See what's happening in the school counseling world at Lafayette Elementary School in NW DC! We call the counselor's office area "the Oasis" because it's a calm and rejuvenating place all are welcome to seek in the midst of our busy and sometimes chaotic lives.
Conflict Resolution time in Peace Class! In 2nd - 5th grade we are
spending time in Peace Class learning how to work out our conflicts
peacefully. If you have the kind of child who tells you all about what
happens at school (I have one who does and one who doesn't!) then you have
probably heard about the Conflict Escalator. The Conflict Escalator is a
way to help us think about how conflicts can start out as nothing but small
problems but because of the things people say and do and the way that people
react they can sometimes escalate into something much worse. Ask your
child what is at the top of the Conflict Escalator. The answer: Nothing
but Trouble! In second grade Peace Class we have been reading stories
about conflicts and we are beginning to think about what sends a conflict up
the escalator. In third grade Peace Class we are learning about the
Conflict Resolution Toolbox. This toolbox is filled with solutions such
as sharing, taking turns, and compromising. We are role-playing how to use
these tools in different conflict scenarios. In fourth and fifth grade Peace
Class we are learning more advanced conflict resolution methods and practicing
them through role-playing. When all of the kids are speaking the same
"language" about conflict it is much easier to keep things peaceful
here at Lafayette!
Please share your thoughts about the conflict escalator and how it might help your child or any other comments about the Teaching Peace curriculum in the comments section!
Peace is a unique social and emotional learning program developed by Linda
Ryden especially for the students of Lafayette Elementary School. All of the second, third, fourth and fifth
graders at Lafayette take Peace Class every week. In addition, there is a special lunch/recess
program called Peace Club and a leadership program for fifth graders called
Peace Team. Ms. Ryden works closely with
the counseling staff to provide one-on-one help to children with conflicts and
other issues. The Teaching Peace program
is funded by a grant from the Home and School Association.
Why teach peace?
The goal of
Teaching Peace is to create a culture of kindness. Research has shown
that the two most important factors in preventing bullying at school are
changing the school climate and allotting class time to social emotional
learning. Peace classes, the Peace Club, the Peace Team, the student-made
peace posters all over the school, and having a teacher dedicated to these
issues builds a school-wide climate that will help to make bullying and other
forms of unkindness unacceptable at Lafayette. Lafayette students are
encouraged to take action when they see acts of unkindness and to make teasing,
excluding and bullying "uncool". Our goal is to turn
bystanders into heroes.
What happens in Peace Class?
always takes the same shape including three main components: mindfulness,
kindness and the core lessons.
Mindfulness: We begin with ringing the ting-sha
bells. These lovely Tibetan bells set
the quiet tone for Peace Class. While we
listen to the bells we close our eyes and begin our mindfulness practice. Sometimes we focus on our breathing, sometimes
we focus our minds on listening closely to the sound of the bells and raise our
hands when we can no longer hear them.
We continue this quiet, peaceful mood as we transition into doing the
Mindful Movements, a moving meditation created by Thich Nhat Hahn. Mindfulness practice has many benefits. Mindfulness training can help to enhance
children’s attention and focus, improve memory, improve self-control and
awareness of our own feelings and the feelings of others. Mindfulness practice is becoming more and
more popular in schools because research has proven that creating deliberate
moments of quiet and focus in a school day can greatly decrease anger, violence
and anxiety in school.
Kindness: The next component of Peace Class
could be called “kindness training”.
Each week children are assigned a Kindness Pal. It is their job to do nice things for that
child for the whole week (get his snack, stack her chair, play together at
recess, etc.) The following week we hear
about what everyone did for their Pal and they get a new one. This is a very
popular activity which achieves several goals.
One is to remind the children to make kindness part of their daily
lives. It has been scientifically proven
that people who keep track of the kind things that they do tend to do more of
them. Doing kind things for their own
“pal” will spill over into their treatment of others. Pairing up the children also provides
opportunities to get to know each other and to “find the good” in someone that
you might not have gotten along with in the past or who you think you just
don’t like. We often refer to the quote
“Kindness is in our power, even when fondness is not.” We use quotes
from a large variety of sources including the Dalai Lama, Mother Teresa, J.K.
Rowling, Dr. Seuss, ancient proverbs and popular song lyrics to add to our
discussions.We use these quotes each
week to set the tone for the lesson.Many of the children enjoy attempting to memorize the quote each
Core Lessons: Each week’s class features a lesson
on a specific concept or skill. Lessons
in Peace Class range from learning specific conflict resolution skills, to the
“three R’s” of apologizing (regret, responsibility and remedy), to learning to
think before you speak, to discussions of prejudice, to learning how to calm
down when you are angry, to what to do to help someone who is being
bullied. Story-telling, children’s
literature, role-playing, drawing, group discussion, pair-sharing, puppets and
much more bring these lessons to life.
The same basic concepts are taught each of the four years but they are
adapted to be age-appropriate as the children grow.
What is Peace Club?
Peace Club is a lunch and recess program for kids who like a
smaller alternative to the cafeteria and the playground. It is a
mixed-age group of anywhere from 20-50 kids that meets in the space used by the
Lafayette Afterschool Program (LAP).
Peace Club has become popular among kids who sometimes struggle with
their social skills or with being in a large group. It is also popular
among kids who like to make a difference at Lafayette and who make a commitment
to making everyone feel welcome and respected.
who comes to Peace Club makes a promise to treat everyone else with kindness
and respect and to make sure that conflicts are worked out peacefully and everyone
is included. Some older children are recruited to be special Peace Club helpers.
These are kids who make an extra commitment to seek out those who have a
harder time jumping in and include them in games, who help others work out
conflicts peacefully and who help lead the big clean-up routine. If you were to drop by Peace Club you would
probably be surprised by how noisy it is. It is not "peaceful"
on the surface. But there is so much going on that is contributing to
making Lafayette a more peaceful place. The children eat lunch together
at small tables getting to know new people and children in other grades and classes.
After lunch they have lots of options. All of the games and toys at
Peace Club are chosen to encourage cooperation and social interactions.
Some children choose to make the wonderful, colorful peace posters that
line the halls of Lafayette. Many children choose to join together to
make fantastic structures using the Magna-Tiles. Some children play board
games or guessing games or Twister and hop-scotch. Sometimes we join
together to play circle games. The LAP room has a foosball game and so,
even though foosball is really, really noisy, it gives the kids many chances to
work out conflicts, to make sure that people are included and to find ways to
communicate gently when someone forgets to follow the rules. Members of the Peace Club also help others by
making food for the Bethesda Cares homeless shelter once a month. Peace
Club has become a welcoming community-within-a-community at Lafayette.
What is the Peace Team?
is a program for a specially selected group of 5th graders who work
together to write the weekly Peace Tips that are shared on the morning
announcements. They also choose a
Peaceful Person of the Week. Some Peace Team members are chosen in
recognition of their efforts to make the school a better place and some are
chosen because they show potential to be peaceful leaders if given a little
Who is the Peace Teacher?
is the creator of Teaching Peace, teaches all of the Peace Classes and leads
Peace Club and the Peace Team. She is
also a member of the Lafayette Student Support Team and works closely with the
counseling team. She has been teaching
for 25 years and created the Teaching Peace program in 2003. Teaching Peace has been featured on local
television and radio and in the Washington Post. In 2012 the DCPS Advisory
Commission on Bullying encouraged all schools in DCPS to incorporate a program
modeled on the Teaching Peace program.
Principal Lynn Main for her consistent support of the Teaching Peace
program. In this testing-focused culture
it takes courage to set aside time in the school day for something that can’t
be easily quantified. Thanks to her
vision and leadership on this issue, Teaching Peace has grown into an effective
and engaging model program. This
program also owes a debt to the wonderful teachers of Lafayette who have
welcomed and supported the Teaching Peace Program and given the very precious
gift of time. Finally, Teaching Peace
would not have been possible without the support of the Lafayette Home and School
Association. Many thanks to all members,
past and present, for supporting Teaching Peace over the past nine years and
for making our children’s social and emotional development a priority.
“I believe that if there were
someone like Ms. Ryden in each elementary school across America, we would
likely see a wholesale reduction in bullying and juvenile crime. The value that the Peace program provides to
the Lafayette community is immeasurable.”
third grade parent
“Peace Class teaches our children how to be
part of a community that is kind, cooperative, intelligent and emotionally healthy. Linda Ryden teaches our children to act with
the highest expectations and finest intentions toward each other. Linda Ryden
has singlehandedly changed the culture of this school. “
fourth grade parent and third grade teacher
“In my mind, and in the minds of
my children, one of the most precious resources at Lafayette is Linda Ryden and
her Peace Program. How lucky we are to be able to provide such a positive and
uplifting program for our children…. Linda’s lessons of conflict resolution and
self-control are an invaluable tool for our children now and in the future…. I
am happy, through the fundraising efforts of the HSA, that we can provide our
children with resources like the Peace Program. I strongly support the
continuation of the funding for this program and encourage additional funding.”
Bouker, fifth and second grade parent
“As highlighted in recent news
reports, Linda’s program is unique and wonderful in a public elementary
setting. Readers are likely envious that we have such an offering
for our children. I certainly feel grateful that this program is
there when my boys needed and continue to need it. Thank you to the
HSA for supporting this important program; it contributes significantly to the
overall ‘wonderfulness’ that is Lafayette.”
Stocker, fourth grade parent
“Just a quick note to give my
annual plea for continuing to generously support the peace program at
Lafayette. I adore this program and think it's one of the most unique and
special extras we offer our students. Linda is a gifted teacher, and I
really feel we are fortunate to have her services and talents at Lafayette.”
fourth grade parent
“I was co-president of the HSA
from 2004 – 2006 when Linda Ryden approached us with the idea of a Peace
Program. At that time, the kids in the
school were very “cliquey”. There was a
program in place then for peer mediation where the kids helped each other solve
their disagreements. There were a large
group of peer mediators. There was also
a rise in bullying within the school.
Although the HSA board at the time was unfamiliar with a Peace Program,
it seemed to be a wonderful solution to the problems that the school was
facing. Since the program was implemented, bullying has not been a large issue
and the peer mediation group no longer exists. There is much greater spirit of kindness
and concern within the student body. This
can be attributed to the work that Linda has done with the Peace Program and
the Peace Club.”
Ford, second grade parent
“I am so proud that my children
attend Lafayette, where the Peace Program provides them the opportunity to
learn and practice the multiple ways of being a good person.
This sense of community is
evident when people enter the Lafayette building. Perhaps it is the peace club posters
reminding people to be kind to others, or perhaps it is the focus given to
these topics during peace class, but students at Lafayette know how to create a
“In a world where many of our
children believe that community only exists online and where communication with
others can only happen through monosyllabic words exchanged on a small screen,
we need the Peace Program at Lafayette.
Our students do recognize real warmth, generosity, kindness, and yes,
even real community, when they are given the opportunity to experience it and
Nachbar, third grade parent
“Peace Club has meant so much to
my son and to me. He was a new student this fall at Lafayette, a third
grader having moved from another school. During the beginning of the
year, he was having a hard time getting to know the other children, being
included, and just fitting in at a new school where a lot of the children had
already been together since pre-k. ... I truly believe that because
of Peace Club he's been able to branch out with his friendships and to become a
member of the Lafayette Community, it has made his transition so much easier
and he is so happy to be at Lafayette. He tells me now that he loves his
Pike, third grade parent
“I would like to add my support
of HSA funding for the Peace Program at Lafayette Elementary School.
A couple of years ago, I was able to witness how students are
able to use what they learn in the Peace class. I was a monitor during
recess when I noticed two fourth graders get into a heated argument to the
point of it getting physical. I was trying to resolve the issue when a
third fourth grader who knew both of them interceded. He calmly talked to them
both, using many of the tools Linda teaches - asking both what had happened,
how they were feeling and mentioning the "conflict escalator".
I was able to stand back and observe while he helped the two boys resolve the
issue and even got them to shake hands….
“I think that our Lafayette
community has benefited by having the Peace program in place for so many years
and that in many ways, we have been way ahead of the curve in addressing the
problem. I know our kids and entire community will continue to
benefit by keeping this valuable class as part of our curriculum.”
Petaros and David Engvall, fourth grade parents
“As the parent of a fourth
grader, I would like you know how much I value Lafayette's peace program…. I would just like to say that the peace
program is more than just the curriculum. Its success is due to Linda
Ryden herself and the personal qualities she brings to the job. She
is one of Sam's very favorite teachers of all time and always makes a
point of engaging him when we run into her inside or outside of
school. I thank the HSA for supporting the program and sincerely
hope it will continue for many years to come.”
Francis, fourth grade parent
Quotes from Teachers and Faculty:
“We want our children to master
their academics but we equally want them to master being good citizens who care
about one another and the world at large. The Peace Program does just that. In
an age where bullying has become a major problem, the Program is proactive
instead of reactive, thereby eliminating some of those problems before they
“The Peace Program also offers a
safe haven for learners of different modalities to thrive in a safe
environment. Linda Ryden’s calm nature
makes her a calming presence for students and staff alike. In a stressful
environment, which schools can be, her presence and the presence of the Peace
Program helps to calm us all which in turn allows us to be the best we can be.”
Snowden, Arts Integration Coordinator
“The Peace program, especially the Peace Club,
has really helped my students over the past few years. I work with students that receive specialized
instruction. Peace Club has allowed my
students to flourish! I have seen the program’s principles at work every time I
teach my students. I also believe that
having this program has allowed my students to be more included. In short, we have a nicer school and students
go out of their way to make my students feel welcome. I believe the Peace program has played a part
Finally, I have a student that is
a big support and helper at Peace Club.
She helps younger kids out and this allows her to have a sense of
self-worth. She is always anxious to go to anything Peace Club-related and it
is a joy to see her spirit grow! Please
continue to support the Peace program at Lafayette!”
Cassidy, Special Education Teacher
“This program is invaluable to
the growth of our students here at Lafayette.”
Catapano, Special Education Aide
“The program carries over to the
classroom in several ways. I have students asking to go see Ms. Ryden to
resolve conflicts. The instances of
bullying are down as children understand the scope of what bullying is.Linda’s
peace program has a profound effect on our students.”
Fifth Grade Teacher
“I would like to express my
enthusiastic support for the Peace program at Lafayette….
Students at Lafayette are
demonstrating increasing skills in working as a team and supporting each other.
There is a very positive and cooperative “vibe” this year at Lafayette, and I
attribute that in part to Lafayette’s unique Peace program. The Peace Program
is an important piece of the puzzle that makes Lafayette the special place it
“As you make decisions about the
budget for next year, we would like to express our strong support for Linda
Ryden's Peace class. We have seen the peace program develop from the very
beginning and have always been strong advocates. … The importance of
teaching kindness, compassion, how to get along, what to do if there is
bullying, and how to handle or possibly to avoid conflicts cannot be overstated…
“The Peace program works.
We have been able to see the difference between the students' ability to handle
conflicts over the years and we have seen improvement. We hear the
language that Ms. Ryden teaches out on the playground. We see kids doing
nice things for their kindness pals which gives them real life practice to show
them how good it feels to be nice. It's wonderful to hear Ms. Ryden tell
kids how she feels good when she receives a gift, but she feels so much better
when she gives one. Kids listen. They really do. Ms. Ryden's
new "mindful movements" also supports the school's focus on
controlled voices and bodies.”
and Blake Yedwab, Third Grade Teachers
“I have been very impressed with
the Peace Program and the magic it appears to have spread on the
Lafayette community. It is hard to really assess the far reaching impact
that the program has had on each class individually but I can tell you as a
psychologist who has worked in DCPS for 22 years, this is one of the
calmest buildings I have ever been in. I do believe that your program has
had a big part to do with that.”
Kuhn, School Psychologist
Quotes from Lafayette students
“My school is a really special
place. We are very fortunate to have a teacher who teaches peace! I will call
her the Peace Goddess! The Peace Goddess teaches us about conflicts and
resolutions and many other things. We also have something called kindness
pals. We are encouraged to do nice things for our kindness pals
throughout the week! On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays we have Peace Club.
Peace Club is where we all get together and do activites and play games. There
was an article about our peace class in the newspaper recently. It was super
cool! If you are not lucky enough to have a Peace Goddess, then talk to
your principal. Maybe one day you could start your own peace club! I love our
Peace Goddess. She is my favorite teacher on EARTH!”
Bouker, fifth grader
“I think Peace class is important
because there are many conflicts at Lafayette and Ms. Ryden always helps calm
“I think the Peace program is
important because you do kind things for people and you learn to not do mean
things to people.”
“The Peace program is important
because it teaches kids to be kind to each other.”
“It’s important because it makes
Lafayette a peaceful community.”
“I think Peace class is very
important, it’s a place where you know you can be yourself and people will
appreciate you. Peace at Lafayette is
like the string of a bracelet; without it all the beads will fall. Peace Class must stay!”
“Even if I come to Peace class
sad or not feeling well or just in a bad mood, I always become very calm and
happy by the end. The mindfulness, fun,
Ms. Ryden… everything about Peace class is wonderful!! I love it!!!!!”
“It is important because it helps
people calm themselves when they are mad and it teaches people to solve their
problems with words.”
“I think it’s important because
it helps you make new friends, it helps the class cooperate and kids with not
that many friends can go to Peace Club and make some.”
“I think mindful breathing and
kindness pals are important. Mindful
breathing helps me calm down when I have a lot on my mind and kindness pals
helps me make new friends.”
“I think Peace class is very
important because it could help bullies calm down and not bully and it will
help people calm down in tough situations.”
“I think Peace class is important
because it helps soothe your brain and if you have any problems Peace class
will help you figure it out. Also it
helps bring your mind back to what you were working on.”
“I think the Peace program is
helpful because it helps people stand up to bullying and stop bullying and
helps them stay calm.”
“I think Peace is important
because it helps people if they are upset they know how to calm down to talk it
out. It also makes Lafayette a WAY more peaceful place. And it makes school more enjoyable.”
“The Peace program is important
because it teaches us that bullying is wrong and to be more than just a
bystander when bullying does happen, which is actually rare around here because
being peaceful teaches us not to.”
The topic for this group was test anxiety, but the conversation focused more on anxiety and worries in general. Counselors discussed anxiety management strategies that they have been implementing in the Character Education classroom lessons with kindergarten and first grade. These lessons also serve as an introduction to the Peace Program's mindfulness curriculum developed by Linda Ryden that she conducts with the older grades. In the lessons with younger classes, students have been taught ways to relax their bodies through breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and visualization. Below is an outline for a relaxation lesson:
Session begins by counselor ringing a triangle. Students are instructed to listen and raise their hands when they no longer hear the triangle to practice blocking out distractions and focusing on the ringing sound.
Students are asked to lay on their backs on the floor or sit comfortably at their desks and close their eyes. They are led through belly breathing exercises, practicing deep breathing as a form of relaxation.
Students listen to a recording of a progressive muscle relaxation exercise (from Building Emotional Intelligence book and CD set). Another popular activity is called "The Wave" and is a relaxation/visualization exercise in which the students imagine a comforting wave coming over their body and taking away all of their stress.
After the activity, students discuss as a class what their bodies felt like relaxed. Students were asked to draw a picture of their bodies relaxed, or of themselves in a relaxing place (examples included: the beach, on a cloud, in bed). Students also had the opportunity to draw the relaxing wave coming over their bodies.
These strategies can be used to help with a variety of worries and anxieties, including test anxiety. This week (March 26-27) students have PIA testing, and will begin DC CAS testing the week of April 22nd. It might be helpful to practice some of these relaxation or mindfulness strategies with your child if he or she becomes anxious around testing time. Our goal is to reduce anxiety around these tests and reinforce the idea that students should just try to do their best!
Do you have any strategies that have been effective in reducing anxiety or worries with your child? Please feel free to share your ideas and thoughts in the comments section!
Another successful week of Pennies for Patients has ended, with only one more to go! At the end of two weeks, Lafayette has raised over $5,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, surpassing the school's overall goal by over $2,000! A big THANK YOU to everyone who has donated to this great cause. We still have one more week to collect coins. Please have students bring their boxes in to school on Thursday, March 28th for the final count. We will announce the final fundraising total on Friday.
Definition: Continuing to try your best even when
something gets difficult; never giving up
DETERMINATION is our character word for the month of March!
Students have the opportunity to be caught in the character spotlight by teachers who notice them showing determination at school.
In the Character Education classes for Pre-K through 1st grade, Ms. Diesner and counseling intern Ms. Moore have been conducting lessons about determination. In these lessons, students have listened to a story from a puppet about his determination to learn how to ice skate. Students were asked to share times that they have been able to learn and practice a new skill. Students were also asked to set goals for new skills that they wanted to accomplish. Examples included: doing a flip, crossing the monkey bars, tying shoes, reading a chapter book, riding a bike without training wheels, and many more! Counselors have been checking in on students' progress toward these goals, so encourage your child to keep up the good work and determination!
To catch up from last month, here is some information about our character word for February: RESPECT!
Character Education lessons for this month emphasized being respectful by "treating others how you would like to be treated." Students read the Dr. Seuss book "The Sneetches" as an example of characters being disrespectful to others based on differences. The students were challenged to find similarities and differences between themselves and a partner, as well as their whole class. Counselors emphasized not teasing or excluding based on these differences as an important way to show respect.
To catch up from the past few months, here is some information about our character word for January: RESPONSIBILITY!
Doing your part to take care of yourself,
your classroom, your home, and our world –
even when no one is watching.
For Responsibility, character education lessons included helping students identify ways in which they can be responsible for themselves (ex. brushing teeth, getting dressed), their classroom (ex. cleaning up, classroom jobs), home (ex.chores, caring for a pet), and world (ex. picking up trash, recycling, saving water). Students read "The Earth Book" by Todd Parr and had the opportunity to make classroom earth books with ways to take care of our planet.
Our first week of fundraising is finished, and we will count up the classroom and school totals this afternoon. If you want to donate online, you can do so by clicking on the link below. You can specify which classroom you'd like your donation to be credited to, and will get a tax-deductible receipt for your donation. The last day to donate is Friday, March 29th. Thanks to everyone for their generosity in supporting this great cause!
The new Oasis blog will be featuring information from our Parent Pickup groups as well as other news from Lafayette. We welcome comments and discussion about our site and topics. Please come join our informal Parent Pickup groups on the first and third Thursday of every month at 2:15 p.m. to learn more about exciting topics and discuss strategies and experiences with Lafayette school counselors and other parents. The schedule is posted below:
January 17: Talking with your kids about violence
and stranger safety
February 7: Helping your child include others and
February 21: Fostering a positive relationship with
your child’s teacher
March 7: This session has been cancelled due to the Pennies for Patients kickoff assembly, which parents are welcome to attend!
March 21: Dealing with your child’s test
April 18: ADHD/Organization strategies for your
May 2: Fostering honesty and openness with
All this month we have been
learning about Respect and the idea
of treating others like you want to be treated. In many classes we read Dr.
Seuss’s The Sneetches, and
discussed how treating others differently because they may look or act
different is certainly NOT showing respect. This is one of my favorite lessons
because the children are truly shocked that anyone would act so awful over
something as silly as a “star upon thars.” Then we relate that star to hair
color, clothing, gender, and any other perceived “difference” we see around us,
and they fervently agree it would be absurd to treat someone badly or tease
them because of these differences. Oh, if they could only stay so young and
innocent! Continuing on the theme, we also took time at
our Professional Development on Friday to have a staff-wide discussion about
respect. Teachers gave input on what respect means to them from various
sources, including parents, other teachers, and administration.Below are their answers, which might help you in fostering a positive relationship with your child's teacher.
What respect means from a
·Acknowledge my expertise
·Trust us to do our jobs
·Allow for a reasonable amount of time to respond to
emails (24-48 hrs, not inc. weekends)
·Give teachers personal space
·Refrain from discussing the teacher in front of the
·Please don’t walk into classrooms unannounced;
schedule an appointment
·Send in a note if it’s something I need to know right
away, as I won’t usually get to check email until after school ends
·Encourage students to talk to teacher about minor
issues first, before you intervene
·Follow the “chain of command”: first speak to me
before going to an administrator
·Notify teachers ahead of time before
volunteering/staying in class all day
·Don’t talk negatively about other teachers to me
·Give teacher all important information regardingyour child
·Talk to me to get the “other side” of a situation you
hear about in the classroom before making assumptions
·Please don’t complain about me through emails to other
parents or on public websites..please talk to me if you have any concerns!
·Follow the protocols we’ve put in place
·Use a friendly tone/voice
·Respect our time
·Have empathy and try to understand our point of view
Other ideas or thoughts to share with the group? Please share in our comments section!
Since Respect is the character word for February, this group's discussion addressed how parents can teach their children to include others and respect differences. The counselors provided the article posted below as a talking point about how children can be taught to respect racial differences. Participants offered suggestions including encouraging children to play with different kids and exposing them to a variety of people and activities. The article highlights the importance of explicitly talking to kids about race and discrimination, as these biases continue to be present in our society. Showing respect and including others who might be different are skills that we teach at Lafayette and can be reinforced at home.
Do you have other ideas about how to talk to kids about differences and including others? Please post in our comments section!
CNN Study: White
and black children biased toward lighter skin
May 13, 2010
A white child looks at a picture of a black child and
says she's bad because she's black. A black child says a white child is ugly
because he's white. A white child says a black child is dumb because she has
This isn't a schoolyard fight that takes a racial turn,
not a vestige of the "Jim Crow" South; these are American
schoolchildren in 2010.
Nearly 60 years after American schools were desegregated
by the landmark Brown v. Board of Education ruling, and more than a year after
the election of the country's first black president, white children have an
overwhelming white bias, and black children also have a bias toward white,
according to a new study commissioned by CNN.
Renowned child psychologist and
University of Chicago professor Margaret Beale Spencer, a leading researcher in
the field of child development, was hired as a consultant by CNN. She designed
the pilot study and used a team of three psychologists to implement it: two
testers to execute the study and a statistician to help analyze the results.
Her team tested 133 children from schools that met very
specific economic and demographic requirements. In total, eight schools
participated: four in the greater New York City area and four in Georgia.
In each school, the psychologists tested children from
two age groups: 4 to 5 and 9 to 10.
Since this is a pilot study and not a fully funded
scientific study, the sample size and race selection were limited. But
according to Spencer, it was satisfactory to yield conclusive results. A pilot
study is normally the first step in creating a larger scientific study and
often speaks to overall trends that require more research.
Spencer's test aimed to re-create the landmark Doll Test
from the 1940s. Those tests, conducted by psychologists Kenneth and Mamie
Clark, were designed to measure how segregation affected African-American
The Clarks asked black children to choose between a white
doll and -- because at the time, no brown dolls were available -- a white doll
painted brown. They asked black children a series of questions and found they
overwhelmingly preferred white over brown. The study and its conclusions were
used in the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education case, which led to the
desegregation of American schools.
In the new study, Spencer's researchers asked the younger
children a series of questions and had them answer by pointing to one of five
cartoon pictures that varied in skin color from light to dark. The older children
were asked the same questions using the same cartoon pictures, and were then
asked a series of questions about a color bar chart that showed light to dark
The tests showed that white children, as a whole,
responded with a high rate of what researchers call "white bias,"
identifying the color of their own skin with positive attributes and darker
skin with negative attributes. Spencer said even black children, as a whole,
have some bias toward whiteness, but far less than white children.
"All kids on the one hand are exposed to the
stereotypes" she said. "What's really significant here is that white
children are learning or maintaining those stereotypes much more strongly than
the African-American children. Therefore, the white youngsters are even more
stereotypic in their responses concerning attitudes, beliefs and attitudes and
preferences than the African-American children."
Spencer says this may be happening because "parents
of color in particular had the extra burden of helping to function as an
interpretative wedge for their children. Parents have to reframe what children
experience ... and the fact that white children and families don't have to
engage in that level of parenting, I think, does suggest a level of
entitlement. You can spend more time on spelling, math and reading, because you
don't have that extra task of basically reframing messages that children get
Spencer was also surprised that children's ideas about
race, for the most part, don't evolve as they get older. The study showed that
children's ideas about race change little from age 5 to age 10.
"The fact that there were no differences between
younger children, who are very spontaneous because of where they are
developmentally, versus older children, who are more thoughtful, given where
they are in their thinking, I was a little surprised that we did not find
Spencer said the study points to major trends but is not
the definitive word on children and race. It does lead her to conclude that
even in 2010, "we are still living in a society where dark things are
devalued and white things are valued."
Our discussion started with three
articles from the Center for Missing and Exploited Children.The first discusses how
typical ‘Stranger Danger’ messages can do more harm than good, and gives very
good suggestions on how to give your kids practical strategies for specific
situations. The other two articles are on walking to and from school safely
(something many of our kids who live in close proximity to the school do on a
daily basis), and on preventing abduction. Both of these articles list similar
good tips to give to your kids regarding strangers.
of parents shared different experiences we’ve had when a child got lost for a
short time in public, and we all agreed this can be terrifying for us
(nevermind for our kids!) Some general strategies and tips that came out of
this conversation include the following:
·Put your contact information somewhere onyour child when going to a busy place
(airports, amusement parks, etc.)in
case you get separated and your child is too small or upset to be able to tell
someone how to reach you.This could be
just slip of paper in a pocket, or there are actually dogtags, bracelets, and
other jewelry-type things that can be bought for this purpose.
·Teach kids to look for “helpers” when needed:
police/someone in a uniform, another parent, etc.
·Teach your kids that it’s okay to ask questions
of an adult, especially if that adult says they are supposed to come with them.
They can ask “what’s my mom’s first and middle name?” or similar questions.
Sometimes we teach our kids so much about being polite that they may not feel
empowered to question an authority figure. Of course, if the person is
legitimate he or she will have no problem answering questions and will not be
annoyed/angered by this action.
·Kids can sometimes have an inflated sense of
their own power or “toughness” (as in: ‘if anyone tries to mess with me I’ll
just karate kick them!’) You might need to explain and/or model just how easy
it can be for an adult to overpower a kid just due to body size.
·Open the discussion with your kids by talking
about what they would do in case of an emergency (call 911), and what constitutes
·MPD has good information on their website at http://mpdc.dc.gov/ regarding safety; they also
have a link to the sex offender registry, where you can see the map of
offenders who may live in your area (scary thought, but true).
·Of course, keeping communication open with your
child and making sure they feel comfortable talking to you about strangers,
their body, their fears, etc. is crucial.
Please check out the articles below and feel free to add your own tips or questions in the comments section! Hope you see you at our next group!