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.





Are human brains wired for discrimination? Researchers seem to think so.

The ability to categorize people, quickly and automatically, is a fundamental quality of the human brain. Recognizing friend from foe was a means of survival for the earliest humans that lingers in modern minds today. Categories naturally give our lives some sense of order, and every day, we group other people into categories based on social and other characteristics. Naturally, categorization leads to stereotypes and prejudice.

Brain researchers and anthropologists tell us it “makes sense” for our brains to categorize those who differ from us. And recent studies show that we behave accordingly, often by discriminating.

In 2008, Wharton School professor Justin Wolfers co-authored a study that showed racial bias among NBA referees. His conclusion: officials tend to favor players of their own ethnic backgrounds. In other words, a white referee will call more fouls on a black player and vice versa. When challenged, Wolfers put his money where his mouth is. The researcher bet on his statistics in Vegas. He turned a profit.

In another study, neuroscientist Alessio Avenanti discovered that implicit racial biases weaken our ability to feel someone else’s pain. Avenanti recruited white and black volunteers and asked them to watch videos of a stranger’s hand being poked with a needle. By measuring the brain’s empathic tendencies through neuron activity, Avenanti could measure the effect that the video had on his recruits. He found that both white and black recruits only responded empathetically when they saw hands that were the same skin tone as their own. If the hands belonged to a different ethnic group, they were unmoved.

Whether we like it or not, discrimination seems to be a “natural” way for our brains to work. But it doesn’t mean that we have to accept prejudice, racism and intolerance.

Fortunately, 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.

The notion that we can work against these biases is especially good news for teachers and their students. Knowing how our brains work allows us to move our focus from feeling guilt about our own biased thinking and judging prejudices to learning how to counteract what our brains do naturally and teaching our brains to work in new, egalitarian ways. 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.


Other Resources You May Like:
The Suspicious Brain:  Our brains and our biases


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.  


What Can Students Do?

Part of educating our students involves making them aware of the world in which they live – the good and the bad, the positive and the negative, the right and the wrong, the haves and the have-nots. As the future leaders of our country, today’s students must be exposed to the realities of the present day. We must teach them to recognize things that need change, to dream big, to set goals, and how to go about making changes in our world.

What can schools and teaches do to bring awareness to students and to encourage acts of service? Below are a few ideas to get started with:

  • Talk to students about what an ideal world looks like to them. Brainstorm qualities and write them down. Next, have a discussion with students about how the world lines up with their “ideal world.” Then, dialogue with students about things that they think need fixing or changing in our world. Encourage them to think of those that may need assistance.
  • Allow students to come up with ideas of service that would help to achieve their ideas for a better world. Suggest a few things to get them started, like: shoveling snow for a neighbor, serving food at a homeless shelter, reading or providing entertainment to the elderly at a retirement home, cleaning up the neighborhood park, volunteering, etc.
  • Provide outlets for students to complete their acts of service. Create a list of services with the students, and then look for places where those services can be provided.
  • Offer food and clothing drives for those in need.
  • Visit to find fantastic opportunities for service in your own community. See if any would work for your school/students.



Empathy : Taking Care

Empathy: Teaching Students to Stand Firm and Consider Others


Empathy. It is such a difficult concept to teach because it deals with the emotions of others. Students often struggle with this because they are accustomed to focusing on themselves and their own needs/desires. As students get older, it becomes more and more essential that they have this quality. Empathy builds strong character and underscores the values of being culturally sensitive.

Families, communities, and educators all strive to produce confident, compassionate, and capable members of our youth. Yet, students often have a hard time putting into practice the abstract concept of empathy. How can teachers and schools encourage these characteristics of strength in students?     Below are a few tips for developing and supporting empathy in the classroom:

  • Have a “value of the month” at your school. Make the value for September: RESPECT, January: KINDNESS, May: GENEROSITY, and so on. Hold team-building activities that support each of the values, like having a food can drive for generosity month. Or, recognize random acts of kindness with acknowledging and rewarding students caught doing something kind..
  • Implement community outreach activities. Have students participate in visiting senior citizens, helping out with charities, cleaning up the neighborhood, planting or tending community gardens, highway clean-up, etc..
  • Provide a class activity that recognizes the emotions of others. Students gather in two large circles in the classroom, one circle inside the other. Like musical chairs, have the two circle move in opposite directions until STOP is called. Once stopped, students face the person in the opposite circle. The teacher calls out an emotion and the students must find a non-verbal way to show that emotion. Go through several emotions, and then discuss. Emotions were likely shown in several different ways – for example, HAPPY might be displayed with a smile or a fist pump or through a dance..
  • Support anti-bullying practices..
  • Perform role-playing scenarios of empathy – how would they react if…..? Give several scenarios, and allow students to actually perform what they would do in certain situation. Let them voice how the other person might be feeling..
  • Advise a debate team. Let students see how others think, and how they express those opinions..
  • Allow students to have opinions, and to recognize that other people have opinions too..
  • Study different cultures, customs, and behaviors.

Summer Stories (Or at any time) : How educators can use storytelling to foster community and bridge differences

Story gathering & Storytelling ideal in summer programs
or marking special events during the summer.

As another school year comes to a close, students look forward to the lazy days of summer. But for many educators, as well as camp leaders and church organizers, summer can be an exceptionally busy time, especially for those charged with creating and/or leading summer programs and projects for young people or adults.  If you’re looking for new ideas for your summer program, storytelling might be a welcome addition — and a fun and effective way to bring people together, bridge differences and foster a sense of community.

Storytelling can be shaped into a part of your summer program with story-events taking place throughout your scheduled activities and at its conclusion.  Story gathering and storytelling can also mark special events, places or an anniversary. These narratives are sometimes called Legacy stories. A story- performance can be presented at the conclusion of a summer program, for your participants or for a wider public audience. 

Why storytelling?

Storytelling has always been a part of the human venture.  It allows us to connect with each other and to make meaning of our world. When we share our life stories with others, we open up opportunities for seeing new perspectives. By making storytelling part of your summer program, you can increase awareness of differences within your group and help build an environment of respect, compassion and understanding.

How to incorporate storytelling

Whether you use storytelling in a summer program or during the regular school year, it’s important to remember that some people may find it easy to talk about their lives while others will feel reluctant or shy to share their stories.

As soon as you say the words “storytelling,” some people will brace themselves for fear of being embarrassed or exposed.  As the leader or facilitator, you can simply assure everyone from the beginning that they will not be asked to share anything that they do not want to share.

Ideas to get you started

Wondering how to incorporate storytelling into your summer program? The educators at RaceBridges for Schools, a nonprofit initiative that offers free lesson plans on diversity and interracial understanding, offer the following ideas from their storytelling toolkit (available for free download here):

If you’d like to build community in a general way, ask your group to:

  • Tell a story of a time when you felt strong
  • Tell a story about a time when you surprised yourself

If you’d like to bridge differences of race or ethnicity, you might ask your group to tell stories about:

  • A time when you felt like you were on the outside
  • A special time with your family

If you’d like to get at issues of insider/outsider feelings, ask:

  • Tell me a story of a time when you were misunderstood
  • Tell me a story about a time when you were alone and then someone helped you

Or to get your group talking about their values and beliefs, ask them to:

  • Tell a story about a time when you stood up for something you believed in
  • Tell me a story of a time when you had faith

However you approach storytelling in your group, it’s important to remember that underneath it all, the exercise is ultimately about building relationships and listening to each other. And it should be a fun way to get to know each other!

For more ideas about how to incorporate storytelling into your classroom or summer program, or for more units on a variety of themes about diversity, visit: RaceBridges Studio.

Start with a Story : 7 Reasons to Incorporate Stories in Your Classroom or Group

Stories do so much more than merely entertain; they can boost brainpower, help 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 or leadership toolbox:

  1. Instill values. We al 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. While math and storytelling may seem like very different abilities, 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 perspectives and 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—re-energize the mood in the classroom with a storytelling lesson or activity.


Hear many short video stories told by professional storytellers :

RaceBridges Studio Videos


Is the challenge of Diversity
a daunting topic to you ?

Small classroom changes can make a big difference.
This resource helps teachers 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

Learn more…



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



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


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:


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




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 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..



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.


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.”

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.



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.

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

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


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



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.


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.
 red-check 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?

 red-check 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:



No-Bullying-School-Rules-Sign-K-4002You’ve created a strong, clear anti-bullying policy. It won’t be brushed under a rug at your school. But are you unknowingly leaving yourself open to misunderstanding and conflict?

Looking at protected classes – race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc. – is a great place to start when forming or updating your school’s anti-bullying policy, but it’s not enough. Three little words can save you a lot of headaches. What are those words?

“Not limited to” according to Huffington Post writer, Deborah Temkin.

Bullying policies need to be written in such a way that the focus is on the bully’s actions and motivation, not solely on a description of the victim. Because here’s the truth: sometimes kids go after other kids “just because” –  just because they can, just because they perceive the other child as weaker, just because they lash out in anger and the other child happens to be nearby.

Unfortunately, children are harassed for wearing the “wrong” clothing (nothing to do with income), being too smart, being too slow and even swinging the bat in an unusual way. Sadly, cruelty knows no bounds.

Each school needs to see their anti-bullying policy as a tool that has little power if it sits in someone’s computer. The most effective policy is to be fully engaged with what your school is for: for kindness, for cooperation, for self-esteem coming from not who is “in” and who is “out” but from an appreciation for one’s own and, therefore, everyone’s uniqueness.

As teasing becomes bullying through repetitive behaviors, the positive behaviors we want our students to exhibit also come through repetition of teacher, staff and student training, reminders and celebrations. We have to prevent bullying not simply react to the more obvious and limited “biggies” such as racism, sexism, homophobia and so on. Continually demonstrating the benefits of inclusion can help all children to be protected.

To read Deborah Temkin’s full article go to:

For ideas on how you can create on-going anti-bullying programs see:


For a comprehensive list of resources from Teaching Tolerance go to:

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

Cooperative Learning and Diversity: Working Together in the Classroom-1

As classrooms are becoming more and more diverse each year, schools strive to provide rigorous curriculum that celebrates cultural differences of all students. Cooperative Learning is an excellent tool that educators can use to facilitate unity, understanding, and growth on many levels in the classroom.

What is Cooperative Learning? It is a widely utilized and respected instructional method that encourages children of all ages to work together and to learn from one another. It highlights an additional way for students to learn, aside from the traditional forms of learning – like direct instruction from the teacher and textbook guided lessons. Cooperative Learning builds understanding through interactions with peers, something that is greatly needed when working in diverse classrooms.

Cooperative Learning and Diversity: Working Together in the Classroom-2

How does it work? Basically, Cooperative Learning involves the use of purposeful small groups. Students participate in “give and take” interactions with the members of their small group. There will usually be an assigned topic of discussion, questions to respond to, or an activity/project to be completed by the small group as a whole. All members must share throughout this process – opinions, ideas, backgrounds, experiences, knowledge, abilities, and information.

The goal is to challenge student thinking while scaffolding (building) their learning. The result is so much more, though. Students experience positive leadership skills, effective communication skills, successful interpersonal skills (like conflict/problem resolution), and valuable lessons of tolerance and acceptance.

Here are some examples of how it can be used in the classroom:

  • Discussion groups (questions for groups to discuss together)
  • Literature circles (specific roles to be fulfilled and then shared in the group)
  • Projects (hands-on activities that usually involve research, multiple parts to the assignment, and a creation of some kind – like a pamphlet, poster, report, or 3-D construction)
  • Games that use teams (use for unit reviewing or for reinforcing new concept understanding)
  • Labs (for following directions and trying something new)


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


Conflict Resolution: Building Student Awareness and Skills

Whether it’s dealing with problems and difficult people, struggling to get along in a group setting to achieve a set goal, or simply trying to avoid a public meltdown from someone………we must develop the skills necessary to complete any task while being able to get along with others effectively. It doesn’t matter if you’re 13 or 33, everyone needs to acquire these skills in order to function productively in our society today. Below is some basic information for teachers and schools on challenges currently faced by teens, as well as some creative ways to implement conflict resolution skills in the classroom.

Basic Information:

  • Teens are easily and powerfully influenced by their peers. They will listen to their peers long before they listen to a teacher, or any adult for that matter.
  • There are 3 outcomes to conflict: win-win, win-lose, and lose-lose.*
  • There are 3 responses to conflict: passive (tend to be more non-verbal), aggressive (tend to be physical), and assertive.*
  • Teens often only know to handle conflicts by either running away or fighting. They are not aware of other methods that can be used to successfully resolve a conflict.



* Dunn, D. (2009, 9 23). education & schools. Retrieved 12 8, 2012, from

Community Challenges and Immigrants

As much as schools serve students and families new to the United States, community plays an equally vital role. What obstacles do communities and new immigrants face as they first interact? What services or programs should be made available to immigrants? How can community members help in this process?

Below are some challenges faced by communities in reference to immigrants – see what you can do to help assist the immigrants in your community.  


  • Not enough ESL (English as a Second Language) programs and classes available to facilitate the overwhelming demand for those eager to learn the English language.*.
  • Not enough facilities to house classes or enough instructors to teach the English language to new-comers.*.
  • Absolutely no federal, state, or local organization exists that can meet all the needs of new immigrants. Multiple organizations must coordinate and communicate with one another in order to meet the needs. This is loaded with problems. Creating such an organization would be both time and energy consuming, albeit extremely beneficial.*.
  • Centralized information for new immigrants is also difficult. With technology so utilized in America, it is surprising that there is not a “go-to” place where basic information is made available. This makes assisting new immigrants difficult.*.
  • Outreach to new immigrants is a challenge, as there is no set way to introduce new immigrants to their communities.*.
  •  Additionally, funding issues offer constraint to providing services to new immigrants.*


Ways to help:

  • Reach out to your neighbors. Socialize. Share information. Be helpful..
  • Consider volunteering in an organization that assists new immigrants..
  • Check out your local community education chapter. Is there anything there that you could assist with or volunteer to do?.
  • Connect with your church. Who is new to your church or place of worship, or to your community? Find out what your church  or place of worship can do to help..
  • Visit those new to the community. Do you see people moving in? Take the time to talk to them..
  •  Learn about the programs available in your area that assist new immigrants..


*Helping Immigrants Become New Americans: Communities Discuss the Issues. (2004, September). Retrieved 5 4, 2012, from

Building Bridges over the Backyard Fence

Sometimes, we think we’re too insignificant to make a difference. However, add a little imagination and who knows what we can come up with?  Here are three examples which clearly illustrate that fact.

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.

Many people find it easy to complain about what isn’t working. However, whether it is over the backyard fence, in the hallways of work or school, or even over the operating table, it is possible to work together and find avenues for positive change. These people, rather than buy into the belief that they were too small to make a difference, asked, “What can we do?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?”

Changing Our World: Lessons for Today

case_lg_banner_21-300x241When we think of Black History Month, it is easy to think of all the people and actions that took place that led our country to value each other with respect.The risk and danger associated with activism and outspokenness helped to form America into a freedom-centered society. Change always has a cost. Attaining freedom and equality for African Americans during the Civil Rights Movement allowed many voices to be heard, and great change took place across America.

What can teachers and schools do to highlight the power of change in our world, and to encourage lessons for today that are rooted in dignity and courage? Below are some tips and websites to help facilitate discussions and learning experiences for students. Challenge your students to learn from history by pulling out lessons for today from it.

  • Talk about social injustices and possible ways to solve or address these issues..
  • Visit the National Urban League website for suggestions on lessons for today:


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




Please find initial ideas and suggestions in last week’s Part 1 of this Blog Text below.


storytelling “A community needs a soul if it is to
become a true home for human beings.
You, the people must find this soul.”

– Pope John Paul II

“The more you praise and celebrate
your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.”

– Oprah Winfrey

“Without a sense of caring, there
can be no sense of community.”

– Anthony Burgess

Here are some further ideas and steps in the process of using storytelling and stories to celebrate a special event in your school or organization. Here are some ideas to get started in the classroom.

Your special event will be grounded in stories collected from your students, stories from others at school, and possible members of the community.  Think about who has a story that you want to be sure to include and reach out to them.

You can develop these starter ideas as far as you like, depending on how much time you have and the type of event you’d like to create. 

  • Practice storytelling and listening by partnering students in pairs.  Give each pair six minutes (three minutes each) to tell each other a story that relates to the event.  When time is up, bring the group back together to discuss their experiences. What does it feel like to tell a story?  What is it like to listen?
  • Interview students outside of your class or other members of the community. Encourage students to be creative about how they offer story invitations.  Consider having your students document the stories with audio or video recorders.
  • Have students collect stories from others and then present them back to the class as first person monologues, that is, to tell the story as if it is their own story.  Have students pay attention to details, emotions, and qualities of the storyteller.  This exercise encourages empathy and builds public speaking skills.  These monologues could be performed at the event.
  • Have students work in pairs or small groups to improvise scenes based on stories they’ve collected.  Give them ten or fifteen minutes to develop a first pass at their idea and then have student groups perform their scenes for each other.  These scenes could be performed at the event.
  • After your students have identified the stories they want to share at the event and how they want to share them (read out loud, performed as monologues, or in improvised scenes) give them time to practice and build confidence.  A few times in front of their classmates and getting comfortable speaking in front of the group will help.
  • For other ideas check out this Storytelling Guide and this resource Theatre Games.

Here is a checklist you and your event planning group might consider :

✓ Consider Inviting the whole school or members of the community to participate.  Give people enough notice so that they can contribute stories and attend the event.

✓ Invite others to participate

✓ Determine where your event will take place

✓ Be sure to reserve your site well in advance.

✓ Stock up on supplies

✓ You will want to collect initial brainstorming ideas on the board or on large white sheets of paper.

✓ Also think about documentation of your work.  Are recorders or flip cameras available?

✓ Make space for stories in the classroom

✓ Consider establishing one part of the room for ongoing work with stories and event preparation.

✓ Model positive energy

These planning and storytelling activities may be unfamiliar to your students. 

Your confidence and enthusiasm will encourage them to keep an open mind.

Establish Group agreements

Group agreements build trust among students.  They are most effective when the group determines them together through a quick brainstorming exercise.  Some helpful agreements might be: Use “I statements”, no interrupting, and respect each other’s differences.  Your group may have other suggestions as well.  You can compose these together and keep them posted in the room as a reminder.

Use Safe Stories

Be sure to remind your students that this exercise is about stories that are safe and non- threatening.  If any issues or discomfort arises with your class, often a simple acknowledgment of feelings, fears or discoveries can put everyone at ease.  Remind the class that we build community as we get to know each other.

Explore the many ideas for nurturing stories and storytelling
in your school or class by considering our free Resource

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



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