On Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday this week we talked about hair color, hair texture and eye color at circle. Nick came to circle on Tuesday and Wednesday to tell the children about the similarities and differences within his family when it comes to physical characteristics. Including the three different shades of skin color in his family–chocolate, sweet cream and caramel.
On Tuesday I had the children group themselves based on the various physical features. It was a little chaotic and I’m not sure that everyone understood what we were doing.
On Wednesday and Friday I decided to add another step to help the children visually understand what we were doing. After the children self-selected their group for eye color, hair texture or hair color we totaled up each group and graphed the numbers using pattern blocks. On Wednesday, I made sure to explain to the children that these graph were not about which group “wins” or “gets the most votes” because we typically use a bar graph like this when we vote for a read-aloud book. It was simply to see the variety of physical characteristics in our group–the ways that we are all similar and different from each other.
On Friday, when we made similar graphs, OR (our only child with strawberry blonde hair on Wednesdays and Fridays) was quick to remind everyone, “It’s not about who wins.”
This work is only an introduction to talking about similarities and differences. However, similar to our work mixing skin color paints, it serves to open up the conversation about physical characteristics that children may already have started to believe to be taboo. Simultaneously, of course, we were also working together to figure out how to visually display numerical data so it could be compared and understood. Anti-bias education does not have to be distinct or separate from other learning areas. During these circles we used math and logical reasoning as one avenue to explore our identities as individuals and as a group. Similarly two small groups this week used art and color theory to construct their particular skin color. The anti-bias work doesn’t take away from our time with “academic subjects” rather it makes learning the skills and concepts of those subjects all the more relevant to the children’s lives. After all, the data or subject of study is the children themselves and their interactions with others in the world.