School News

Exploring Identity Through Nature

Andrew Campion, Director of Marketing and Communications
Exploring identity in our curriculum is nothing new at Fayerweather. Themes of race, gender, sexual orientation, and economic standing have been woven throughout our curriculum and community. Students are taught to not only share their voice, but that their voice matters. The culmination of this important work on identity can be seen in different examples such as the impassioned Graduation speeches from our Unit students, or in the marches/demonstrations for various causes organized by student activists throughout all grade levels. But the foundations of this curriculum are rooted in the teaching and instruction of our early years.
PreK and Kindergarten students work on self-awareness, understanding social identities, and expressing comfort and joy with human diversity. Our young learners ruminate on questions such as: What is the same and what is different about me and my classmates? In what way am I connected to all the students around me? Through instruction, students develop accurate language to describe human differences, and explore books and stories that expose them to different peoples and cultures from around the world.
Each year Kindergarten works on a skin color project which explores the how and why around different shades of skin color. Students recognize that terms such as black and white, are not accurate representations of skin color, but rather there is a full spectrum of shades and tones in an individual’s skin. The hands-on component of this project has students mixing colors that match their skin tones and creating a self-portrait that represents their individual appearance. However, COVID-19 and maintaining proper physical distancing necessitated teachers Tara and Sabrina to rethink the project. 
Utilizing some of our outdoor learning initiatives brought on by COVID-19, Kindergarten observed different colors found in nature by exploring Fresh Pond. Part of this lesson came from the class reading The Colors of Us by Karen Katz. In the book, skin color can be described in terms of food items such as honey, French toast, or coffee. Students took this same idea and applied it to different natural objects found around Fresh Pond. Students observed different objects in terms of “lighter than” or “darker than” while also comparing objects to their own skin color.
Here are some observations kids had about how colors in the natural world related to skin colors in people:
·  "Nature changes colors in a different season, like my skin changes color. In the summer it gets darker and in winter it gets lighter."
·  "Nature and skin are different shades of brown."
·  "Some skins are dark and some are light. Like a tree bark - some parts are dark, and some are light."
·  "Sticks are all different, they're different shades, like people."
·  "Some shades of nature's color matches the color of some skin in people and some shades don't."
This identity work will continue throughout the year, as it always does. Kindergarten teachers Tara and Sabrina are constantly working to adapt new curriculum around identity for our young learners. Stay tuned as we explore more of these themes later in the spring.
Fayerweather Street School | 765 Concord Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02138 | 617-876-4746
Fayerweather is a private PreK, kindergarten, elementary and middle school. We engage each child’s intellect.