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Student Identity Groups
We are proud to announce that Students of ColorS will begin Tuesday, February 5 facilitated by Alex Fernandez, Carmen La Roche-Wright, and Regina Sorey. Now in its second year, this group, created for students to explore racial identity, is open to all students in grades 1-3. You know your child best, and can best decide if your child will benefit from this group. Please consult our FAQ’s for answers to some common questions that help clarify the goals of this group.
Children need and are developmentally ready for this opportunity. Children actively seek adults that identify like them just to talk and share stories. They ask questions and wondering why, for example, some people have brown skin and others have pink skin. Students of ColorS blossomed directly from our educators' observations of what our children need most with regards to identity development. The children are our inspiration.
Students of ColorS began in 2011 for grades 3-5. Open to students of all racial identities, participation in Students of ColorS was voluntary. The group met in the morning before school every other Friday with the goal of bringing together students of all racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds to deepen their understanding of their own identities and to provide a space for students to discover and enhance connections with each other and the larger community. Teachers Leah Aguilera and Rhonda Smith facilitated the first Students of ColorS group.
In launching Students of ColorS, we looked to schools around the country for best practice for identity groups. We have also been fortunate to work with Alison Park from Blink Consulting. Alison has worked with over 30 schools around the Bay Area and has brought incredible wisdom to us as we planned this initiative.
Students of ColorS Identity Group for Grades 3-5
Yes, that’s “ColorS” with an “S” to emphasize the amazing range of racial identities that make up Redwood Day School. Diversity is one of the characteristics that Redwood Day School is most proud of, and because of the diversity of our student body and staff, RDS is in the fortunate position to be able join other independent schools across the Bay Area who have launched racial identity groups.
Racial identity is only part of who you are, part of the “story” that makes you you. For children, it’s the part of their story that probably gets a lot of nurturing at home, but in the business of the day, may not get as much affirmation at school. This is where RDS Students of ColorS fits in. In RDS Students of ColorS, the main goal is for kids to have opportunities to share what’s special to them about their racial identities and to hear what others feel is special about their identities. We also expect that students will benefit from the opportunity to get to know and recognize connections between themselves and peers from other grades.
In the RDS Students of ColorS meetings, kids will read books, write poetry, do art, play games, and have conversations. The focus of this group is racial identity—what it means to be proud of your race and culture, and especially what it means to be proud of your race and culture here at school. We have seen that there are lots of kids in the Lower School for whom this topic is fascinating. They’re asking questions in class, they’re checking books out of the library that will answer their questions, and they’re seeking out cross-grade level buddies with whom to have these conversations. Our students are the inspiration for beginning the RDS Students of ColorS group.
How does RDS Students of ColorS complement the regular school day classroom experience? It’s all about educating and nurturing.
The regular RDS classroom experience provides a wealth of opportunities for students to share pieces of their identities to educate and learn from one another. In something as simple as “Student of the Week” or “A Life Like Mine,” students and families teach one another about their various identities, like their cultural traditions, their various family structures, and being adopted. RDS students have lots of practice teaching each other and learning about each other. This diversity work that happens during the regular school day in the classroom is intended to educate, and the classroom does this well.
In RDS Students of ColorS, the activities and discussions will look a lot like classroom work, but the intention will be to provide each child with the opportunity to nurture and understand her/himself better, rather than educate everyone else. For instance, instead of writing “Me Poems” as a way to help others get to know you, the kids will write “Me Poems” to better understand their own stories.
We are excited about the learning and the self-discoveries that this new opportunity will provide for Redwood Day School students. There will now be a space carved out just to support them in their exploration of racial identity, and this space is the RDS Students of ColorS.
—Leah Aguilera, Rhonda Smith