A few days ago I ran across this quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about what matters.” The timing was perfect, not only because we just celebrated MLK Day. It confirmed a practice we’ve had at the Seed since we began in 1977. Over the years, although it’s been uncomfortable at times, we’ve kept the social justice conversation alive. As a staff, with help from parents and members of the community, we continue to explore topics around diversity, inclusion, fairness, and equality. Last summer we devoted our entire summer camp to social justice and its expression through the arts. Currently, we’ve been discussing the most developmentally appropriate ways to introduce our young students to historical events such as the Civil Rights Movement. We want them to know the history, yet in ways that will be honoring of all children and families. Resources like The Anti-Bias Curriculum (https://www.naeyc.org/resources/pubs/books/anti-bias-education) and articles about best practices for celebrating the King holiday with young children (https://ijumaajordan.com/dos-donts-celebrating-dr-martin-luther-king-jr-day-young-children/) are guiding us forward.
As we’ve reflected and modified our practices from past years, it’s interesting to note that many of the recommendations for introducing young children to social justice concepts are already in place here. We teach children to honor and respect each other, regardless of differences. The Seed has a long standing non-violence policy, and we support children of all ages in learning to use their voices to express personal needs and/or report perceived injustices. It is one of our highest intentions to keep this work going all year long, not just during a concentrated part of the year. Conversations about uniqueness and acceptance of others often start at the beginning of the year and continue till the last day. We want our students to be well equipped to advocate for themselves and others as they move out into the world beyond the Seed.
Certainly at this time of year, around the day of honoring Dr. King, we have more intensified work going on in various classes. An Art Masterpiece presentation on artist Faith Ringgold (http://faithringgold.blogspot.com) has inspired 3rd/4th grade artists to make their own art, inspired by hers. Kindergarteners were invited to mix colors of paint to match their skin tones, then use their special color to make a cutout hand print for a class project. Children were given ample time to explore combinations of colors and make one that truly matched their skin (http://teachpeacenow.com/all-colors-we-are/). Preschool 4s and their Kindergarten buddies made MLK birthday crowns and held a “march” through the school to honor Dr. King. First and second graders are learning interviewing techniques, which will eventually lead to research papers about human right activists. On Wednesday, January 24, our longtime friend, Dr. Elsie Moore, will join the 3rd/4th graders and a few parents for a discussion of her life work, current civil rights activists, and what our most important focus needs to be right now.
Ensuring that the Seed’s mission stays in alignment with our world’s social justice needs often feels like a huge responsibility. I am learning that what will keep us on track is open, honest conversation. We need to be attentive listeners, and be willing to share what’s in our hearts, even if we feel hesitant to say something because we don’t want to offend or make a mistake. If you have thoughts or ideas to contribute to our continuing conversation, our ears and hearts are open.