ice breakers list

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 note cards, 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



Download this as a poster to use in your classroom

10 Clues to Spot Cyber-Bullying

Cyber-bullying is carried out in order to shame, embarrass, tease or frighten the receiver.  Messages are often electronically sent from an “anonymous” sender.  Can you spot a cyber-bully?

The following 10 electronic clues could be signs of cyber-bullying behavior among your students:

  1. Posting humiliating or embarrassing memes or other edited images to mock a student on social media
  2. Asking a student to take "private" photos or videos and then forwarding to other students
  3. Intentionally taking embarrassing photos or videos of a student without permission and sharing it with others
  4. Catfishing a student by pretending to be someone else with a malicious intent to hurt the student
  5. Sending repeated messages through email, texts or social media chats that are cruel, demeaning, or threatening
  6. Posting gossip, rumors or lies about a student in group chats or on social media
  7. Encouraging other students to troll and flame a student by posting mean comments in social media
  8. Vicious gaming such constantly destroying a particular student's avatars, characters or properties on purpose
  9. Creating an online group or website for the purpose of mocking certain students
  10. Repeated sending of neutral messages to a student at all hours of the day that become harassing and annoying

When this occurs in a serious way personal, home, classroom and school intervention is needed.

RaceBridges recommends this detailed resource on the complex problem of Cyber-Bullying:


A number of RaceBridges resources can be found by searching “bullying” on:


Download this as a poster to use in your classroom

Creating a Classroom Diversity Checklist

As this school year comes to an end, teachers around the country take a brief break from the classroom. This summer is a perfect time to reflect on the school year. What went well? What could you do better? How did your students do – did they meet your expectations academically?

You know that the diversity in American schools and classrooms is rapidly increasing each year. Think about how you can further incorporate diversity into your lessons. What can you do to reach your students where they are, and help them to master the necessary academic concepts for advancement? What can you do to facilitate awareness and understanding between cultures?

Below is a checklist for creating classrooms that embrace diversity, and therefore, a school that strives for the success of all its students.

Classroom Diversity Checklist:

red-check Do you discuss many different cultures throughout the school year?

For example: social studies might cover countries or wars; language arts might cover literature by cultural authors or read works about differing cultures; art or music classes might cover cultural songs or painting styles; etc.

Do you use instruction that includes a wide variety of techniques intended to appeal to a wide variety of student learning styles?

Are you using Multiple Intelligences (Harvard professor Howard Gardner’s theory suggesting a much more comprehensive method of identifying intelligence and learning styles of people)? Do you gear lessons toward visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners? Do you offer activities that foster collaboration and cooperation amongst students?

  • Follow this link to learn more about Multiple Intelligences and education:

Do you construct your lessons around Bloom’s Taxonomy of Higher Thinking?

This method, created by Benjamin Bloom, focuses on the development of higher level thinking skills in students. It utilizes hands-on experiences to teach mastery at progressively more challenging levels of thinking. Use the tiered method to develop the critical and creative thinking skills of all your students.Follow these links to learn more about Bloom’s Taxonomy of Higher Thinking:

red-check Do you build technology use into your lessons?

Teachers should be utilizing technology in instructional techniques as much as they should be creating activities for students to use technology.
red-check Do you use hands-on activities in your lessons?

Hands-on allows students to experience new things – new cultures, new artifacts, new stories, new cuisine, new dances. Experience builds understanding.
red-check Do you assess your students using unbiased and balanced methods?

For example: tests should include a variety of cultures in questions. Students should also be assessed in multiple ways, never simply one.
red-check Do you offer choices for students, in projects or assignments?

Giving options to students promotes ownership and understanding. Students are able to choose something more relatable to their own background.
red-check Do you encourage group work?

Students who work in groups learn more effectively about backgrounds and cultures from their peers and in less formal environments. Group work builds understanding and empathy.
red-check Do you use a variety of communication styles in your teaching arsenal?

A wider array of communication will reach a larger number of students and will allow them to reach mastery of skills more effectively.
red-check Does your school openly value diversity?

Do they celebrate accomplishments of prominent cultural figures? Are there school-wide events that celebrate multiculturalism?
red-check Does your school have faculty members from a wide variety of backgrounds?

Visit the link below for fantastic information on diversity in education, as well as another checklist for teachers and schools:


Download this as a poster to use in your classroom

THE DR. KING HOLIDAY : DAY OF SERVICE Contributing vs. Taking ?

What is the difference between contributing and taking? Do the students of today understand this distinction? Can they put it into practice? As educators, it is our responsibility to ensure that the mlk-stampyouth of today play a role in positively contributing to our society. After all, we want our future leaders and caregivers to build our communities up and expand our resources, rather than become those who tear down our quality of life.

It is important to discuss with students, on a regular basis, the value of contributing. Contributing to conversations, to programs, to the world in a positive way. Contributing means giving or donating. It could refer to time, energy, talents, money, or resources. Students should see that everyone, regardless of age or race, has the ability to contribute to our world in a positive way and make a difference. That is how we learn about each other – values, cultures, beliefs. And that is how we make our world a better place for everyone. 

Taking is just that. Taking. It doesn’t offer anything in return. It isn’t helpful. It isn’t kind. It doesn’t improve the quality of life for anyone – except the taker, and that is usually temporary and minimal. All actions have consequences. Taking can suggest a negative action and has a negative consequence. Contributing, on the other hand, is a positive action with positive consequences. Contributing often has a ripple effect – impacting people positively miles away and generations apart.

How can schools and teachers impart these valuable life lessons to students? Below are a few tips:

  • Value the opinions, beliefs, and experiences of every student. Encourage students to form their opinions based on fact, not rumor.
  • Encourage students to share in class. Tying academic lessons to life experiences cements understanding of those lessons. Don’t be afraid to allow the lesson to drift to this area. The results are priceless.
  • Provide opportunities of service and volunteerism for students. Some schools even require students to participate in some sort of service. Have students select a service, and then have them sign an agreement to complete the task.
  • Expect students to participate positively while in school, and support activities that promote student service.
  • Set up a field trip (or several) during the school year where the entire class participates in an act of service.




Teasing: Warning Signs and Tips for Eliminating This Type of Bullying from Your School

We’ve all heard the words…….those biting, painful, judgmental words that puncture the spirit and cut deeply into the self-esteem. “Teasing becomes bullying when it is repetitive or when there is a conscious intent to hurt another child. It can be verbal bullying (making threats, name-calling), psychological bullying (excluding children, spreading rumors), or physical bullying (hitting, pushing, taking a child’s possessions).*

Teasing can and does have profound effects on students. Bullying of this type is as old as time, and will likely always be a major issue at schools. But, there are things teachers and schools can do to combat its prevalence. It begins with knowing what to look for. Below is a list of some basic warning signs to be aware of, as well as a list of tips to help your school eradicate teasing from its walls. 

Who is most at risk to be teased or bullied?

“Victims of bullying are often shy and tend to be physically weaker than their peers. They may also have low self-esteem and poor social skills, which makes it hard for them to stand up for themselves. Bullies consider these children safe targets because they usually don’t retaliate.”*.

Warning Signs*:

  • Increased passivity or withdrawal
  • Frequent crying
  • Recurrent complaints of physical symptoms such as stomach-aches or headaches with no apparent cause
  • Unexplained bruises
  • Sudden drop in grades or other learning problems
  • Not wanting to go to school
  • Significant changes in social life — suddenly no one is calling or extending invitations
  • Sudden change in the way your child talks — calling himself or herself a loser, or a former friend a jerk

Tips for Eliminating Teasing at Your School:


* Scholastic Parents. (n.d.). Retrieved 12 6, 2012, from scholastic:

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

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



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.


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




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


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.

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:

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.

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.”

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.


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:

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

Creating a Diversity Session for your Faculty : An Introduction

smcreating_diversity_program_Page_01This resource is meant to help administrators, teachers, and staff to:

  • Become more aware of the many facets of diversity
  • Explore their own experiences with diversity
  • Identify the diversity of the school community
  • Value learning about and addressing diversity in the school community
  • Identify how understanding diversity can serve the quality of the school
  • See diversity as a strength and tool in building faculty and school-community

This resource is meant as a beginning point for your school, a way to start the conversation around diversity and to begin the education of your faculty and staff. It will make people more sensitive and committed to issues of diversity and more able to respond to those issues.

The activities in this resource may be completed all at once during a half-day in-service.


Why?   How?


These resources will:

  • make the subject of race and race relations approachable and effective
  • engage faculty in the ongoing challenge of making our schools welcoming for students of all races and backgrounds
  • provide engaging tools and activities to better understand and appreciate students, families, and communities that differ from the majority of the student body

You can adapt these resources to your local needs to better serve your student body and faculty.


Create a Welcoming School

Teachers can do a great deal to make classrooms more welcoming, but it is also important that schools as institutions are inclusive at the “macro” level. This resource offers suggestions to make the entire school a more “accessible” and welcoming place to all students.

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 for the larger-scale changes and/or sharing some of these with your administration. 

For ideas just for individual classrooms see Including Everyone: Small Changes to Create a Welcoming Classroom

In this RaceBridges Resource, you’ll find some classroom activities and “lesson plan starters,” further resources, and some ideas and thoughts to help inspire you on the journey. It takes committed teachers to encourage and shape our schools to be welcoming and open.

Click here to download this teacher resource


We know that bullying isn’t nice, but have you thought about the fact that bullying is also illegal? Each state addresses bullying differently. Some cover bullying, cyber bullying and related behaviors in one law, some in multiple laws. But what state laws have in common is that they all declare that any form, type, or level of bullying is unacceptable, and that every incident needs to be taken seriously by school administrators, school staff, teachers, students, and students’ families. All states acknowledge that bullying has a huge and detrimental impact on student learning, school safety, student engagement, and the school environment.

stompoutbullyingSchools that receive federal funding are required by federal law to address discrimination on a number of different personal characteristics such as:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Religion
  • Gender
  • National origin
  • Ancestry
  • Age
  • Marital status
  • Physical or mental disability
  • Military status
  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender-related identity or expression
  • Unfavorable discharge from military service
  • Association with a person or group with one or more of the aforementioned actual or perceived characteristics
  • Any other distinguishing characteristic


Right now, no federal law directly addresses bullying. However, in some cases, bullying overlaps with discriminatory harassment of protected classes such as those mentioned above. In those cases, the behavior is covered under federal civil rights laws and enforced by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). If your school fails to respond appropriately to a student in a protected class who is being harassed, you may be in violation of federal as well as local laws.

What does it mean to “respond appropriately”? Here are some guidelines:

  • Investigate immediately
  • Inquiry must be prompt, thorough, and impartial
  • Interview targeted students, offending students, and witnesses, and maintain written documentation of your investigation
    • Communicate with targeted students regarding steps taken to end the harassment
    • Check in regularly afterwards with targeted students to ensure that the harassment has stopped
    • When an investigation reveals that harassment has occurred, a school should take steps reasonably calculated to: end the harassment, eliminate any hostile environment, prevent harassment from recurring, and inhibit retaliation against the targeted student(s) or complainant(s).


To find out about your state’s laws and policies go to:

To see examples of other states’ laws and what they have in common go to:

To find out what kind of harassment constitutes a federal violation, go to:



With budget cuts at every level of education, it’s rare when a teacher can arrange a field trip to a national monument or organization. Thank goodness for the web! This February, during your Black History celebrations, why not rely on virtual experiences to give your students new encounters and increased understanding without the cost or time away from the classroom?

You can create a virtual Black Issues scavenger hunt for your middle and high school students using this resource:

Focusing on African American history without showing how the past is still affecting the present leaves our students without an understanding of today’s challenges and how they might one day make a difference. This resource centers on the hurdles African Americans face today because of the institutional racism of the past.

Have students work in teams to search these papers for facts on disparities in testing, economic mobility, school discipline and suspensions and the like. The victories and achievements African Americans continuously make despite ongoing discrimination is a cause for celebration and inspiration for all Americans.


NativeAmericanSunSymbolsAs we move into a month of celebrating the First Nations of our country and the world, a few helpful hints from Oyate, the children’s literature review site, can keep us from doing more harm than good. To turn a critical eye toward any books, videos or films to which we expose our students here are a few guidelines of what to include:



  1. Show only media that present Indians as full human beings, not primitive or simple tribal people. Avoid media that objectifies Indian people such as “counting” or “playing Indians” (Would you have your student “count” or “play” white people?).
  2. Select media where the full range of Indian customs, cultures, dress, religion, language and architecture is shown.,
  3. Show media that has authentic, not generic design. “Indian looking” is not accurate. Use books, films and so on that have paid full attention to detail..
  4. Select media that shows the variety of physical attributes Indian people, like all people, display. Avoid books that simply portray Indians as white people with darker skin..
  5. Select age appropriate media that are honest about the genocidal policies of the U.S. government. Watch for media that subtly blames Indians for their own dwindling numbers. Show that Native nations actively resisted their invaders..
  6. Show Indian heroes other than those who “helped” European conquerors..
  7. Share media that shows present day First Nations as complex, sovereign nations who are not dependent on charity, take care of their families and are creating their own future..

For a fuller list of Dos and Don’ts go to:

Or buy and read the book:

“How to Tell the Difference: A Guide for Evaluating Children’s Books for Anti-Indian Bias”

by Doris Seale, Beverly Slapin and Rosemary Gonzales

Theatre Games

These games and exercises are for teachers and leaders to assist them in building community in classrooms and schools. These easy to follow warm-up games are used in the theatre arts world. They can be easily adapted in a variety of ways in learning environments and students



Many high schools have a Drama Club.  Some schools offer classes in acting or stagecraft and produce several plays or musicals within a year.  From the outside you might guess that the main reward comes when the performance gets an audience.  However, anyone who has ever performed in a show or worked backstage during a production can tell you that the process of preparation and training for that audience is full of community building activities with a diverse group of people united with shared purpose.

This resource seeks to go beyond the realm of the Drama Club or school production to suggest 12 Theatre Games that integrate some behind-the-scenes exercises to encourage personal development, strengthen relationships among diverse students, and transform your classroom.  The games included here can be used to build relationships between students of different races and cultural backgrounds as well as help you create opportunities to discuss hard issues.

The games are broken down into the following skill –building areas:

  • GET ENERGIZED: 2 Games to increase students’ focus and awareness of others
  • BUILD ENSEMBLE: 2 Games to connect students as a team
  • COLLABORATE: 2 Games that promote working together on a shared goal
  • FIND YOUR OWN VOICE: 2 Games for speaking honestly about life experiences
  • LISTEN ACTIVELY: 2 Games that build empathy for the experiences of others
  • IMPROVISE: 2 Games for creating out of what is conveniently at hand


Download this teacher resource

FINDING NEW WORDS: A Resource for Addressing Bullying at School

sm_bullyingThis flexible resource provides a series of exercises for teachers and students to more effectively address bullying by taking a stand, telling the truth, and building a stronger community at school.


This resource is designed to:

  • Provide a method for introducing and discussing a challenging topic
  • Encourage teachers and students to take responsibility for their school social climate in safe and effective ways
  • Raise awareness of stereotypes and other bias-related behaviors
  • Create an environment for participants to discuss and reflect on how bullying impacts their daily lives at school
  • Identify some core values
  • Identify and Practice effective ways to intervene
  • Encourage empathy for the targets of bullying


Through participating in these exercises, each individual will:

  • Listen to several stories from their peers
  • Reflect on their own experience with bullying
  • Discuss issues of discrimination with their peers in small groups
  • Identify some of their core values
  • Develop and practice their own response to bullying in the moment

FINDING NEW WORDS: A Resource for Addressing Bullying at School

“I get on the bus first thing in the morning and it starts. The name calling…about my mixed race. It’s like I become invisible except for that, except for my skin color. It’s so weird.”

– A High School Student

“And it just grew and grew and no one was backing down like they said they were going to and the next thing I knew he was pushed into the lockers really hard and he banged his head…that was not cool. It was supposed to be a joke.”

– A High School Student

“I try to leave it to the other teachers to address it… if I start harping on them about this kind of stuff, I’ll lose my edge.”

– A High School Teacher

“It’s a fine line between joking around and meanness. And sometimes, I don’t know where that line is.”

– A High School Teacher


Most teachers and students are affected by bullying in some way – whether as a target, a participant, or as a witness. Bullying can be verbal, emotional or physical in nature and it impacts us all in different ways. This resource uses true stories from teachers and students alongside a series of activities that allow for reflection and dialogue about this challenging topic.

  • Do you ever struggle to figure out what to say when you witness bullying?
  • Do you see your students confused about how to respond?
  • What can you say and do to make a positive difference?

By connecting with core values and creating a personal response to aggression, these activities support you and your students to get the facts, define your roles, and take a stand for a safer school.

This resource can be used as part of an all-school lesson plan on bullying, during a faculty in-service, and with your classes.



Consider using this free printable Teacher Resource & Lesson Plan prior to and around International Day of  Tolerance

Storytelling : A Toolkit for Bridging Differences and Creating Community

This Teacher-Educator Resource provides an easy to follow process in using storytelling to increase understanding across differences. It is a fun way to get to know each other, a comfortable way to address difficult topics and a simple and successful method for appreciating differences among group members. Sharing life stories allows us to see in new ways, grapple with new ideas, and grow into more respectful and compassionate people.

Use this resource with students from middle school through college or with members of your church or community group. The activities in the resource can be completed all at once or broken up over several meetings. A great way to build a team, handle issues associated with diversity, or discuss a recent conflict.


This Resource provides an easy to follow process in using storytelling to increase understanding across differences and is:

  • a fun way to get to know one another
  • a comfortable way to address difficult topics
  • a simple and successful method for appreciating differences among group members

Sharing life stories allows us to see in new ways, grapple with new ideas, and grow into more respectful and compassionate people.

Use this resource with students from middle school through college or with members of your church or community group. The activities in the resource can be completed all at once or broken up over several meetings.

A great way to build a team, handle issues associated with diversity, or discuss a recent conflict.


A Culture of Respect Challenges Students to Connect

Ask any student what the hardest part of school is and the answer will surprise you.  In fact, geometry and physics aren’t even on the list.  Most students state that the most difficult part is learning how to fit in, dealing with students with very diverse backgrounds and experiences, and how to break down social barriers.

Seeking a solution that deals directly with the root of cliques, bullying, racism, violence and teasing, parents Yvonne and Rich Dutra-St. John started the concept of Challenge Day in 1987.  The idea of Challenge Day was a way to end oppression that is found in every part of the world, and to build a connection that creates genuine empathy among people.  Since its conception, Challenge Day has been featured on Oprah Winfrey’s show and is now a weekly reality show, “If You Really Knew Me” on MTV.

Challenge Day encourages participants – parents, students and educators alike – to create change by noticing how people are treating each other.  Students can see what they can do to change the social environment of their school by stepping out of their comfort zones.  It asks the questions most students don’t think about:

  • Are people in your school treated equally?
  • Do you like the way people are treated?
  • Have you ever wanted to step in when someone was being bullied or teased?
  • What are we pretending that we don’t see?

The goal of Challenge Day is to open up the minds of students to see others in the school community (including teachers and parents) as people, rather than the stereotypes that fit them.  This allows students to embrace differences in a way that reaches far deeper and leaves a lasting impression for long term community building.

So how can you create your own Challenge Day in your school?  Start by getting students involved.  Making time for a Challenge or Unity Day is one way to create a welcoming classroom where students feel valued, respected and appreciated.

On this site, in the complimentary resource, “Bridge Builder Unity Day” you are provided with activities to prepare students to become advocates for a more inclusive world by:

  • Using stories to bridge differences and create a more welcoming community.
  • Discovering differences and similarities so that everyone feels valued and respected
  • Listening to and participating in stories and activities which bring to life being an “insider” and “outsider” in various social situations.
  • Becoming aware of their own prejudices and stereotypes
  • Understanding how cultural pride, identity and race are impacted by racism
  • Learning how to take a stand for each other to strengthen and build community.

Click here to download the BridgeBuilder Unity Day Teacher resource

Lesson Plans Associated with Unity Day

Lesson Plans Featuring Audio Stories Associated with Unity Day

Videos Associated with Unity Day



INCLUDING EVERYONE: Small Changes to Create a Welcoming Classroom


A resource to help teachers make the little changes in their classrooms that will send the big message that Everyone is Welcome!

Even though we want to make sure that our students learn the skills of anti-racism and are prepared to live in a multi-cultural world, it can be hard to find time to teach explicitly anti-racism lessons or to implement an entire diversity curriculum.  But what we do every day, in regular classroom situations, can have a big impact.  By using thoughtful language, challenging stereotypes, and encouraging hospitable behavior, we can help our students to become more open to those who are different from themselves.

Designed for all grade levels, regardless of subject area, “Including Everyone” shows educators how to incorporate habits and activities into their daily routines that:

  • Encourage students to embrace difference
  • Encourage students to develop a mindset of hospitality, rather than hostility
  • Challenge stereotypes, language, and practices that promote “insider/outsider” thinking
  • Make issues of diversity accessible, meaningful, and fun
  • Download a free copy of the:
    INCLUDING EVERYONE: Small Changes to Create a Welcoming Classroom resource

Be Civil ! The Search for Civility

A Definition : “…formal politeness and courtesy in behavior or speech..”
Its Use : “I hope we can treat each other with civility and respect”

“Civility is not something
that automatically happens.

Civil societies come about
because people want them to.”

Jimmy Bise, Jr.


Some claim that civil society is breaking down as political rallies turn ugly.  People text and take cell phone calls during concerts and in audiences before speakers.   Sometimes it feels that everyone is only looking out for number one.

It’s easy to look at the behavior of others, but it is essential that we examine our own actions.  Are we being kind?  Are we taking time to listen to one another? Really listen.

Do we apologize when we have hurt another?  Do we treat others as we want to be treated?  As the quotation says above, civility doesn’t just happen. We have to commit to behaving civilly ourselves.

As Election Day approaches in the USA and given the increasing volatility of political discourse  from vitriolic editorializing presented as news to recent Tea Party protests or Occupy actions, there is a need for students to learn how to disagree while remaining civil. 

Not only should students learn how to engage in civil debate, but they should also learn the value of listening to points of view and opinions that differ from their own. Being open to different kinds of people and ideas help students maintain open minds and to get along in a diverse society.

One of the difficulties teachers face in the classroom is that we as a society are not modeling for young people how to have vigorous conversations, even debates, about significant social and political issues.

In recent decades, we’ve seen two extreme approaches to hard conversations:  privileging agreement over individual opinion on the one hand and a “take no prisoners” approach on the other. When agreement and avoiding conflict is privileged, debate tends to be squelched when someone suggests that all “agree to disagree” or that “everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion.”


Here are some points to ponder on the human skills of being civil.  For ourselves as teachers and for our students.

Present a Definition for all to reflect on.  E.g., Use the one at the top of this lesson which is repeated again here, or find one of your own.

Definition : ”…formal politeness and courtesy in behavior or speech..”
Use : “I hope we can treat each other with civility and respect”

Establish :  why be civil?  It is a central value of a flourishing group, family, society, community or school. Genuine civility leads to cooperation and community..

Examining our Civility

Do you and your students believe that civility is diminishing ?

. . . What is your response when someone suddenly cuts into line before you ? In the car? In the cafeteria? On the train ? In the bus stop line ? In the store?

. . . Review how often you hear curse words or the F-Word being used in and around your school.  Why ?

. . . Is it a common occurrence ?  Is it when someone gets into a verbal fight ?

. . . Review the behavior of people – and yourself – when you are on your cell-phone in a public place.

. . . Is it easier to be rude than civil ?  What are the consequences ?

. . . What happens to civility when we compete  academically ?

. . . What happens to civility when we compete at sports ?

. . . What examples of civility and/or un-civility do you see on TV ?  Online ?

Seeking to Be Civil

There are many online sites that explore the teaching of civility to students and children. Here are two sets of ideas that explore ways to focus on and practice civility:

What are some of the ways of teaching that encourages civility ?

❧ Teaching about multicultural tolerance and acceptance.
❧ Teaching children to care about others because it brings them meaning rather than expecting anything in return.
❧ Involving children in public service at a children’s hospital.
❧ Teaching children to respect senior citizens by volunteering at independent living facilities.
❧ Teaching common courtesies, such as introducing oneself, shaking hands with others, and thanking people for doing kind gestures for them.
❧ Teaching children to share and play cooperatively with others.
❧ Teaching children to respect and assist those who are disabled or have learning limitations.
❧ Parents can demonstrate through word and action what civility means.

Teaching Children Civility Begins at Home

Here are some ideas worth pondering :
15 ways children learn civility from adults:

  1. Lead by example.
  2. Think about the impact of our words and actions on others first.
  3. Treat children and adults with the respect that we expect them to treat others.
  4. Apologize when we are wrong.
  5. Disagree with intelligence, humor, and civil discourse.
  6. Don’t let anger and emotion get in the way of listening to others.
  7. Teach character strengths, like respect and empathy, at home and in classrooms.
  8. Demand civility of our politicians and public servants.
  9. Set ground rules for civil behavior at home and in classrooms.
  10. Challenge people’s views but don’t attack the person.
  11. Be tolerant of people who are different from us.
  12. Praise others for their civil behavior, regardless of their viewpoints.
  13. Empower children to take a stand against bullying.
  14. Remind kids often why we should be civil.
  15. Teach kids how to become engaged citizens.

Teaching Civility in an F-Word Society

Marilyn Price-Mitchell Ph.D.


  • Consider creating a “code of civility”  or “civility pledge” for your classroom/school or group.
  • Review the area in your classroom/school that needs behavior improvement in the civility climate.
  • Take a few of these issues and develop ways/plans/action that the un-civility can decrease or end.
  • Place this code of civility on the wall.  Review progress throughout the school year.
  • Celebrate victories.  Pass on the Civility!


Look at one or more of the lists / guidelines for civil behavior on the resource list below. Use these as a model for creating a guideline for civil discourse in your own classroom.

Related lesson plans on RaceBridges site :

Resources to help you plan lessons about the topic  :

  • Dr. J.M. Forni, a professor who co-founded the John Hopkins Civility Project that aims “at assessing the significance of civility, manners and politeness in contemporary society.”  Forni authored two books on civility: Choosing Civility: Twenty-Five Rules of Considerate Conduct and The Civility Solution: What To Do When People Are Rude.
  • “From Enmity to Comity: Restoring Civility and Pride to American Life,” by Robert Fuller. This article addresses the root cause of incivility—fear—and argues for ways to return to civil political discourse where we don’t have to disagree but where all are respected.
  • Choose Civility: This website was created in response to the book Choosing Civility: Twenty-Five Rules of Considerate Conduct. There are a variety of resources there, including in-depth book lists for children, teens, and adults.
  • The Civility Project: This website seeks to encourage civility in the political arena. Contains a bibliography of books on civility and examples of civility and incivility in contemporary culture.

Many of the scholars who are exploring the issue of Civility
today focus on one of the ways of learning civility – which is to
explore other cultures and those people who are different than ourselves.


How can we explore the human skill of . . .

Disagreeing Without Being Disagreeable?

Given the increasing volatility of political discourse in the United States, from vitriolic editorializing presented as news to recent Tea Party protests, there is a need for students to learn how to disagree while remaining civil. Not only should students learn how to engage in civil debate, but they should also learn the value of listening to points of view and opinions that differ from their own. Being open to different kinds of people and ideas help students maintain open minds and get along in a diverse society.

One of the difficulties teachers face in the classroom is that we as a society are not modeling for young people how to have vigorous conversations, even debates, about significant social and political issues.

In recent decades, we’ve seen two extreme approaches to hard conversations: privileging agreement over individual opinion on the one hand and a “take no prisoners” approach on the other. When agreement and avoiding conflict is privileged, debate tends to be squelched when someone suggests that all “agree to disagree” or that “everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion.” But in some circles, especially politics and media, polarization and “winning” the argument is so valued that there is no room for civil engagement.

In this RaceBridges Resource, you’ll find a classroom activity, some “lesson plan starters” to examine the limits of these two approaches and to practice civil engagement, further resources, and some ideas and thoughts to help inspire you on the journey.

Vigorous debate characterizes a democracy where citizens are entrusted with discussing, disagreeing about, and deciding important issues; it is up to teachers like you to teach the critical skills of analysis civil discourse if we are to have a vibrant democracy

Download this resource

Seeking Harmony : Starting and Sustaining a Diversity Club for High School Students

One of the best ways to furnish students with inclusive skills is by including them in the planning and training phases of diversity education. This resource focuses on how to create a club that brings together all kinds of students to address issues of diversity and to create a welcoming, inclusive school climate.

  • Develop creative leadership among students
  • Raise awareness in the school around diversity issues that students identify
  • Inspire school communities to address and attempt to solve problems related to issues of diversity
  • Make issues of diversity accessible, meaningful and fun.



Why?   How?

This resource:

  • make the subject of race and race relations approachable and effective
  • engage faculty and students in the ongoing challenge of making our schools welcoming for students of all races and backgrounds
  • provide engaging tools and activities to better understand and appreciate students, families, and communities that differ from the majority of the student body

You can adapt these resources to your local needs to better serve your student body and faculty.


Tips for Combating Racism in the Classroom

Write a Commitment Pledge to racial unity at your school or in your class

During class discussion, explore the interracial issues and challenges in your school community and in your adjoining neighborhoods.  Create a process where all can contribute in a reflective and honest way to write a Pledge Against Racism for your school.  Have the complete pledge printed up in a large format.  Encourage the administration at your school to adopt the pledge, distribute it, and have students say it together on a special day. 

Attract Allies. Organize an ongoing group. 

Begin with a group that gets together once a month to discuss the general climate at your school and surrounding neighborhoods.  Create a space where people can share their stories without comment.  Once the group has created a climate of trust, consider what positive actions you would like to take as a group to address problems and issues.  

Build Bridges. Reach out to other schools. 

Begin a “Bridge-School” Activity.  Much of our ignorance about race comes from having very little contact or experience with persons who are different from ourselves.   Consider developing an ongoing “bridge-activity” with another school in your area that is quite different from your own particular school.  Beyond athletic events, we seldom enjoy connections with communities different from ours.  Consider collaborating with another school in a joint service project in a neighborhood or invite members from another school to a discussion about diversity and how to build bridges among different  communities.

Imagine and create through the arts 

Present an Art Exhibit. Consider the underrepresented students and groups in your school.  Seek to celebrate a particular group with paintings, videos, artifacts or decorations from that particular culture.  Have a special opening event for this exhibit and communicate the positive values and richness of the culture on display.  Another attractive form is the creation of a community mural.

Plan and create a Heritage Photography Event 

Consider exploring the rich variety of ethnic identities and histories of your student body through the gathering and assembly of students’ family photographs of great grandparents, grandparents and parents.  Design the assignment around the theme of immigration to America and the journeys of previous generations,  The Family Tree could also be a fruitful model for gathering photographs and the students’ account of these images.  Photographs could be copied and scanned and developed into an attractive display or presentation.  Dignity and beauty is the guide for this project.

Invite a storyteller from a “different” ethnic group 

Stories can unlock hearts.  Professional storytellers can promote thought, reflection, and action about race and diversity.  The stories told -- personal, funny, tragic and hopeful -- evoke stories in the listeners (students) and can move participants towards commitment and action. For information about storytellers who work well with with student audiences go to home page and send an email.  

Invite a Speaker from the wider world with expertise about class and racial divisions 

Invite a speaker to your school who is from a completely different racial and ethic background to encourage/challenge students and faculty to see the world from a different perspective.  A panel of speakers could enrich this idea.  Events in the world prompts us to consider a Muslim speaker and a theme that uncovers stereotypes of Muslims and Islam.  Segregation in housing and in education could also be a fruitful theme.

Celebrate the Justice Seekers and Doers: the famous and the little known. 

Create a special focus on the men and women who have fought and struggled for justice and equality in the history of the United States and/or throughout global history.  Remember to include heroes of all ethnicities and those who crossed “color lines” to act as allies to people of another race. 

Plan a visit to two “ethnic” museums in your area. Celebrate differences and commonalities. 

Develop and plan a day-trip for students to two cultural institutions that represent two cultures in your school community.  Focus these visits on the contributions of these groups and their part in the richness of American culture. 

Get serious about the long-term diversity plan in your classroom/school 

There are many resources out there to help teachers talk about these sensitive and important issues. A few of these are :

Download this as a poster to use in your classroom