Haine’s youngest students learn about, celebrate diversity
CRANBERRY TWP — A kindergarten class at Haine Elementary School enjoyed a hands-on lesson Thursday, Jan. 12, morning that celebrated the rich colors of diversity.
In anticipation of Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, Jan. 16, the students in Ciara Was’ classroom sat together on a large rug to ponder King and his mission during the civil rights era in the 1960s.
Was instructed students to turn to the classmate next to them and discuss what they learned about King, then she asked her students to share what they had discussed.
“Dark-skinned people had to sit in the back of the bus, and light-skinned people sat in the front,” one student said.
Was then asked the students what happened to Rosa Parks when she sat down on a bus after a long, exhausting workday.
“The man said ‘Get up, because I want to sit there,’ and she said ‘No,’” another student said.
Was then discussed the Montgomery bus boycott with the students and King’s involvement in it.
“Martin Luther King Jr. said this is not fair for dark-skinned or light-skinned people,” Was said.
The students quietly hooted with excitement when Was said they would next do an experiment.
Was opened a carton of eggs with white, light brown and dark brown shells and asked the students if the eggs would look different inside.
The students were unsure, so Was carefully cracked one of each color into a bowl.
“It looks like a normal egg,” a student said after Was cracked the darkest brown shell.
“They are all the exact same,” Was told the students. “Are we all the same on the inside? Do we all have a heart? A brain? Feelings?”
Was then read “The Color of Us” by Karen Katz, which likened each character’s skin color to a different food, including chocolate, honey, peach, cinnamon and pizza crust.
After the story, she asked her students to observe their own skin, then share what item it resembles.
A summer peach, Cocoa Puffs cereal, a toasted marshmallow and hamster brown were some of the colors the students and their teacher came up with to describe the many skin tones among the classmates.
Was then helped the students make handprints in their own skin tone, which she cut out and made into a heart celebrating diversity.
Was said the diversity lesson improves the classroom environment and understanding of humanity while building acceptance of people regardless of their appearance.
She said her students got a head start on thinking about people’s differences, as she has dwarfism.
“We have been talking about differences since day one,” Was said.
Was, who has been teaching at Haine Elementary in the Seneca Valley School District for four of her nine years in education, hopes the lesson hit home with her young students.
“I hope they all learn to accept each other and understand we are all here to learn together,” she said.