for the Indian Boarding School kidnappings. Whose apology was better may surprise you – Part 3


“Encyclopedia of American Indian Contributions to the World: 15,000 Years of Inventions and Innovations” by Emory Dean Keoke and Kay Marie Porterfield

Indian Boarding Schools — Part Three

On June 11, 2008, millions of Canadians tuned into a live, nationally-television apology to the First Nations from their Prime Minister, Stephen Harper. In this historic speech in the House of Commons, the Canadian government took full responsibility for the Canadian government’s attempts to assimilate First Nations children “causing great harm that has lasted for generations”. Harper went on to outline compensation for former residential school students, the creation of an ongoing Truth and Reconciliation Commission as well as increased funding for child welfare and education.

The United States passed the Native American Apology Resolution in 2009 that acknowledged a “long history of official depredations and ill-conceived policies by the Federal Government regarding Indian tribes” and offered an apology “to all Native Peoples on behalf of the United States”. However, by contrast, President Obama signed this resolution on December 19, 2009 in a ceremony that was closed to the press.

Armand MacKenzie, the former Senior Advisor on International & Human Rights Affairs at the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples of Canada emphasized the importance of full, public disclosure.  “It was really something great to see the Apology done in public,” he said. “The injustices were a result of state policies and practices. They need to be accountable, otherwise governments can do what they want without consequence.”

In the U.S. House of Representatives, Republican Senator from Kansas, Senator Sam Brownback and Democratic Senator from North Dakota, Byron Dorgan, tried for five years to pass an Apology when, finally, the bill was approved by tucking it away on page 45 of a 67 page document of an unrelated spending bill, 2010 Defense Appropriations Act, H.R. 3326.  In addition to being less public, the United States apology missed the opportunity to detail the government’s transgressions. While the original preamble to the U.S. bill detailed specific crimes and offenses as the Canadian apology had – the Trail of Tears, the Long Walk, the Sand Creek Massacre, and Wounded Knee, the theft of tribal lands and resources, the breaking of treaties, and the removal of Indian children to boarding schools and so forth – the U.S. preamble was deleted from the final version of the bill.

Too few Americans even know about the Indian Boarding Schools and the U.S. Native American Apology Resolution, let alone include it in the national discourse. It has been said that “those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it”. Unfortunately, the mistakes of our past are being repeated today. Prime Minister Harper stated that “There is no place in Canada for the attitudes that inspired the Indian residential schools system to ever prevail again.” Because these attitudes of superiority still “prevail” hundreds of Indian children are still being removed from their homes into non-Indian foster care and the promises of sovereign rights plus education, housing and health care are slow in coming to the First Nations in both Canada and the United States.

NEXT WEEK: We’ll look at how the attitudes and thinking that produced the Indian Boarding Schools still exists today and the injustices perpetrated because of that – Part 4



Indian Boarding Schools — Part Four

After a century of government policy that forcibly removed tens of thousands of First Nations’ children from their homes and sent them to boarding schools that basically amounted to forced labor camps, The U.S. Congress passed the Indian Child Welfare Act in 1978  (ICWA) to put an end to this and other policies toward American Indian families and children. The ICWA was enacted “… to protect the best interest of Indian children and to promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and families by the establishment of minimum federal standards for the removal of Indian children from their families and the placement of such children in foster or adoptive homes which will reflect the unique values of Indian culture. …”

In addition to the Indian Boarding Schools, the law was to address “the consequences to Indian children, Indian families, and Indian tribes of abusive child welfare practices that resulted in the separation of large numbers of Indian children from their families and tribes through adoption or foster care placement, usually in non-Indian homes.”

Prior to the 1978 law, 85 to 95 % of First Nation children were placed in non-Indian homes when they went into foster care. Unlike non-Indian adoptions where only birth parents can object to an adoption, the ICWA is supposed to give a tribe, as well as the biological parents, standing in adoption cases. Placement within a child’s tribe is to be given preference.

But a study in 2005 study by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that 32 states are, in various ways, failing to comply with the Indian Child Welfare Act. It found that the ICWA is the only federal child welfare law of its stature without any kind of regular federal review or a federal agency to take over its oversight. The controversy over a 2011 National Public Radio special report that claimed a systematic abuse of South Dakota’s Indian children along with the 2013 Oklahoma Supreme Court Case, Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl shows the complexity of these issues and the maze of federal, state and tribal jurisdictions that one must negotiate to even monitor the quality of care for Indian children.

These recent allegations and disputes along with continued legal battles over land use, protection of Indian burial mounds, mineral rights, the mismanagement of Indian trust funds and on and on shows that Indian issues are not historical glitches but a continuing search for justice and common human decency.

How do we make these and other challenges to the First Nations part of the national discourse on race and fairness? How do we have any hope in living up to the ideal of “justice for all” if the First Nations’ rights are continually ignored?

American Indian journalists, teachers, writers and media experts of all kinds need platforms so that their voices are heard and those of us who are non-Indian and woefully ignorant of current Indian issues can be educated.

We are grateful to announce that authors and storytellers, Tim Tingle of the Choctaw Nation, Dovie Thomason from the Lakota and Apache Nations and Joseph Bruchac of the Abenaki Nation have agreed to contribute articles to the RacebridgesForSchools site in 2014.



Today’s First Nations Youth speak:



A Short Video Story
by Anne Shimojima


Have you ever wondered what life would be like if the government had imprisoned your entire family? For Anne Shimojima, this was the experience of her grandparents and their children. In this touching story, Anne tells of what life was like behind the barbed wire fences and the inadequate housing. Looking past what is unspoken, Anne reveals details of life for Japanese Americans in incarceration camps during WWII.


Curious as to her family’s experiences in incarceration camps during WWII, storyteller Anne Shimojima explains how she uncovered details to her family’s past. For whatever reason, many Japanese Americans do no talk about their experiences during this time. Anne was able to dig into her family history and speak with relatives who then shared details of what life was like in these camps.

Armed with a deeper and more personal understanding of what her grandparents had endured in the incarceration camp, Anne reveals a hidden world when she is able to describe the camp itself. She explains how she was brought closer to her grandparents and better understands the indignities they suffered, the sacrifices they made, and the hopes they had for future generations.

Classroom Applications:

  • Invite grandparents of students to come to class and share a story from their life
  • Explore geneology or create a family tree
  • Watch videos or read literature the helps students to better understand historical events..

Watch the video now



Explore our many other RaceBridges Studio videos and lessons

for Asian American month or any time of the year.


Immigrant Story: a Chinese Family in the US


Immigrant Story: a Chinese Family in the US
A Short Video Story

by Nancy Wang



RaceBridges pays tribute to the many Asian Americans who have helped build and enrich America. Nancy Wang paints a true life picture of her Chinese American immigrant family’s struggles and ingenuity in the Monterey, CA area. This story is a great resource for understanding the contributions of Asian American immigrants to America.


This story follows the journey of Nance Wang’s ancestors who arrived in California on a junk boat in 1850 and the adversities encountered along the way to America. Upon arriving, Nancy’s family started the fishing industry of the Monterey Peninsula, which proved to be lucrative but not without opposition. Both legal and illegal violence ensued against them for generations.

Although America was a land of opportunity, unfair regulations and restrictions caused great difficulties for the hard-working Chinese Americans. This story reveals how a group of immigrants rallied with resilience and ingenuity so that the 7th generation of Chinese Americans thrives today.

The unimaginable challenges faced by Nancy’s family in this true story are thought-provoking and provide insight for us to appreciate our differences as well as make changes in how we think of others. With understanding, we can feel their pain and change our world for the better.

Classroom Applications:

  • Read literature written by Chinese Americans(see this link for some names:
  • Write biographies of famous Chinese Americans
  • Create a cultural food tasting day, where students bring in foods from various cultures for all to taste and learn about.

Watch the video now



Explore our many other RaceBridges Videos for

Asian American Month or any time of the year.


Immigrant Stories of Empowerment

“We are a country of immigrants. Almost all of our citizens have roots in other countries. Unless you are a full-blooded Native American, either you or one of your ancestors journeyed to the United States. Maybe it was your parents. Maybe it was someone 300 years ago. But someone in your family, for whatever reason, was uprooted from home and culture, and traveled here, making the United States his or her new home” (Gretchen Morgan).

America is the great melting pot of culture and diversity. That is how our country started, and continues to become more and more diverse as time goes by. We must celebrate our many cultures and our many stories of the journey to America. Schools and teachers need to recognize that students come from a wide array of backgrounds. The more these backgrounds are embraced, the greater the learning will be.  

Below are a few links to find stories of immigration. Share them with your students. Encourage them to write and share their own family story of immigration.


Morgan, G. (n.d.). Retrieved 5 4, 2012, from Immigrant


Go to the many stories and short videos about immigration and other diversity themes on our RaceBridges Studio Sites. 


Because teachers are such thoughtful people who have chosen a profession precisely because they do care, it’s easy to believe we don’t have any prejudices.

Elementary StudentsPrejudice and discrimination are diseases of the mind and heart. When our thinking becomes faulty, it’s easy to draw assumptions about others that simply aren’t true. When you are not feeling good about yourself, when your own heart is troubled, you can project your negative feelings on other individuals or groups of people.

What happens in your mind and your feelings can make your and other people’s lives easier or harder.

It’s summer break. Finally, we’re away from the daily demands of our students. It’s a great time to reflect: what groups am I the most uncomfortable with or know the least about? What assumptions did I receive from my family, my ethnic and income group and this society that label others as “less than”? How can I dispute these stereotypes and learn more about and experience the complexity of other individuals and cultures?

What happens in your mind and your feelings can make your classroom, and this world, a kinder place.

I Wanted to be an Indian


By Jo Radner



Take a moment to think about the most exciting wish you hoped would come true. Now imagine that all of those thrilling dreams were suddenly shattered by startling antics of your ancestors. Experience the heartbreak and the steps taken to move forward from these revelations in this touching story by Jo Radner.


Stories about our ancestors help us to understand who we are. They help us to grow and become who we were meant to be. Encountering troubling revelations about her forebears and their Indian neighbors in colonial New England, Jo asks what it means to tell — and live with — her whole, complex history. Listen as this relatable and engaging true story is recounted.

Classroom Reflections & Activities:

  • Provide time for students to research personal ancestral history, and allow them to share stories of their families.
  • Hold a class discussion involving little known sad stories of different cultures. Encourage students to share feelings and prior knowledge of the culture..

Watch the video now



Explore our many other free storyteller-videos and
lessons for classroom, group or individual use :
RaceBridgesStudio Videos


Hurt or Heal: The Power of Words

Power of Words Project is a national mural project launching in Laguna Beach, California that honors the power of one-word mantras that can unite communities.

Words have tremendous power. Most of us probably don’t think about the impact that our words have on other people. Whether spoken or written, words have the capacity to change lives for good or for bad. A kind word can lighten a heavy spirit or bring about needed change. On the other hand, a harsh word can ruin someone’s day or even cost a life. Words can deepen a friendship, or tear it apart.

The impact of words can be felt in so many ways utilizing endless sources. It is important for schools and teachers to emphasize the impression that words have on students, and to encourage students to be reflective when using their words. Role-play with students, so they can see the impression their words leaves on others. Brainstorm with them to uncover positive and productive ways to handle conflict. 

Words. They can hurt, or they can heal. Below are two lists of words. One list identifies types of words that cause pain when used, and the other identifies types of words that build self-esteem. Challenge your students to focus their language on words that heal.

Words that hurt:

  • Name-calling
  • Rumors or gossip
  • Telling of secrets
  • Words that exclude
  • Put downs
  • Labels
  • Disrespect
  • Slurs
  • Exclusive


Words that heal:

  • Kindness
  • Praises
  • Gratitude
  • Courtesy
  • Respect
  • Compliments
  • Inclusive


Explore the many free lessons, resources and videos with themes of community building and inclusion found on our web sites. 


If we are to achieve a richer culture,
rich in contrasting values, we must
recognize the whole gamut of
human potentialities, and so we
weave a less arbitrary social fabric,
one in which each diverse human
gift will find a fitting place.

– Margaret Mead


There’s a lot that we can do to make our classrooms more welcoming, but it is also important that schools as institutions are inclusive at the “macro” level. You might use some of the suggestions below in your classroom, but many of the suggestions are meant to be used at the institutional level. Try getting some teachers together to consider some of these ideas.  The further step is to move a specific agenda forward with the school administration.

For ideas just for your own classroom see Including Everyone: Small Changes to Create a Welcoming Classroom.

In this Ideas blog you’ll find some activities and ponderings to help inspire you on the journey to make your school climate more inclusive. It takes committed teachers to encourage and shape our schools to be welcoming and open.   

Who feels welcome at your school ? : A Classroom Activity
This activity invites your students to imagine a future of equality.

  • Assign students to go on a “scavenger hunt” around the school (if possible, during class time; otherwise, as they change classes and before and after school. Ask them to find images, words, and references to a variety of groups (male and female; a variety of races and ethnicities; students of different socio-economic classes, physical and intellectual abilities, and language groups, and so on)..
  • For ease of record keeping, you may want to create a chart that lists different groups, locations, type of media, and a way to track how often different groups are represented. When students return with their records, share them with the classroom. Discuss who gets represented and why and what that might say about the culture of the school..
  • Then facilitate a discussion with students about what else they might examine in the school to see who is welcomed at the school. They could include such measures as the school budget, the calendar, how the building gets used, what visitors/speakers are invited to the school, the books assigned in English, what plays are performed, who is elected to various positions in the school, how music is chosen for dances, and so on. Are all represented? Who is left out?.
  • Finally, lead a discussion about what it might be like never to see “yourself” (in gender, race, class, and so forth) represented at school. What message does that send? Which students are more likely to succeed?.
  • Action:   Collate all the data the class collected, submit a report to the school administration, and then make suggestions about how to make the school more inclusive and welcoming.


Further Thoughts :

  • Take a look around your school: what images are there around the school in posters and pictures, fliers for activities, in the library, and so on? Do these images represent the student body?.
  • Talk to one of your administrators about the position of the school on diversity and inclusion. Ask about how inclusion and diversity are represented in the budget, calendar, and staffing..
  • Take some time to write down what you think the percentages of different groups in the school are; include lots of types of groups—race, class, sexual orientation, nationality/immigrant status, and so on. Once you write down those percentages, ask your administration for the official statistics of the school. Compare the two lists—if you were off-base in some categories, why do you think that is? How might you become more aware of the groups you overlooked?


You will find many lesson plans and resources on this site to stimulate ideas, discussion and reflection in your ongoing task of seeking to make the climate of your school more welcome. It is often surprising to  discover “groups” who have remained “invisible’ and feel excluded.

WHAT’S RACISM GOT TO DO WITH ME?: How Our History and Context Shape Us and Others

This lesson plan also seeks to help students understand how history influences the present and to be open to the complexity of societal structures, historical causes, and environmental context both in their own lives and in the lives of other individuals and groups. While this lesson focuses on race, class, and gender, the basic principles in these activities apply to any situation that can be analyzed for cause and effect. The skills practiced in these activities will help students think through their own and others’ initial responses and engage in more thoughtful analysis of a situation instead of jumping to conclusions.

What’s Racism Got to do with Me?

How History and Context Shape Us and Others Lesson Plan


Talking about race has never been easy. Many people struggle to understand what it has to do with them. It’s natural for young people to think about racism in terms of their individual experience or history (“I wasn’t around during slavery!”) and their own behavior (“I have no problem with black people — it’s not my fault.”). Other students are frustrated by what they see as some racial groups’ inability to get past historical tragedies such as slavery (“It was 500 years ago, time to move on!”) or economic failures (“Anyone can make it in America…look at all the other immigrants.”).

This lesson plan helps students understand how history influences our present, whether that’s the state of race relations today or their own attitudes towards another group of people.

There are three brief activities in this lesson plan that teachers can use separately to introduce the topic or together to reinforce the message that we must know our history if we seek NOT to repeat it.

Help your students understand race, class, and gender in context. Use this lesson to supplement a lesson that requires that students understand the importance of our past and our context.

How to help students comprehend the past, present and future of America’s racial challenges

As our nation gets ready to swear in its first African-American president, students may be thinking that racism is a thing of the past — a problem for older generations, not theirs. But in spite of this monumental achievement, racism is still a serious challenge for America. As a society, we have a long way to go toward eliminating the damaging beliefs, behaviors and systems associated with discrimination. This new year, and this new presidency, offers a timely opportunity to engage students in a deeper discussion about racism’s past, present and future.


Talking about race has never been easy, especially for high school students, many of whom struggle to understand what it has to do with them. It’s natural for young people to think about racism in terms of their individual experience or history (“I wasn’t around during slavery!”) and their own behavior (“I have no problem with black people — it’s not my fault.”). Other students are frustrated by what they see as some racial groups’ inability to get past historical tragedies such as slavery (“It was 500 years ago, time to move on!”) or economic failures (“Anyone can make it in America…look at all the other immigrants.”).

So how can teachers challenge these notions, and help students to think in systematic and institutional, rather than solely personal ways, about racism? The educators at RaceBridgesforSchools, a nonprofit organization that offers free lesson plans on diversity and tolerance, have these suggestions to open up a dialogue:

  • To help students understand how our behaviors and attitudes are largely influenced by our past and our contexts (both good and bad),  ask them to map out their personality traits, interests, hobbies and career goals, and connect them to the events, people and other influences that have made them who they are today. Ask them to consider not just people but their education, neighborhood, gender, social class, race, religion and so on.
  • Give students a constructive way to share, freely and openly, their feelings about racial divisions. Offer them a fictional story (with historical roots) that highlights discrimination or distrust between two groups of people. Emphasizing that there are no right or wrong answers in this exercise, have them record and discuss their impressions with their classmates.
  • Take a current or recent event that has racial significance, and have students analyze what may have led to it. For example, now’s a perfect time to take a closer look at the intense interest generated by Barack Obama’s successful campaign for the presidency. Encourage students to examine the history of voting acts, reconstruction, Jim Crow laws and the notion of white privilege to better understand the historical impact of this achievement.

These activities are a timely way to show students how history influences the present, and to open up their minds to these complexities both in their own lives and in the lives of individual and groups. By engaging in more thoughtful analysis, educators can help students answer the question, “What’s racism got to do with me?”

For your free copy of the “What’s Racism Got to Do with Me?” lesson plan, click here.

How They Overlap: Schools, Diversity, and Language Arts

Seedfolks author Paul Fleischman’s visit to Burlington – September 21, 2005. *

So many questions exist on how to connect themed lessons to core subject matter. State standards play such a strong role in creating meaningful lessons that it is difficult to plan lessons centered on diversity only, albeit the valuable lessons that could be learned from diversity education. Teachers and schools struggle to find a happy medium that utilizes the state standards for education while still allowing diversity to be relevant in the classroom.

What can Language Arts teachers do to help address issues of diversity, and yet maintain state standards? Below are a tips and suggestions for connecting diversity to Language Arts lessons.

  • Read novels in class that highlight diversity. A couple great novels to consider are Seedfolks and Bronx Masquerade. Novels of this nature make it possible to address typical Language Arts standards like figurative language, character development, and theme while learning about different races and cultures..
  • Read and study poetry by diverse authors. Explore the works of Latino, African American or Asian poets..
  • Compare and contrast nonfiction works about an immigrant story or event..
  • Write short RAFTs connected to novels and diversity. (A RAFT is a short piece of response writing for students where they are given: “R” a role to assume; “A” an audience to write for; “F” a form or type of writing to complete; and “T” a topic to write about.).
  • Create researching activities like webquests that allow students to interact with technology while learning the standardized material at hand.



Explore the many other Diversity themes in the
lessons and units of RaceBridges Studio.


* Photo courtesy of:

How They Overlap: Schools, Diversity, and Drama


A clear connection to the arts, drama is a big attraction for students of all ages. Plays, performance, set designs, choreographies, musicals, and great works make wonderful additions to schools. Drama is easily connected to Language Arts as many plays are written by diverse authors or are about diversity in some fashion. It allows students the creativity to be unique, to learn about another culture, and to meet state standards for that subject matter.

How can schools and teachers engage students in drams and diversity together? Below are a few tips and suggestions for doing just that.

  • Choose plays that are filled with diversity. Encourage students to choose roles to assume that they wouldn’t ordinarily choose.
  • Look for a wide variety of drama to expose students to: plays, musicals, dramatic readings, etc.
  • Incorporate drama into regular class activities.
  • Have major school-wide productions for students to be a part of.
  • Explore the settings of a play, as these are usually very cultural.
  • Study the playwrite. Write biographies. Learn what the characters in the play might be like, based on the settings.
  • Allow students to find appropriate costumes or wardrobe for the roles they play. Research what the characters might be wearing.
  • Encourage positive social interactions amongst students during rehearsals that allow students to connect with one another and learn of culture firsthand.
  • Bring in guest performers or go on a class field trip to a production.



Explore the many other Diversity themes
in the lessons and units of RaceBridges Studio..




pix4How you perceive our neighbor to the south can affect how you unconsciously treat your Mexican American students. What are your perceptions? Do you perceive Mexico as a third world country?

Let’s take a look at that phrase “third world”. The phrase was first used during the Cold War in the 1960s and 70s to designate who was aligned with the Un

ited States. Countries said to be aligned with the Soviet Union were given “second world” status and non-aligned countries were called “third world”. The terms didn’t make sense right from the beginning but even less so now that the Soviet Union no longer exists.

In popular vernacular, “third world” has become synonymous with “undeveloped”. But it may surprise you to learn that Mexico is rated as “recently developed” by many and “highly developed” by the Human Development Index.

Yes, some of your students’ families may come from towns that fit your image of neglected border towns with little sanitation facilities, let alone schools. However, others may just as well come from posh districts that rival the wealthiest U.S. neighborhoods and educational institutions. Assumptions about your Mexican American students’ backgrounds and, therefore, their academic abilities and skills can be dangerously misguided.

So, too, common misconceptions about Mexico as a lawless “wild west” may create biases toward your students. Yes, there is corruption in Mexico that Mexican citizens are very concerned about, but it may surprise you to learn that Mexico is ranked close to Brazil, Argentina and even Italy when it comes to corruption. Most of us need to update our images of Mexico to include the fact that it is now a democracy supported by a rising middle class, with a viable Supreme Court and a three-party legislature that is said to work more cooperatively than our own Congress on their ambitious global economic agenda.

Updating and contextualizing knowledge of our students’ home countries can help us examine unconscious biases and bring us closer to our true desire to treat all our students with the dignity and respect they deserve.

To keep up-to-date with present day Mexico, go to:


hhmWhen teaching the rich history of ancient Mexico, Central and Latin America, it’s tempting to take shortcuts and assign an Indian nation to each country: Mexico is Aztec, Central America is Mayan and so forth. The truth is, just as today, various cultural groups intermingled, lived side by side and conducted long distance trade and exchanged ideas on art, writing, architecture plus mathematical and astronomical systems.

It is true that when the Spanish arrived in Mexico, they found themselves in an Empire known as “The Aztec”, but that would be like Latin Americans arriving in Spain and calling all of Europe “Hispania”. Before the Spanish conquest in the 1500s, “The Aztec” was a 100-year-old alliance between three groups: the Acolhuas, the Tepanecs, and the Mexica people of Tenochitlan (what today is modern day Mexico City). The Mexica conquered the other two city-states and, eventually, other civilizations across Mexico.

Those other groups include the Teotihuacanos and the Mayans who are responsible for the spectacular ancient Mexican pyramids and ruins. Dating back to 100 A.D. and before, the early and diverse Mexican Indians’ knowledge of the stars and other natural events paralleled or outstripped the knowledge of the scientists and astronomers of the same time in what we now call Europe.

It is wise to remember and present that our Latino students come from a variety of countries and cultures with distinct sets of traditions and beliefs resulting from the merger of pre-Columbian and post-Conquest skills, knowledge and civilizations.

To explore the ancient and classical civilizations of the Americas, go to:


hhmOften, during our monthly celebrations of ethnic heritages, we will have students, parents or community members discuss their ethnic group and their arrival in the United States. This can be especially true during Hispanic Heritage Month. The assignment may have worthy intent, but there are several pitfalls to the typical “immigration” report or panel.

Here are a few to consider during Hispanic Heritage Month:


1. Keep in mind that some of your contributors’ ancestors may have been forced to come to the U.S. or were already here. Include those experiences by asking:

  • Were some in your family forced to come to America? How does your family deal with painful memories and events? How do you support each other and thrive in the face of adversity?
  • Are you descended from native groups who were originally here?  What regions did your family/tribe live in?  Were your ancestors forced to leave ancestral ground?  How have your family and group survived in the face of such tragedies?.

2. Whenever possible, have more than one representative of a culture present so that students can see that people within cultures have unique experiences and opinions. Sometimes, in an attempt to be inclusive, we’ll introduce a culture and unknowingly create more stereotypes by asking questions such as “What do Mexicans think about..” as if any culture could be of one mind. Instead, ask question such as:

  • What languages do you speak and what languages are spoken in your family?  Do you have relatives who are bilingual or don’t speak a language in common with you?
  • On what issues do people in your group most disagree? Are there different values within and between subgroups? For example, on what do younger and older members of your family agree and disagree?
  • Have you emphasized different aspects of your culture at different times of the year or different times of your life?.

  3. For ethnic panels and festivals, please don’t present Spanish-speaking and other ethnicities as only “international”. This reinforces the notion that there are “real” Americans and “foreigners.” Unless you are purposefully showcasing other countries, remember that the Spanish-speaking cultures you are exploring are here and, therefore, are American. You can ask questions such as:

  • What has being “American” meant to you? What have you had to give up to be American?  What have you gained?
  • Have you ever been to another country and experienced your Americanness?  What was that like for you?
  • How has your (or your parents’) choice of neighborhood, religion, school and friends strengthened or weakened your cultural connections and your sense of being “American”?.

A wonderful book to help us think “Beyond Heroes and Holidays” is edited by Enid Lee, Deborah Menkart and Margo Okazawa-Rey. It is a practical guide to K-12 Anti-Racist, Multicultural Education and Staff Development.

Hispanic Heritage Month

RaceBridges For Schools invites you to




(Sep 15 – Oct 15)

Over 15% of the total US population are from Hispanic peoples. That’s more than 45 million people.  Some of these vibrant Latino cultures trace their roots to Mexico, Puerto Rico and Cuba … others trace  their roots to Spain and Central or South America.

These lesson plans and original stories are for use in exploring and deepening the discussion with your students about Hispanic Heritage.  All of these units highlight original personal stories from two professional bilingual storytellers.   The original stories will help lead your students to reflect on their roots and explore differences and commonalities. 


Between Worlds
Written and told by Storyteller Olga Loya
Olga reaches back into her Mexican-American childhood as she searches for her place in the world.
Why Do You Want To Go To College?
Written and told by Storyteller Olga Loya
Sometimes the wrong advice can help a person do what’s needed.  Olga’s high school teacher tells her she will never make it in college which only spurs her on to go to college and graduate.
What’s a Mexican?
Written and told by Storyteller Olga Loya
Olga explores the various labels for her ethnic group: Mexican, American, Mexican American, Latina, Chicana and so on. In doing so, she finds out how she wants to define herself and her pride in her cultural life.
How Do You Say Blueberry in Spanish ?
Written and Told by Storyteller Antonio Sacre

Antonio explores the challenges and joys of trying to raise a bilingual child. As anxious new parents, Antonio and his wife ask, “Are two languages better than one?” and find humor along the way.

Mr. D’s Class
Written and Told by Storyteller Antonio Sacre

Thirty teenagers from twenty countries, one Jewish teacher, and one Cuban-Irish-American storyteller (story artist, Antonio Sacre) set out to publish a book of writing in one of the poorest and most challenging high schools in Los Angeles. Will fear and distrust stop the project before it begins, or will they stand together?

Looking For Papito
Written and Told by Storyteller Antonio Sacre

As a Cuban and Irish American child, Antonio deals with being “too ethnic” or “not ethnic enough”. By trial and error and with the support of his family, Antonio reclaims all of his ethnic heritage and his Spanish language.

Other Stories told by Antonio Sacre

There are teacher guides, audio downloads and printed texts as well as student activities for most of the above units. These videos and lessons are a few of hundreds of  units and short videos for teachers and educators exploring  a variety of diversity themes.

He Said, She Said: Understanding and Preventing Student Gossip

Although difficult to admit, it is quite likely that each of us has engaged in gossip or rumor spreading at some point in our lives. We have all felt the sting of humiliation from gossip when it has been directed at ourselves, and have likely been a party to someone else’s humiliation as well.

Words can be quite hurtful, and can cause tremendous heartache and problems for those victimized by this form of bullying. Yes, gossip is simply another form of bullying.

Today’s schools would benefit strongly from establishing and enforcing a zero tolerance policy on bullying of any kind within the building. It is essential, then, for schools and teachers to be as proactive as possible about the presence of gossip amongst their students. 

Below are some tips for understanding and preventing gossip, as well as some helpful websites on the topic.


For better understanding:

  • Explain the difference between talking and gossiping
  •  Identify what makes gossip – words that are mean, untrue, or revealing
  • Connect gossip to bullying
  • Role-play with students what gossip is and what it feels like
  • Discuss the effects of gossip


For prevention, encourage students to:

  • Stay away from people who gossip
  • Recognize that if they gossip TO you, they will likely gossip ABOUT you as well
  • Teach empathy
  • Ignore gossip or rumors, and don’t repeat them
  • Be careful whom they share secrets with


Explore the many free lessons, resources and videos with themes of community building and inclusion found on our web sites.



Also Check out these helpful websites for further information about the issues of gossip:

HAWAII : Rediscovering the history, language and culture of native Hawaiians

hawaiiA native of Hawaii, President Obama once wrote, “The opportunity that Hawaii offered—to experience a variety of cultures in a climate of mutual respect—became an integral part of my world view, and a basis for the values that I hold most dear.”

Obama’s birthplace is not only a crossroads of cultures, it is a state rich with its own indigenous traditions, language, and culture. Though suppressed for many years, native Hawaiian culture is experiencing a revival, as this generation seeks to preserve it for the future.

In the minds of most Americans, Hawaii—the 50th state—is a tropical paradise and a global vacation destination. We are well aware of its stunning natural beauty, world-famous beaches, and the leis and hula skirts tourists take home as souvenirs. But what do we know of its history? Besides the attack on Pearl Harbor, which triggered U.S. involvement in World War II, few Americans know much of the native people and their history—including the years of conflict at the heart of Hawaii’s journey to statehood.

May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, offering a great time to explore the overlooked time in Asian-American history and celebrate the resurgence of the native language and culture of America’s Pacific Islanders. 

Overthrow of Hawaii’s monarchy spurs culture change and sparks widespread protests

Though Polynesian people had been living there for centuries, Hawaii was “discovered” by British explorer James Cook in 1778. Traders, merchants, and immigrant workers flooded in, resulting in an overwhelming Western influence to the Hawaiian Islands, causing a transition from subsistence farming to a cash economy and an unfortunate loss of tradition.

In 1893 U.S. businessmen overthrew the monarchy of Hawaii and established a Republic. Five years later, despite widespread protests and fierce opposition, the Islands were annexed as a territory by the United States.

Western missionary education stripped Hawaii of its native language

The influx of Westerners included missionaries who were determined to educate the Hawaiians, including teaching them to read and write. In order to do this, they needed to give the Hawaiian language a written form. Unable to distinguish between many of the sounds in the Hawaiian language, the missionaries gave Hawaiian names and words very different sounds and appearances from their original spoken form. Hawaii’s capital, for example, became “Honolulu” instead of the original “Honoruru.”

The native language changed dramatically and irrevocably. And when the monarchy was overthrown, the new government banned the speaking or teaching of the Hawaiian language in any public school. This suppression of the Hawaiian language would last for nearly 100 years.

Resurgence of language and culture for native Hawaiians

In the 1970′s, however, a renaissance of the Hawaiian culture—and a renewed respect for the native language—emerged. In 1978, Hawaiian once again was made an official language of the State of Hawaii. Shortly thereafter, schools were again allowed to teach the language.  Immersion programs, which emphasize instruction in Hawaiian and focus on native language, history, and culture, also began to develop. In 1990, the United States government established a policy recognizing the right of Hawaii to preserve, use and support its indigenous language. The year 1996 was proclaimed the “Year of the Hawaiian Language.”

The renewed interest in the study and use of the Hawaiian language in schools, in government, in music and media continues today as Hawaiians of all backgrounds seek to preserve native culture for future generations.


Going the Extra Mile in the Classroom: Embracing Cultural Differences

Exploring ‘Insiders & Outsiders’ with your students or group.

In the classroom, it is a fine line to walk. To openly acknowledge the differences and diversity of today’s students without creating an “insider/outsider” situation can be a tricky balancing act of political correctness and acceptance. Every teacher knows this line, and treads lightly.

Virtually everyone has experienced the feeling of being left out – of being an “outsider.”

When this happens it’s easy for miscommunication, confusion, rejection, hurt feelings – and exclusion that leads to labels like “racist” or “bully.”  This is why teachers look to illuminate the insider/outsider dilemma by helping students experience those around them from new and different perspectives.  But even this can be a challenge especially in diverse school climates.

Sometimes stories of diversity which address the challenges and courage of others can create an atmosphere where students are free to learn without being subjected to judgment.  Open discussions which invite students to share their family history and heritage with each other help students feel heard and understood.

But how does a teacher start this process?  Can discussions among students with vastly different backgrounds and experiences really be possible in a school setting?


Here are a few tips for facilitating positive awareness in the classroom:


  • Celebrate differences – set aside time to allow students to share their cultural heritages. This may be a daily or weekly session, and may involve encouraging cultural creativity in assignments, and may be shown in classroom displays, etc..
  • Include lessons that promote cultural awareness – in Language Arts, read and discuss culturally relevant works/authors; in Social Studies, tie regional customs to a geography lesson; in Music, practice and discuss pieces of various origins.  You can also dive deeper into the parts of history which aren’t discussed or where there may be a different first-hand experience..
  • Show interest – talk to students about their background. Talk to them about your background. Share.  Encourage them to tell stories that highlight a different perspective..
  • Walk the talk – be a role model of acceptance. Show students how to act appropriately, and then expect them to follow suit.  Invite students to embrace discussions, especially when someone has a different experience or perspective..
  • Use humor – Often issues of racial difference can get heavy. Comedy teaches us that humor can build bridges and start to develop  common understandings. Discovery of other cultures can result in laughter, on both sides..
  • Set guidelines of respect – be sure to be consistent and firm.  Ask your students to get involved – set their own rules of what’s acceptable and what’s not, etc..

To find more ideas, lesson plans and resources that explore the human dynamic of ‘insiders vs. outsiders’ – and much more,  please visit :

Giving it Back: Service Learning in Your Classroom

As every good teacher knows . . .

Service Learning combines academic classroom curriculum with meaningful service in the community. It’s a way of teaching, learning and reflecting that aims to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility and encourage lifelong civic engagement.




As every good teacher knows . . .

Service Learning combines academic classroom curriculum with meaningful service in the community. It’s a way of teaching, learning and reflecting that aims to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility and encourage lifelong civic engagement.

Service Learning builds on students’ abilities and interest in the world around them while imparting critical skills.

A Teacher-Educator Resource for your reflection and consideration.

A resource unit that provides food for thought for Teacher In-Service sessions.

A method of teaching and student analysis that discovers the wide-world of “the other” and people who are different from ourselves . . . and why.


Actress Script

Culture is a shared design for living. Each of our cultures (our ethnic heritage but also our income group, our religion, our gender, where we live and so forth) gives us a “script” to live by. When an actor stars in a movie, he or she is handed a script. The script tells the actors what to say and the stage directions tell the actors what to do. The script literally tells the actors who they are and what role they’re playing. 

As we grow up, people are handing us scripts all the time.

How many of you chose your first school or your first church, temple, mosque or synagogue? How many of you looked up at your parents — a babe in arm — and said, “Mom or Dad, I want to live in this neighborhood”? No. Your parents or guardians made those choices for you. That’s their job.

With each choice your parents or caretakers made for you, you entered into a specific culture. Each of these cultures, because they share a design for living, handed you a script so that you could make sense of the world.

Hundreds of these scripts make up a culture’s worldview. Each culture says, “This is how we do things around here and here’s your lines so that you can fit in as well. This is the role you’ll play.” It doesn’t mean everyone in the group thinks the same, but they are likely to have similar frames of reference.

In fact, though hard to believe sometimes, how other people act seems absolutely logical to them. Few people wake up in the morning and say, “I think I’ll be absolutely confusing, irrational and irresponsible today. And, oh, yeah, I can’t wait to drive other people crazy.” A key to understanding what drives other people, why something that seems ludicrous to you might seem perfectly logical and even terrific to them is to understand the various cultures from which you and other people come.


We think of “culture” pretty easily when we think of people’s ethnic backgrounds. No matter how disguised, ignored or blended through marriage and time, the fact remains our ethnic backgrounds can give us a great deal of strength, pride and identity. classroom

But, as teachers, we want to expand the definition of culture beyond ethnic backgrounds to include other dimensions of diversity such as geography, gender, language, physical abilities, religious and educational background and so on.

Some of you may have experienced these other categories of culture if, for example, your family changed from living a military life to a civilian life. That’s a real culture shock for many. Or, perhaps, some of you moved to go to school from one part of this country to another. If you moved from rural Omaha to New York City, for example, your whole relationship to time and space could change.

In New York City everything moves faster. You find yourself looking up more rather than looking out onto wide-open spaces. Each region of the country has a distinct feel and set of expectations and, therefore, could be thought of as a “culture”.

So each one of us, no matter the colors of skin before us, are teaching in multicultural classrooms. Some of the challenges our students face are actually problems in cultural interpretation. Our way of teaching – visually, kinetically, aurally, lecture-style and so on – and our references and examples, for instance, just don’t translate for some of our students.

Cultural competence demands that each of us be aware of our own cultural conditioning so that we can evaluate if our classroom is heavily weighted in one cultural style or another. Being an inclusive classroom takes openness plus a lot of thought and flexibility to try different teaching strategies until every child is reached.

From the Stage to the Classroom : Theatre Games

Portrait of business colleagues holding each other and laughingDownload the Theatre
Games Lesson Plan


The Fox TV series “Glee”—which both celebrates and sends up the world of high school performing arts— became a very popular show on TV, especially among teenagers. Part drama, part comedy, it captures not only the joys of performing but also the struggle to fit in.  Other shows have followed about teens and creating a community through theatre

It’s that desire to belong, to connect with others in a shared experience, that draws so many students to their school’s glee club or drama club. Anyone who’s ever performed in or worked backstage on a production can tell you that the process of preparing for an audience is full of community-building activities. Theatre has a unique power to unite a diverse group of people in a shared purpose. 

Teachers looking for a way to engage their students can take a cue from the theatre—and integrate some behind-the-scenes exercises to encourage personal development, build relationships between students of different races and cultural backgrounds, and create opportunities to discuss hard issues.

Here are just three of the many ways you can bring the theatre into the classroom:

 Use theatrical warm-up exercises to increase focus, energy and creative thought. 

Consider a game like “Take the Pulse.” Here’s how it works: Form a circle and ask everyone to “throw something in” that they want to be rid of. Go around the circle, one at a time, voicing these distractions. It could be an argument with a parent, anxiety over a test, or a falling out with a friend. After you’ve gone around the circle, ask everyone on the count of three to take a deep breath and, as they exhale, shoot their frustrated energy out into the center of the circle. Remind students that now they’ve let that distraction go and it’s time to focus on the work at hand.           

Build bridges between students of different backgrounds using ensemble techniques.

A game like “Cultural Mapping” provides an active way to allow students to identify with each other according to various categories. To get started, designate four areas in the room as north, south, east and west. Offer up different categories, and ask students to move across the room to the landmark that represents their answer. Categories could be: How many languages do you speak? What kind of pets do you have? How many times have you moved in your life? Create new categories that draw out the diversity of your group and encourage dialogue among students. 

Have students find their voice—and share their stories.

“Tour of a Place” is a game that opens the door to storytelling by calling on imagination, memory and detail. Divide the group into pairs, and ask each person to close her eyes and imagine a place that is very special, such as a favorite vacation spot or a room at home. Invite students to remember details, such as colors, smells, and light. Then each person gets to take their partner on a tour of that place. Have each person walk around the room, pointing out aspects of their place and describing it to their partner. 

When we share stories like this with each other, we enter into a process that can allow us to see the world in new ways, unpack fears and misunderstandings and build community. 

Theatre is a powerful way to bring people together. Even when we feel different from each other, or fear we have nothing to say, these games can break down barriers and build community.

For a complete free resource theatre games in the classroom, or to find more lessons and free videos about storytelling and community-building, please visit RaceBridges Studio.

Moving from PC (Politically Correct) to PC (Personally Caring) Language

Language is never neutral. I’m not talking about choosing our words to be “politically correct,” but to become more aware of what we arefor language communicating – intentionally and unintentionally. This debate over language isn’t arbitrary or frivolous. One group has had the power to name things, has had the power for so long that we are blind to the biases and put downs associated with so many “common” words. The greatest sign of respect is to call people what they want to be called.

To make it simple: ask the people you are involved with what they prefer to be called. Not in a manner that puts them under a microscope or asks them to speak for their group such as: “What do “you all” want to be called?” (“Well, all twelve million of us have taken a vote and…”) Instead, ask people as individuals what they prefer and be ready to share your preferences as well. This means we need to make connections; this means we need to talk to each other.

Instead of feeling put out by the need to consider language, we could rejoice in the fact that we’re finally becoming a multi-voiced nation. People are beginning to name themselves and no one group of anything wants to be called any one thing.

Language is a living, breathing, ever changing art form. We could take the attitude that it’s interesting and even fun to play with words so that our descriptions are more clear, more accurate and more sensitive. We could take the time to learn other people’s preferences not to be “right” but because we care not to hurt each other. When we choose different words we help people see a different reality. A different shared reality is the foundation upon which we can build a transformed society that works for everyone.


La’Ron Williams and his story ”From Flint, MI to Your Front Door: Tracing the Roots of Racism in America”

Professional storyteller La’Ron Williams grew up in an area of Flint, MI called “Elm Park.” It was an area that—from the 1940s to the 1960s—was transformed by a confluence of race, politics, and economics, from an all-White neighborhood into one that was all-Black. In his poignant and engaging story, “From Flint, Michigan to Your Front Door: Tracing the Roots of Racism in Working Class America,” Williams describes some of his earliest experiences with a growing awareness that he was receiving contradictory messages about himself as a Black person: although there was the nurturing support he got from his immediate community, there was also the shame he absorbed from the larger society’s portrayal of African-Americans in the mass market and the media.

Williams tells stories from the heart, and his stories tug at his listeners’ hearts too. With his engaging manner, Williams addresses an emotionally laden topic—racism—by combining an adult’s analysis and wisdom with the fully believable wonderment and confusion he felt as a child. Listeners of every color and background are drawn into his story precisely because it is suffused with a child’s sincerity and genuine bafflement that the reality he lived didn’t match the stories he was taught about himself on TV and at school.

Williams’s story begins in Chappy’s Barbershop in Flint at the end of the summer of 1955, when the author was only four years old. It was in Chappy’s that Williams first saw the cover of Jet magazine featuring a photograph of Emmett Till, an African-American teenager from Chicago who was murdered in Mississippi for allegedly whistling at a White woman. It was a grotesque photo, taken after Till’s body was recovered from the Tallahatchie River. Two bullet wounds were visible on Till’s swollen head.

Although he was a young child, Williams describes the jarring impact of that photograph upon his life. With an adult’s vision, he gives language to his childhood feelings of confusion as he struggled to understand why the images of White people portrayed on TV didn’t match the treatment of which he knew them to be capable. Following Till’s death, his grandmother explained it by saying, “White folks hate Colored folks!”  But almost all of the characters Williams saw on TV were “White folks,” and while they were sometimes funny, wise, courageous or clever, they were never cruel.

Williams uses this feeling of disconnection to provide insight into the dynamics of “blockbusting” and his own “transitioning” neighborhood. He uses the insight provided by his “outsider” status to offer enlightening explanations about his personal experiences with racial hierarchy: From the time his well-meaning but racially unaware third-grade teacher forced him to use “flesh” colored paint, to the incident when he was slapped in the face and called a “Nigger” by an older boy who was a member of the school safety patrol.

In the final part of the story Williams recalls a time when he was the only Black student in his seventh-grade English class. His class was asked to write about something called “the Beatles.” Williams didn’t know who they were, and his classmates and teacher shared a laugh at his expense. Later, when he wrote about Emmett Till, he discovered that neither his teacher nor his classmates had ever heard of him. In this case though, no one felt deprived for not knowing. No one was deemed “stupid” and no one was laughed at.

Williams’s story is both entertaining and enlightening. As he reflects upon his youth, his listeners are given an opportunity to reflect upon their own upbringings, and everyone thinks a little harder about the continuing entrenchment of racism in American society.


“At the end of the summer, in 1955, I was four years old, sittin’ there in Chappy’s Barbershop on a hot, hot, hot Saturday afternoon – (the kind of hot that’s so hot it makes grownups sleepy) – and I was lookin’ over at the table where Chappy kept the newspapers, and the magazines, and the candy – like I always did – when I saw this picture on the front cover of “Jet” magazine. It was the sort of thing that, if you’re only four years old, you don’t know what it is you’re lookin’ at . . . But I must have kept on lookin’, because the grownups started talkin’ about it. They said that it was a photograph . . . A photograph of a dead boy’s body . . . The body of a boy named Emmett Till.

I was four years old. It was the year before I even started Kindergarten, and I saw him lying there. He had one eye gouged out, his skull had been bashed in, he had two bullet holes in his head, and his face was swollen up like some kind of giant sponge from hanging for days upside down in waters of the Tallahachie River.

Do you all know about Emmett Till? Emmett Till was a fourteen year old Black boy who went down from Chicago to a place called Money Mississippi to visit his Uncle, and he was dragged out of bed in the middle of the night and brutally beaten and killed by two White men, because he supposedly whistled at, or winked at, or said something flirtatious to a White female store clerk.

In my mind, when I was lookin’ at that picture, it might just as well have been goin’ on right then. ‘Cause in the same second that I was lookin’ at the picture and hearin’ those barbershop men talkin’ about what had happened to Emmet Till, I saw myself dead and beat up like he was. I saw myself lookin’ at myself dead. I saw that Emmett Till’s skin was Brown like my skin was – I mean brown like everybody’s in Chappy’s Barbershop – and I knew in a split minute why this horrible thing had happened to him. Remember, I was only four years old, but I had already heard this kind of thing talked about a thousand times, and I could hear a voice inside my head. It was my grandmother’s voice, speakin’ almost in slow motion, as she gave the answer that she always gave whenever she was mad or frustrated with the shape of the world in which she was livin’. I could hear her say it: “White Folks Hate Colored Folks!”

… In the seventh grade … I was the only Black student in my English class. The teacher had given us an assignment to write a paper about something she called “the Beatles.” Everybody else in class was laughing and having a good time, and seemed to know what the teacher was talking about. I thought it was a joke and wondered why she wanted us to do a paper about insects. Everybody was in a good mood. But when I raised my hand and I asked, “What kind of beetles?” everybody had an even bigger laugh – at my expense. So the teacher told me, in a very condescending tone, that it was alright for me to write on any subject I chose, as long as I did a good job.

. . . So I wrote about Emmett Till. My teacher and classmates had never heard of him.”

La’Ron Williams, Storyteller:

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From Flint Michigan to Your Front Door: Tracing the Roots of Racism

by Storyteller LaRon Williams

This lesson plan explores the true story FROM FLINT MICHIGAN TO YOUR FRONT DOOR by African American professional storyteller La’Ron Williams. With humor and honesty Williams will inspire conversation among students about the issues of institutional racism, living in two cultures at once, and claiming one’s own history and culture. This story and lesson plan addresses the White, Euro-centrism of our history and culture and the use of story to challenge that mono-cultural understanding of history. Lesson Plan, story-text, student activities and audio-downloads.



Storyteller La’Ron Williams writes about his experience growing up in Flint, Michigan, where he felt nurtured by a strongly supportive African-American community. Yet even at an early age, Williams knew there were threats to his safety when he saw on the front cover of Jet Magazine the picture of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old boy who had been killed by bigoted Whites in the South.

From that jarring moment onward, Williams describes the experience of growing up in parallel worlds: a Black world that loved and mentored him and a White world that, even in its most benign expression, assumed a “neutral status” that for African-Americans was neither neutral nor benign. Using examples from the media and from his own experiences in a town divided by racial tension, Williams creates a story that tells the truth about American racial hierarchy while also offering hope for all those eager to transcend its legacy.

This story offers a powerful tool to approach institutional racism and unconscious bias in a nonthreatening way. With his rich, warm voice, La’Ron narrates audio excerpts that help to personalize these complex issues, bring them to life for students, and encourage his listeners to think deeply about race and racism.

Use this story as a way to introduce topics related to race, to deepen your conversations about the distinctions between personal and institutional racism, to address race and unconscious bias in the media, or to provide another way to celebrate African-American Heritage Month.

More information about this story

Lesson Plan

Download the From Flint, Michigan to Your Front Door lesson plan (PDF)

Story Excerpts

The following MP3 tracks are story excerpts for use with the From Flint, Michigan to Your Front Door lesson plan. Please note that these excerpts are protected by copyright and are exclusively for educational use.

Excerpt #1 — Part One — 8:26 minutes

Excerpt #2 — Part Two12:57 minutes

Excerpt #3 — Part Three — 7:19 minutes

Excerpt #4 — Part Four – 5:44 minutes

Need help to download the MP3 Story Excerpts?  Click here for directions.


About Storyteller La’Ron Williams

La’Ron Williams has a remarkable rapport with audiences of all kinds. Children and adults respond with equal enthusiasm to his warmth and vigor as he uses dialect, facial expressions and movement to breathe life into tales which transcend the boundaries of class and age.

Williams is motivated in part by the belief that the power and beauty of African culture should be shared, and that the lessons of struggle, perseverance, and survival of Africans in the Western Hemisphere are part of a legacy we all should recognize and own.

Ultimately, he believes that a narrow love of one’s own culture is not enough; that we all have to take the time to tell each other our stories – with all the joy and frowns and pain and smiles that they bring. That “…we have to come to know and accept the ways in which we are different and become aware of and appreciate the ways in which we’re alike, and that we have to use that knowledge not to ascribe hierarchy or to produce winners and losers, but to promote understanding and resolution.”

Hidden Memory: Japanese American Incarceration


Knowing your family’s story . . . and why it matters

by Storyteller Anne Shimojima

This unit raises the challenge for you and your students of knowing your family’s story – and why it matters. Other themes : How a national crisis can lead to xenephobia and the subtitles of institutional racism …. all told through the warm and lively storytelling style of professional storyteller Anne Shimojima as she recalls her Japanese American family and history.. Lesson Plan, story-text, student activities and audio-downloads. 

During World War II, the government of the United States authorized the arrest and relocation of every Japanese American on the West Coast. 120,000 Japanese Americans, the majority of whom were citizens, were forced into incarceration camps for the duration of the war.  During this time, Japanese-American men still served in the U. S. military even as their families were held prisoner at home.  Although the Congress passed the Evacuation Claims Act in 1948, which allowed incarcerees to make a claim against the government to recover a small percentage of their losses, this program was a failure.  It was not until 1988 that the U. S. government issued a formal apology and attempted in earnest to make reparation for the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II.

This lesson plan uses the story “Hidden Memory” by professional storyteller Anne Shimojima.  In this story, Shimojima tells about the experience of her family in the United States, especially during the time of World War II when some of her family were sent to the Incarceration camps

Use this story to teach about how easily racism and xenophobia can arise during times of war and national panic, what it is like to feel “unseen” in America, how people can survive adversity, and to commemorate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month in May.


Lesson Plan

Download the Hidden Memory: Japanese American Incarceration lesson plan (PDF)

Story Excerpts

The following MP3 track contains 4 story excerpts for use with the Hidden Memory: Japanese American Incarceration lesson plan. Please note that these excerpts are protected by copyright and are exclusively for educational use.

Hidden Memory – Part One — 6:17 minutes

Hidden Memory – Part Two 5:32 minutes

Hidden Memory – Part Three — 7:28 minutes

Hidden Memory – Part Four 8:01 minutes

Need help to download the MP3 Story Excerpts? Click here for directions.

.Video Stories

Two short video versions of Anne Shimojima’s stories EVACUATION and INCARCERATION can be found below.






About Storyteller Anne Shimojima

Like many Japanese-American families, Anne’s Shimojima’s family didn’t talk about their experiences during World War II. Gathering family photographs and interviewing a 91-year-old aunt opened the way to uncovering the story, and helped Anne to articulate her own identity as a Japanese-American.

Anne tells stories from her Asian background and around the world. Her thirty-plus years as an elementary school library media specialist have given her a rich knowledge of story and a keen ear for performance. She enriches the curriculum with stories and teaches her students to become storytellers themselves. Anne performs in schools, libraries, museums, and festivals, and gives workshops on the use of storytelling in education and on the creation of family history projects.


Our History is Our Strength : Women’s History Month


Listen to these Women Stories
in your classroom . . .

Bearing witness to the heroic
actions and words of women

Telling inspiring stories
that are little known
and rarely told . . .


 Listen to these stories and use the lesson plans with your students
of moving stories of inclusion and exclusion, loss and hope, past
and present. Use these stories in your classroom to inspire and
challenge your students to reflect on their world-view and to broaden
their horizons.

Use these stories as discussion starters for a faculty in-service session
to prompt and animate discussion about race-relations and inclusion.

These lesson plans come with complete text as well as audio, teacher guides,
student activities and further resources on related themes.  You may also find
corresponding videos on our sister site,

These units are also suitable for young adult group discussion as
springboards on the subjects of race and racism.




Anne Shimojima

Japanese American Storyteller Anne Shimojima tells her original story Hidden Memory: Incarceration: Knowing Your Family’s Story and Why it Matters. About her family in the United States, especially during the time of World War II when some of her family were sent to the Japanese-American incarceration camps. Explores in an engaging way xenephobia, racism and being “unseen” in society.Courage and resiliance in a story that is rarely told.


Watch videos


Download lesson plan and audio story


Olga Loya

Latina Storyteller Olga Loya tells excerpts from her original story: Being Mexican American : Caught Between Two Worlds – Nepantla. Growing up Mexican American in Los Angeles. Caught between the Latino and Anglo cultures, she realizes that she might belong to an even wider family and community and that perhaps there is a way to live with them all. Warm and spirited.


Watch Videos


Download lesson plan and audio story


Gene Tagaban

Native American storyteller Gene Tagaban remembers Elizabeth Peratrovich, Tlingit woman, of Petersburg, Alaska. She attended Western Washington State University. When she returned with a new husband to live in Juno, no one would rent her a home because she was native. This was the limit to Elizabeth. She said: “No more signs. We need better housing, good jobs and good education for the people. And the right to sit wherever we wanted.” Gene Tagaban lovingly remembers the life of Elizabeth Peratrovich through the stories told to him by his own grandmother. The story remembers the shining day, after much struggle and bigotry of the passage of the Alaskan Anti-Discrimination Bill in1945, 20 years before Rosa Parks refused to sit in the back of the bus. This account is part of Gene Tagaban’s longer story of identity and belonging : Search Across the Races : I Am Indopino … Or How to Answer the Question : “Who Are You?”.


Download lesson plan and audio story



Dovie Thomason

Native American storyteller Dovie Thomason tells her true story: The Spirit Survives: The American Indian Boarding School Experience: Then and Now. This story weaves together personal narrative and historical accounts about the Indian boarding schools to reveal how they were used to decimate native culture and how some Indians stood up to them. Shocking and Inspiring.


Download lesson plan and audio story



Linda Gorham

African American storyteller Linda Gorham tells two stories. One is I Am Somebody : Story Poems for Pride and Power. This an upbeat and moving celebration of Linda’s family tree and heritage. The lesson plan guides teachers to invite “pride poems” from their students. In her story Rosa Parks : One of Many Who Sat Down to Stand Up Linda personalizes the words and actions in a story of the famed Rosa Parks. The lesson plan explores the many other heroes of the civil rights movement who “sat down’ to stand up for justice. Self-worth, dignity and courage come alive.


Download lesson plans with audio stories


Watch Videos



Celebrating Women : Bridgebuilders and Storytellers

Ideas for bringing the universal subject of Women into your classroom.

RaceBridges honors Women’s History Month each year in the month of March. But gender equality is an important diversity issue that can be explored at any time. So we re-publish here our lesson plan for Women’s History Month in this Resource format. We remember that any time in the school year is a good time to explore the struggle for women’s equality and the ideals still not yet

fulfilled. We trust that these ideas, classroom activities and recommended links will be of help for you and your students in exploring this subject.




Fresh Ways to Celebrate the Dr. King Holiday in the Classroom

martin_luther_king-stampAs winter settles in and the new year arrives, classrooms are filled with restless students. They are fully engulfed in the routines of school, and are eager to do something different. The holiday that celebrates the life, values, and accomplishments of Martin Luther King, Jr. falls in the middle of January – right in the midst of the classroom blahs.

Why not add some zip to your curriculum and lessons? Why not change up your usual class customs? Get the students up and moving, doing something unexpected. Celebrate MLK Day with some fresh new ideas for students!

Here are some bright and creative ways to celebrate this national holiday in your classroom!

  • Plan a walk to raise money for a local charity or nonprofit organization that your students care about. Chart your trek on a local map.
  • Give a series of scenario skits to students to read and act out in class. These should be short and involve some sort of situational difficulties that students face. Once each skit is presented, ask the class what they would do? What would MLK suggest they do in that situation?
  • Have students research important quotes of MLK and design posters to hang throughout the school.
  • Send helium balloons up in the sky with MLK quotes or values written on them.
  • Organize a peaceful march referencing the values that MLK stood for.
  • Have students re-create or recite one of MLK’s famous speeches. Consider posting this on (this is a school-friendly version of YouTube where students can post videos and other projects online).
  • Arrange a classroom sit-in. Let students protest a class activity or policy (one that the teacher would be willing to change), and allow students to peacefully protest its use. Let them create posters, present persuasive speeches, and work collectively as a group.
  • Design creative bookmarks with MLK quotes on them.


Check out the new RaceBridges streamlined Lesson VOICES FOR CHANGE created for use around the Dr. King Holiday

And check out these other lessons and resources most suitable for reflection and use around the Dr. King Holiday.

► Check out these websites for more ideas:


For Black History and Always: I Am Somebody

Students need to know that their families and their cultures – and, therefore, they – are welcome in the classroom. A great way to do this is to take Linda Christensen’s idea featured in the wonderful book Beyond Heroes and Holidays: A Practice Guide to K-12 Anti-Racist, Multicultural Education and Staff Development called “Where I’m From: Inviting Student Lives Into the Classrooms.”

Have your students make up their own “I Am Somebody” or “I Am From” poems by first making lists of:

  • Items found in their homes
  • Items found in their yards
  • Items found in their neighborhood
  • Names of relatives – especially ones linked to the past
  • Family sayings
  • Names of foods served at family gatherings
  • Names of places where the family has lived or visited
  • People – past and present – from their culture who they admire

Then, with a link between images such as “I Am…” or “I Am From…” have students write a first draft. Next, have the students read to each other with no specific comments. Just being heard can help the students feel cared for. Then, you can have a general discussion of what made certain phrases stand out such as specificity of detail, metaphor or humor and the students can try one more draft.

Here are a couple excerpt examples from Linda Christensen’s article “Where I’m From: Inviting Student Lives Into the Classrooms”and my work with teens:

I am from awapuhi ginger

Sweet fields of sugar cane

And green bananas


I am from get-togethers

And Barbeques

Salsa dancing on the back porch


I am from Kunta Kinte’s strength

Harriet Tubman’s escapes

Phyllis Wheatley’s poems

And Sojourner Truth’s faith


In this video, storyteller, Linda Gorham, shares her “I Am Somebody” story and reminds us that “We are products of the people who came before us and the preparation for the future.” 


Feathers in the Wind: A Jewish-American’s Story

feathersby Storyteller Susan Stone

Feathers in the Wind: A Jewish American’s Story invites students and teachers of all religious and cultural backgrounds to reflect on their own lives and to explore the impact of gossip and hurtful words.

This lesson plan “unpacks” stories told by Susan Stone, a professional storyteller. This story and lesson plan can be used in one or two sessions.


“…Your words are like feathers in the wind.

Once they’re gone you can’t get them back and you don’t know where they’ve gone to.”



Feathers in the Wind: A Jewish American’s Story invites students and teachers of all religious and cultural backgrounds to reflect on their own lives and to explore the impact of gossip and hurtful words. This lesson plan “unpacks” stories told by Susan Stone, a professional storyteller. This story and lesson plan can be used in one or two sessions.

This unit provides some ways to engage diverse students with traditional folk tales and contemporary stories.

  • Through personal reflection, peer discussion, and the development of collective strategies for making a difference, the exercises included here explore our use of language and encourage us to stand up for our beliefs.
  • The unit seeks to promote a culture of empathy and compassion for the differences and similarities among us.


Lesson Plan

Download the Feathers in the Wind lesson plan (PDF)


Story Excerpts

The following MP3 tracks are story excerpts for use with the Feathers in the Wind lesson plan. Please note that these excerpts are protected by copyright and are exclusively for educational use.

Excerpt #1 — Track One — 12:18 minutes

Excerpt #2 — Track Two– 8:58 minutes

Need help to download the MP3 Story Excerpts?  Click here for directions.


About Storyteller Susan Stone


Susan Stone has been sharing her tales for over twenty years for children and adults all over the USA.  She teaches storytelling to teachers at National-Louis University, IL, and has been honored with many awards for her CDs of Jewish stories for children.  She loves telling stories from many cultures, but especially loves sharing stories from the Jewish tradition.  Susan  believes that hearing each other’s stories enables us to nurture compassion for others, and perhaps heal ourselves as well.

Fair Housing Month – What Do We Do Now?


What’s to be done today? We can live in the welcoming, secure, diverse communities that so many of us desire. But to do this, we must become knowledgeable and proactive. We must deliberately connect affordable housing to other life improving opportunities for all of us. With vibrant, mixed income communities throughout our entire nation, we can create strong tax bases that break our current cycle of advantages for some and diminished prosperity for others which equals calamity for all of us. We all lose with any system that isolates us from each other. True opportunity is the only way to create lasting stability and peace.

An educated public can help create local and national policies that promote the everyday interests Americans share across age, race, class, income, religion and other lines of difference. We all care about job security, reasonable medical and housing costs, safe childcare, good schools, time with our family and friends and living near our place of employment. We all long for a feeling of safety and belonging. Where we live, and the opportunities to which we have access are crucial to these shared desires finding a common reality.

How do we do this? By getting involved in local fair housing groups that can show us how the pieces of the puzzle fit together – how school funding affects opportunity, how fair and affordable housing builds stronger communities and a more secure real estate market and so forth. To fashion healthy communities where people are supported in pursing their limitless possibilities we’re going to need to be informed, aligned and organized.

Once such group is Open Communities of the North Shore ( There is a similar kind of group near you.

Is April’s Fair Housing Month the time for you to say “Yes” to establishing more fair, secure and welcoming communities?

Read more about Fair Housing here Part 2

Fair Housing Month – The Third Wave of Segregation


We’ve taken a brief look at the history of segregation in the U.S. Well, things are different today, right?  Unfortunately, that isn’t so. Even though housing laws have changed, rather than being a break from our past, our current living patterns are the next reincarnation in a continual thread of inequality. Today, we’re experiencing a third wave of segregation, based on economics, needing no conscious ill-intent to or from any person or any group of people and, yet, this third wave can have the same effect of the last two waves by locking in poverty and segregation in our country for the next hundred years.

Make no mistake; there is still blatant discrimination. There are realtors who steer families to segregated neighborhoods. There are mortgage officers who refuse applicants loans for racial, ethnic and religious reasons. There are insurance agents who quote prices unfairly. These individual, illegal examples are serious.  But even more dangerous is the invisible segregation of today, precisely because it needs no ill-intent and can be so hard to see. For the most part, we do not have the cross burnings, mob violence, bullying realtors, and obvious unrestrained greed of old. However, we do have tax structures, other public policies and private business practices that are increasing the gulf between the have’s and the have not’s in this society at an alarming rate. We still have the myth of meritocracy: work hard and you’ll get ahead. But, when we study the less obvious public policies that are still in effect today and how the past is still influencing the present, we start to see the ways the deck is stacked for and against certain groups of people.

When we look back at the first and second wave of segregation, we can think, “How could people not know this was going on?” But will we ask the same thing about this, the third wave of segregation that continues today? Are we aware of the larger forces that control where we live, the opportunities that they open or close and what is happening to people in other parts of our cities. It is our hope that we won’t look back some day on this, the third wave of segregation, with the same surprised defense, “But I didn’t know!”

Fair Housing Month – The Second Wave of Segregation


With the isolated black and white areas in place by the 1930s, many U.S. cities began to move into their second wave of segregation. In the 1940s, U.S. Congress gave cities huge federal grants to acquire rundown urban areas. With that money, the cities bought up the mostly black “slums” (that it had been instrumental in creating in the first place), tore them down and, then, handed the land to developers who were supposed to build enough replacement housing for the people who had lived there. Well, we know how that story ended.

Instead of being relocated in their home neighborhoods, the cities housed the displaced people in public housing towers that violated all federal standards for density. The hyper segregation of today’s cities could not have been sealed without the help of local and federal governments and this second wave of segregation which eventually created large, fortress-like, all-black areas.

Those displaced by “Urban Renewal” and those dislocated by public housing construction, provided real estate agents with a steady stream of desperate people searching for homes.  These people became the fodder for the real estate agents’ block busting schemes (“Buy low from the white people, sell high to the blacks”) that forced many white people to leave homes and communities they loved. In a modern day Machiavellian scheme, one group was played against another and everyone lost except for the unscrupulous business people who made millions and the politicians who had now fashioned separate, more easily manipulated voting blocks.

Read more about fair housing here Part 3

Goal Setting : Eyes on the Prize

diversitygoalGoal-Setting: Strategies for Involvement and Achievement


Once the diversity mission statement has been created and the pledge for diversity has been written, it is time to develop some realistic goals for achieving your diversity ideals. Who should be involved in determining the goals for your school? What should the goals be? Below are a few guidelines and examples for setting the diversity goals for your school.


  • Include teachers, administrators, and students in this process of goal-setting. Students should be leaders in the schools, and positive role-models to other students. Teachers can advise the student-led process, and lead students toward the ultimate goal of school unity.
    Administration can also contribute and approve during the process..
  • Decide what concepts your school values. Here are a few examples:

○    Respect for all

○    Everyone has the right to learn

○    Tolerance and acceptance for all (anti-bullying)

○    Everyone has a story

○    Learn from each other, not just from written materials

○    Violence is never the answer to problems


  • Once you’ve decided on your values, you can discuss classroom or school activities that promote those values. In other words, what do these values look like?.
  • Be clear and concise. Use words and language that students understand..
  • Create a student code of conduct. Discuss expectations and how violations of these values will be handled. (Loss of privileges, detention, suspension, conference with parent or administration, etc.).
  • Determine events or activities that will underscore your values. These should be activities that the whole school can participate in..
  • The final product should be formally written up, printed, and agreed upon by all involved parties..

Check out this website for a great example of diversity goals:



Lehigh University. (n.d.). Retrieved 1 22, 2012, from

Exploring Cultural Heritages

Where is my family from, originally? What customs or traditions do I practice at home? What things are important to my culture? These are questions that you should ask yourself before asking your students when you decide to explore the cultural heritages of your students.

When exploring the backgrounds of your students, it is most valuable that you share your background with them as well. Model for them what kind of information you are looking for them to discover and share.   For example:

  • Bring in artifacts from your cultural; heritage.
  • Tell a story well-known to your family, but not so known to others..
  • Talk about your childhood and your family..
  • Show pictures of your ancestors or a map highlighting your country of origin..
  • Share the kinds of jobs completed by family members of years past – what did they do?.
  • Explain what daily life was like for your family then, and what your life is like today..
  • Allow students to experience a custom, tradition, ritual, etc. of your heritage..
  • Bring in a family member to share a story or celebration of your heritage with your students..

Once you have established the guidelines of exploring cultural heritages, provide students with a framework of things to identify about themselves and their family. Make it a checklist or a webquest (an online scavenger hunt for information). Below are a few other ideas to get you started on discovering the cultural backgrounds of your students:

  • Interview a relative.
  • Find a song that is relevant to your culture – students can play/sing it to the class or find a recording of it to play for the class
  • Make a family tree.
  • Record a recipe handed down in your family.
  • Share a folktale from your family, culture, or country of origin.

Follow these links for great ideas and activities that focus on exploring cultural heritages in your classroom:



Heritage and family histories are the subjects of many

of our RaceBridges Studio Lesson Plans, videos and resources.







A Short Video Story


by Anne Shimojima



Interested in knowing what life was really like for Japanese Americans following the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941? Take a journey with storyteller Anne Shimojima as she tells not only her own personal family experiences of the event, but relates the difficulties faced by many Japanese Americans at the onset of WWII.


With honest and detailed reflection, storyteller Anne Shimojima tells the personal story of the forced evacuation of her grandparents following the attack on Pearl Harbor. While setting the stage with warm recollections of who her grandfather was, she interlaces historical facts to build a foundation of awareness.

Relating hardships faced my many Japanese Americans, Shimojima explains how prejudice and discrimination resulted from unadulterated rumor and fear. She recounts the bitterness that she saw in the faces of her loved ones, and how their experiences in the forced evacuation profoundly affected her family. Listen as she brings a new understanding to a long misunderstood and overlooked aspect of American history.

Classroom Applications:

  • Invite a guest speaker who experiences persecution to come to share stories with students
  • Watch the short film The Wave to show students how people are easily influenced when fear and rumor are involved (film is easily found online)
  • Create a set of interview questions, and have students interview an older family member or friend.

Watch the video now



Explore our many other RaceBridges Studios videos for

Asian American Month or any time of the year.


ETHNIC FOOD FIGHTS: Who Invented Pasta?

Holiday time is a time of celebration and that means… food! 4000-Noodles-150x150One of the easiest and most pleasant ways people begin to learn about other cultures is through sampling different ethnic foods. However, it’s interesting to discover that, sometimes, more than one culture lays claim to having invented a food.

Take pasta. Many give Italy credit for this delicious staple. However, a 4,000-year-old bowl of noodles was unearthed in China in 2005 giving credence to many in that country who claim that pasta is an Asian, not an Italian, invention.

It all depends on how you define pasta. The thin yellow noodles that were unearthed at an archaeological site in northwestern China revealed a noodle made of two kinds of millet. Some say that to be a true pasta the noodles must be made from the unleavened dough of durum wheat semolina. Using that definition of pasta, others claim that pasta was discovered in Italy in the 1st century AD.

However, to further complicate things, some say it was Arabs who, at that time, discovered a wheat pasta near Sicily. Others say that yes, indeed, the Arabs were the first to create a wheat pasta, but it wasn’t discovered in Italy at all. It was brought there from the Mideast.

More easily documented is the addition of tomato sauce (and the need to eat pasta with a fork, not the fingers) which came in the 1700s and shows up in the cookbook L’Apicio Moderno by Roman chef Francesco Leonardi in 1790. One thing is for certain: people love this versatile food and eating food from around the world is one of the great joys in life and one of the easiest ways to connect.

Next week: More Ethnic Food Fights

Encouraging School Spirit in All Areas…

Not Just in Sportsschool-spirit

“We’ve got spirit, yes we do! We’ve got spirit, how ‘bout you?”

School spirit connected to athletics is legendary. Cheerleaders for sports, pep rallies that encourage students to root for their team to win, mascots, songs that audiences cheer……..we have all experienced, seen, or heard these long-standing traditions of schools and sports.

But, what about the other disciplines in education? What about academics being celebrated as a school? How can your school not just acknowledge academic achievement, but “pump up” students to strive for excellence in other areas besides athletics?   Below are a few ideas for schools:

  • Make learning FUN! Develop lessons that are hands-on instead of direct instruction..
  • Display student works in classrooms, hallways, common areas, etc. Show that student academic achievement is prized!.
  • Hold student rallies on occasions of academic success. Celebrate those accomplishments as a school!.
  • Recognize teams that are not athletic and their accomplishments – for example: debate, music (instrumental and choral), journalism, writing contests, etc..
  • Showcase academic awards in display cases in the school. These can be trophies, ribbons, certificates, etc. attained through academic competition. Examples could include: spelling bees, debate competitions, science club inventions, broadcasting plaques, state competitions of all kinds that offer awards, music concerts and battles that involve place-standings, etc..
  • Make announcements that congratulate participants and winners regardless of the discipline involved..
  • Take pictures and interview participants for school news, and pass news on to local community news leaders..
  • Encourage students to cheer for all achievements. Talk about other awards in class. Share stories of previous students, or even your own, that highlight academic excellence..
  • Encourage teachers, administration, and staff to attend a variety of school competitions, not just sports..
  • Support student achievement in the classroom – TALK to the student about their experiences. Let them share, even brag a little. Let them know that you noticed and cheered for them..
  • Don’t ignore the accomplishments of athletes, rather, give equal time to academic accomplishments..

Explore the many ways your school can organize a Unity Day.  Go the RaceBridges Resource Bridge Builder: Unity Day.

Dreaming of Cuba: Stories that Bind

by Storyteller Antonio Sacre

Antonio Sacre tells of his lifelong desire to learn about Cuba from his father and his father’s reluctance to discuss the country from which he and his family were exiled after the revolution in 1959. Sacre explores his desire to learn about his family’s history, his father’s reluctance to discuss Cuba, and the time his father finally shared some memories from his childhood.



This lesson plan “unpacks” the story Dreaming of Cuba: The Stories that Bind by Antonio Sacre. He is an internationally touring writer, storyteller, and solo performance artist based in Los Angeles. He is the son of a Cuban father and Irish-American mother and a Boston native.

Antonio Sacre tells of his lifelong desire to learn about Cuba from his father and his father’s reluctance to discuss the country from which he and his family were exiled after the revolution in 1959. Sacre explores his desire to learn about his family’s history, his father’s reluctance to discuss Cuba, and the time his father finally shared some memories from his childhood. This story and lesson plan explores themes of identity, loss, and family relationships.

Lesson Plan

Download the Dreaming of Cuba lesson plan (PDF)


Story Excerpt*

The following MP3 tracks are story excerpts for use with the Dreaming of Cuba lesson plan. Please note that these excerpts are

protected by copyright and are exclusively for educational use.

Dreaming of Cuba“– 8:05 minutes

(Need help to download the MP3 Story Excerpts? Click here for directions.)

….. …..
Download Two Extra Bonus Stories related to the themes of this Lesson Plan. Listen to two extra stories by Antonio Sacre about himself, his father and Cuba.

* NOTE: There are differences between the transcript and the spoken version of this story; it is preferable to listen to the story, using the transcript as a guide while listening or as a way to remember story details while working in class.

……. …….


About Antonio Sacre

Antonio Sacre, born in Boston to a Cuban father and Irish-American mother, is an internationally touring writer, storyteller, and solo performance artist based in Los Angeles. He earned a BA in English from Boston College and an MA in Theater Arts from Northwestern University. He has performed at the National Book Festival at the Library of Congress, the Kennedy Center, the National Storytelling Festival, and museums, schools, libraries, and festivals internationally.

Contact & Information for Antonio Sacre:

Diversity : Words Into Deeds

diversityThe Positives of Learning in a Diverse Environment

While there are many difficulties in learning or teaching in a diverse classroom, there are equally as many (if not more) rewards of learning in such an environment. Students gain so many positives from a culturally aware classroom, and these advantages follow them through adulthood. Diversity in education provides a wide array of experiences for students, and allows them to acquire invaluable knowledge and understanding of those who are different from themselves.

Teachers and schools recognize the necessity and value of cultural awareness in the classroom. With so much focus in our country on immigration, it is important for others to realize the significant impact that other cultures have had (and are having) on our future leaders.   Below are some key benefits afforded to students, thanks to diversity in education and cultural awareness:

  • Cultural awareness provides knowledge and understanding of other cultures, which breeds sensitivity and tolerance..
  • Respect for others is given through understanding and experience, and ignorance is left behind..
  • Cooperation and collective work is commonplace at school, and makes working on a team a much more comfortable and easier experience in future ventures..
  • Interactions with actual people from other cultures are experiences that cannot be duplicated in a textbook..
  • Students develop relationships with students of other cultures, allowing a deeper understanding of the cultures than an academic lesson can provide..
  • Students have a better understanding of themselves..
  • Diverse classrooms provide students with “real world” experiences, and help to build understanding and respect for different cultures. Our world is nothing if not multicultural..
  • Working in diverse groups in the classroom enriches discussions with different viewpoints and experiences.



Gorski, V. (2011, 2 24). Positive & Negative Aspects of Diversity in the Classroom. Retrieved 1 22, 2012, from

Maddox, C. (2011, 4 20). The Effects of Cultural Diversity in the Classroom. Retrieved 1 22, 2012, from

Diversity: What Should Your School Look Like?

As our country grows ever more diverse, so do our schools. Classrooms are filled with students of various backgrounds, DiverseStudents-300x162and it is essential that those of us in the field of education acknowledge these many backgrounds in our buildings. Lessons should be inclusive of many backgrounds and cultures. Teachers need to grow with this trend, and reach out to students. Learning cannot happen if students feel disconnected from the material being taught. Therefore, It is so important for schools to recognize this growth, and to be sure that schools reflect this increasing change in our population.

What does a successfully inclusive school look like? Below are answers to some very vital and common questions centered on this topic.

Why is diversity such a key element in schools?

With the rise in diversity in our country, students of various backgrounds are enrolled in schools. Schools, therefore, have a large influx of diversity among students. With such a wide array of personal histories, it is not appropriate for teachers to focus on only one set of circumstances in classrooms and lessons. For students to learn most effectively, they need to connect to the educational material.

How does diversity benefit students?

  • Allows students to experience new things outside the use of a textbook
  • Gives students the background needed to work successfully with people who are different from themselves
  • Teaches respect, something today’s students need to value more
  • Increases awareness of others and their heritages
  • Boosts self-esteem
  • Shows greater understanding of material presented in lessons
  • Develops critical thinking skills
  • Fosters positive leadership skills

What does a school that embraces diversity look like?

  • Respectful and welcoming
  • Responsive and proactive to issues or problems connected with having a diverse population
  • Showcases pictures and projects of a diverse nature throughout the building, including students and their works
  • Has programs in place that embrace and celebrate diverse backgrounds (culture, race, religion, gender, etc.)
  • Curriculum utilizes many different heritages in the lessons
  • Classrooms highlight the backgrounds of students
  • Guest speakers are brought in to talk about and explore diversity with students
  • Volunteerism is encouraged
  • Tolerance and acceptance are promoted, if not required
  • Students have an awareness of culture and heritage
  • Faculty and administration are sensitive to heritage and background, and uphold values connected with them
  • Parents and community are openly and regularly involved in the school
  • Differences are celebrated
  • Honors the celebrations of culture in families
  • Students are asked to share backgrounds with others
  • Classrooms are diverse and comfortable
  • Schools, families, and communities work together to ensure the successful learning of students

What can teachers do to support and encourage the diversity in classrooms today?

  • Encourage students to share.
  • Ensure that curriculum is diverse – authors, leaders, inventors, scientists, poets, mathematicians, musicians, artists, etc. Be sure to showcase many different kinds of backgrounds of important people.
  • Decorate your room with diversity in mind. Places, people, quotes, pictures, etc. Be inclusive.
  • Share your own background with students.
  • Incorporate activities within your lessons that allow students to interact with one another.
  • Be respectful and welcoming, and expect students to follow suit. Make it a rule. Everyone is accepted.
  • Support politeness and courtesy.
  • Talk to parents and community. Ask for their interactions and input, either with student works or through classroom interactions.
  • Arrange for times for students to experience other cultural activities.
  • Plan for small group projects...


Explore the many free RaceBridges Studio lessons
and videos for the classroom, faculty
and your organizations :

Diversity: Using Music to Enhance the Inclusiveness of Your School

musicMusic has a unique and powerful way of bringing people together. It allows for emotions to be celebrated and shared, and opens the door for understanding. Schools who encourage diversity value music. They know that music is relatable, regardless of the language spoken or the genre of the song. Students build connections with others and their backgrounds through the mutual experience of music. And, more importantly, students develop empathy through music. Empathy is something students struggle to learn, but is an invaluable skill once acquired. When students can put themselves in another’s place, respect flourishes. Where there is respect, learning can take place unabashed.

Using music to expand the horizons of students is a great way to introduce and support diversity in schools and classrooms. How can music be incorporated into your school, your classroom, and your lessons?

Check out these websites for some fantastic ideas and information:


Explore the many free RaceBridges Studios lessons
and videos for the classroom, faculty
and your organizations :
RaceBridges Studio.

Diversity: Learning about Different Cultures

We all live in a very culturally diverse world, a world that is gradually becoming more diverse. Our country is a great melting pot of culture and tradition. A mosaic that is often ever changing,  It is filled with vivid artists, sizzling dancers, profound writers, brilliant scientists and mathematicians, and brave leaders. All of whom fill our country with the colorful richness of many different cultures. How do we ensure that our students absorb this richness, and embark on their own journeys that are sure to be loaded with cultural diversity?

Because schools are places of learning and are filled with cultural diversity, they are excellent places for students to study both academics and different cultures of people.  Classrooms have adapted to this change, and must continue to do so. What are some ways that schools and teachers can incorporate different cultures into lessons?

  • Expand a social studies lesson on world wars to more than
    simply listing the countries involved in the wars; study the cultures.
  • Create art projects based on cultural traditions and/or craftwork.
  • Read about cultural happenings in current events.
  • Make cultural recipes or clothing in family and consumer science classes.
  • Study regional plant life and animals in science classes.
  • Share oral traditions in language arts classes.
  • Discover cultural celebrations as a school.
  • Experience traditional music and dance.


Diversity: Experiencing the Differences of People

The world is filled with different cultures of people. Education has the great advantage of being able to experience these different cultures and peoples on a daily basis and in a very open context, unlike many other fields. In schools, it is possible to take the time to explore different cultures up close. In the classroom, teachers can create an environment of tolerance and acceptance unlike any other place. Because of these special circumstances, students are able to benefit tremendously through the interactions with other cultures.

What can schools and teachers do to facilitate experiences between different cultures in the classroom? Below are a few examples:

  • Use technology to talk to people of other cultures or experience their traditions. Use Skype. Create a Facebook or other online page for students in other countries to connect with your students.
  • Use technology to research other cultures and traditions.
  • Invite guest speakers to come in and share their background. Look at parents, grandparents, community leaders, business owners, cultural leaders, etc.
  • Allow students to share their backgrounds, traditions, and holidays.
  • Read from a wide variety of authors in all classes, especially Language Arts.
  • Study an array of cultures in social studies.
  • Create artwork from many different cultures.
  • Listen to, sing, or play music from all over the world.
  • Display photos of other cultures and traditions.
  • Hang up quotes from prominent people of all cultures.
  • Talk about the differences, but also talk about the similarities. The differences make us unique individuals, but the similarities help us to understand each other

Diversity Bridge-Building

Exploring the Wider Worlds of Difference and Connection

A Classroom or School Event

click here to download this lesson plan


By the end of this lesson students will be able to…..

  1. Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse formats and media, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.
  2. Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.
  3. Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
  4. Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
  5. Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organizations, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

Tribal Pride: Various Names for the People of the First Nations

Native American. First Nations. American Indian. This culture of people has such unique and interesting backgrounds, and it is most intriguing to learn about each tribe by name. Although the encompassing titles of Native American or First Nations identify the nationality of the people, it is the tribes that are the most distinctive. Each has its own way of life, history, location, food, clothing, and artwork. Each has its own legends and stories, people and personalities.

Schools and teachers work diligently to be as inclusive and sensitive as possible in classroom settings, and to teach students to do the same. It is recommended that schools learn which tribes are part of their student enrollment, and celebrate those accomplishments accordingly. Below are a few well-known tribes and their meanings, and a few websites that offer information on a vast number of other Native American tribes.


  • Apache – “enemy”*
  • Cherokee – “relatives of the Cree” or “the people”*
  • Chippewa – “original person”*
  • Dakota – “the allies”*
  • Micmac – “my friends”*
  • Mohawk – “man-eaters”*
  • Mohican – “from the waters that are never still”*
  • Navajo – “planted fields”*
  • Seminole – “wild”*
  • Sioux – “the allies”*
  • Wampanoag – “easterners”*


Dignity and Courage Come Alive !

by Storyteller Linda Gorham

I Am Somebody :  Story Poems for Pride and Poweriam

African American storyteller Linda Gorham tells this upbeat and moving celebration of Linda’s family tree and heritage. The lesson plan guides teachers to invite “pride poems” from their students.




Rosa Parks : One of Many Who Sat Down to Stand Uprosa

In Linda Gorham’s story Rosa Parks : One of Many Who Sat Down to Stand Up Linda personalizes the words and action in a story of the famed Rosa Parks. The lesson plan explores the many other heroes of the civil rights movement who “sat down’ to stand up for justice. Self-worth, dignity and courage come alive.



Dignity and Courage Come Alive !



lindaAfrican American storyteller Linda Gorham tells two stories. One is I Am Somebody : Story Poems for Pride and Power. This is an upbeat and moving celebration of Linda’s family tree and heritage.

The lesson plan guides teachers to invite “pride poems” from their students.

In her story Rosa Parks : One of Many Who Sat Down to Stand Up Linda personalizes the words and action in a story of the famed Rosa Parks. The lesson plan explores the many other heroes of the civil rights movement who “sat down’ to stand up for justice. Self-worth, dignity and courage come alive.

This unit comes with a teacher guide, text of stories & audio-download of stories as well as student activities.

Lesson Plans

I am Somebody: Yes You Are!


    • Build pride in students for their family and background
    • Connect home life and classroom activities
    • Model how times of struggle become sources of strength
    • Appreciate the diversity and background of the other students
    • Gain practice in writing by creating poems and stories

Download I Am Somebody Lesson Plan (PDF)


Rosa Parks: One of Many Who Sat Down to Stand Up


    • Become more familiar with the Rosa Parks’ story
    • Place Ms. Parks’ protest within the larger context of her supportive family and community and the burgeoning Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s
    • Examine the motives and practices of bigotry and institutional racism
    • Experience a recreation of some of the feelings, challenges and decisions facing people in this country as they lived in a system of legalized segregation and discrimination
    • Understand the extent of the bravery of those who stood up to discrimination given the ignorance and violence of the times.

Download Rosa Parks Lesson Plan (PDF)


Story Excerpts

The following MP3 tracks are story excerpts for use with the I am Somebody and Rosa Parks lesson plans. Please note that these excerpts are protected by copyright and are exclusively for educational use.

Need help to download the MP3 Story Excerpts?  Click here for directions.


About Storyteller Linda Gorham

Linda Gorham’s stories are fun, full of energy, and designed to enhance the love of reading. She tells folktales, inspirational stories, fables, “RESPECT” stories, hero stories, and, of course, stories that make your spine tingle and your hair stand on edge. Linda’s stories reinforce values, spark the imagination, and explore the world of ideas and traditions from other cultures.


Differentiation: A Vital Tool for Inclusion and Understanding in Today’s Schools

 As our society diversifies in cultural heritages, schools must adapt to the many different cultures that fill the classrooms. It is no longer appropriate or acceptable to teach without acknowledging the “melting pot” or many and varied mixtures that is our world. Differentiation is the key for developing cultural awareness and understanding in schools, and is an important current trend in education.What is it? Essentially, differentiation is the use of many different teaching methods based on diverse student needs. This is a student-centered way of teaching – that whatever is taught is done in a manner that will reach students where they are, as it should be. It ties academic concepts to student backgrounds, interests, and abilities.  Here are a few ways that it can be used in the classroom:

  • Appeal to visual learners with pictures and things to look at
  • Appeal to auditory learners with stories and music
  • Appeal to kinesthetic learners with active movements, such as dance or role-playing
  • Use objects that students can touch, hold, or inspect
  • Use hands-on activities that highlight cultural heritages – like nature walks and working with the earth, crafts, art projects, and the use of musical instruments from particular cultures
  • Create a writing assignment based on student interest and background.

The many lesson plans and resources on this site will aid
you with ideas and exercises for bringing inclusion
and welcome into your classroom or group.

See : RaceBridges Studio and RaceBridgesVideos

November is Native American Heritage Month



Each year in November, many students learn of the Thanksgiving story. They hear of Pilgrims and Indians, of the hardships, the food, and the bond established between the two peoples. A table is set for feasting and for celebrating the day of America’s discovery. Many, unfortunately, do not learn of another aspect of that time – that Native Americans see it as a time of mourning. How do schools and teachers cover the Thanksgiving story sensitively and with accuracy?   Below are a few tips to get started.

  • Invite a guest speaker to talk to students about the perspective in an age and school appropriate manner...
  • Find books or other resource materials that depict actual happenings..
  • Talk about why Native Americans would feel mournful at this time..
  • Avoid stereotypical plays, clothing, speech, food, or behaviors..
  • Share what happened in the years after the First Thanksgiving (age and school appropriate, of course)..
  • Create a new Thanksgiving story..
  • Focus on gratitude..
  • Allow students to share personal experiences.


RaceBridges presents a number of free lessons and resources that
will provide teachers and leaders with many ideas and activities for this time of year.

Explore these free lessons and videos for this month of November:

November: Native American Heritage Month


cyberbullyElectronic technology has given rise to a whole new form of bullying – cyber bullying or electronic aggression. Imagine you’re a student being teased by the school bully. You can avoid or get away from him or her, right? Not so in the pervasive electronic world of email, texts, posts and voicemail. 24/7 you can be demeaned and belittled and worse, now, massive amounts of people can know about it. You may not even be able to discover who is sending these taunts.

The 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey found that 16% of high school students (grades 9-12) were electronically bullied in the past year. Kids who are bullied in the much larger world of electronic media may turn the hatred in on themselves through use of drugs, alcohol and even attempted suicides.

The positive and negative uses of technology need to be a regular conversation in every classroom. Clear guidelines can help students understand how to be safe online. Topics of conversation can include:

  • what sites are okay to visit
  • how to keep passwords private
  • how messages meant to share with a few can spread to many
  • what to do if one’s identity is stolen
  • what to do if you or someone you know is being bullied online.

Encourage your students to tell you immediately if they or someone else is a victim of electronic bullying. Clear school rules and policies help everyone get on the same page about the use of electronics, but to become a living document the policies must be consistently discussed and reinforced. In addition, private, easy-to-use reporting systems must be in place at your school.

For more on electronic aggression go to:


Other ideas on eliminating bullying include:


Culturally Responsive Classrooms : What To Avoid And What To Incorporate

Today’s students are more diverse than ever before, and it is vitally important that cultural differences in the classroom be acknowledged and celebrated. Culturally responsive classrooms are positive examples of inclusion. They breed compassion while enhancing student learning. How do you build and maintain a classroom like this? Below are some tips for successfully blending cultural awareness and academics. 

Old practices that should be avoided:

  • Teachings that are stereotypical or incorrect of a particular group of people
  • Teachings that focus on only the past of a particular culture
  • Having a token representative of a particular culture in the classroom


New practices that should be incorporated:

  • Acknowledge the existence of other cultures, and learn about current customs of various cultures
  • Use multiple teaching methods to appeal to various learning styles
  • Recognize that home and school are strongly connected, and support cultural traditions that occur at home
  • Be informed – research and read about other cultures. Find books and other materials that will help students to develop awareness and understanding of other cultures
  • Share. Allow students to talk about their backgrounds. Consider guest speakers that discuss and inform students of other cultures – parents are a great resource
  • Bridge student thinking that cultures only have differences – support similarities of students and cultures



The many lesson plans and resources on this site will aid you
with ideas and exercises for bringing inclusion and
welcome into your classroom or group.

See : and



Diversity Memo: Thanksgiving & Native American Month:


Who’s Missing from the Table?


Dear Teacher or Leader,

November brings the holiday of Thanksgiving. It’s a time of year when we are reminded of our blessings, and encouraged to express gratitude for all that we have. It’s also a national holiday that embraces all of the many ethnic groups of people that make up the immense diversity of America.

November is also Native American — or American Indian month. Often the myths and stories of America’s first inhabitants meeting the early immigrants is remembered in image, story and often in plays in our schools.

As educators we carry the responsibility to address the complicated and painful aspects of our history that occurred between the pilgrim settlers and the Native peoples of North America. These enduring images of oppression and violence from the past call out for fresh examination today. In this RaceBridges Diversity Memo can lead to a new consideration of your students’ own experiences of inclusion and exclusion. It also offers a more rounded understanding of the Thanksgiving holiday.

Native American Month also offers a rich opportunity to become more familiar with the contemporary life of Native America peoples. The more we learn the more we are able to transform our disappointments and anger over the past into action today working together for a more just world.

In this RaceBridges Diversity Memo, you’ll find a classroom activity and ideas for longer lesson plans. You’ll find links to helpful sites. Check out the unusual Native American stories with lesson plans on this Race Bridges for Schools website to support your exploration of the rich and often complex holiday of Thanksgiving.
May this season offer important lessons, opportunities for reflection, and many reasons for gratitude.

Download this diversity memo

Diversity Memo: The Suspicious Brain


Our Brains and Our Biases


Dear Teacher (and Leader),

Brain research is all the rage these days. It seems every day we hear of a new discovery about how behavior and emotions are linked to brain chemistry and development. Many traits and behaviors that were once attributed to character or upbringing can now be linked to specific sites and functions of the brain.

As teachers, we are particularly conscious of the advances in brain research as it reveals why some students excel in certain subjects while others struggle and how to differ teaching methods to capitalize on particular periods of brain development.

And what we have gained from brain research in the fields of mental health and education applies to issues of bias as well. We now understand that it “makes sense” for our brains to categorize those who differ from us and to assume that we are better than others.

But just because it is “natural” for our brains to work this way doesn’t mean that we have to accept prejudice and discrimination as a fact. Rather, knowing how our brains work allows us to move our focus from feeling guilt about our own biased thinking and judging our students’ prejudices to learning how to counteract what our brains do naturally and teaching our brains to work in new, egalitarian ways.

In this RaceBridges Diversity Memo you’ll find a classroom activity, some “lesson plan starters” to go deeper into the issue, further resources, and some ideas and thoughts to help inspire you on the journey. With a little knowledge we can remove some of the “heat” that attends most discussions about racism, stereotypes and prejudice and, instead, focus on solutions.

Download this diversity memo

The Cultural Reach of Murals

Like music bares the soul of the musician, like dance shares the individual vulnerabilities of the dancer, like the stage is home for the actor – the art of mural-making reaches far beyond that of words. Murals express personal feelings and beliefs, explore cultural heritages, and send messages that are common amongst all people – things that mere words cannot adequately explain because they communicate in the universally understood language of art. 

Art makes us feel. Murals tell stories: personal, political, social, and cultural. We don’t need to speak the same language in order to understand a mural. We simply need to see it and feel it.

Schools can benefit from this language represented by murals, and should use it to bridge cultures within their walls through its use. Students can learn of cultures of other students through the creation of murals, thus developing a foundation of understanding and appreciation for others. Where there is understanding, there is peace and friendship. How, then, can your school explore the use of murals that share cultures? Below are a few ideas:

  • Visit these websites to get some cultural ideas and backgrounds of murals:.
  • Think about where murals could be placed in your school: hallways, cafeterias, common areas, auditoriums, gymnasiums, libraries, entry areas, art wings of the school, classrooms, etc..
  • Decide how to get students involved: making of the murals, where murals should be placed in the school, types of murals, what story or message the murals should send, etc..
  • Invite parents, community members, news media, etc. to view the murals – both in-process and finished..
  • Have students cover the mural-making in a news article for the school newspaper or website. Take pictures..
  • Interview students involved AND students viewing the mural for their thoughts and opinions on the mural and the process. Allow students to share the story or message of the mural with other students..
  • Take a tour of the school when the murals are completed, and then discuss what students saw and learned..

Studying and reflecting on murals from many cultures and times
in history can give us a richer understanding of the stories
of peoples, past and present.  Explore more through the
short videos, lessons and stories on our RaceBridges sites.


For ideas about how murals have been used for race relations and bridge building, check out the following:  Jubilee Door Exhibit