Middle School Diversity

Language teachers Jody Christophe and Carmen Sund and Librarian Stasha Gibbs advise the Eighth Grade Diversity Group, which is at the core of the Middle School's diversity program. It has grown from 17 hand-picked students to 51 eager volunteers who meet twice weekly throughout the school year.

Former faculty advisor Debbie Nagle devised the following principles and guidelines that are still used today.

Preparation

  • Check the school’s mission and philosophy statements.
  • Define diversity.
  • Set clear goals for the group.
  • Gain the support from the administration and teachers.

Goals

The goals of the group are to:

  • Establish awareness by looking at the dimensions of diversity from a variety of perspectives
  • Develop leadership skills
  • Learn the skill of leading discussions on sensitive issues
  • Empower students to speak up
  • Impact the community at large by creating workshops and advisory activities
  • Sample Activities

    Gender Fish Bowl Activity

    The purpose of this activity is to get dialogue started between two groups of people that may have difficulty having a conversation. The group is split by gender and seated in two concentric circles. Only those in the inner circle are allowed to engage in dialogue. Those in the outer circle listen and gather information that might be useful when it is their turn to be part of the inner circle. After 3-7 minutes of dialogue, the facilitator invites the two groups switch places.

    Mix it Up at Lunch Day

    This is a national program that encourages young people to challenge the social climates at their schools by having lunch with kids outside of their normal circle of friends. Students are assigned to a lunch table with a mix of students from different grade levels. To break the ice and get conversations started, students wear t-shirts that represent something of interest to them. Discussions are also spurred on conversation starters placed in a bag in the center of each table. After lunch, students participate in a reflection activity where they write about the experience.

    Girls' Lunch

    Middle School and Upper School girls and female faculty members attend a pizza lunch. During the luncheon, attendees view an MTV video produced by "Pink" and discuss images portrayed in the video. The following questions are posed to the group:

    • How does gender shape your identity?
    • Do you dress a certain way to attract the opposite sex?
    • What message do you send by the way you dress?
    • Does the media play a part in how you dress?
    • Are there pressures to be thin?

    The meeting ends with a video clip from Dove.

    Diversity Simulation Day

    Students view the film "A Class Divided" and discuss oppression vs. privilege. Then, students are told that they will be participating in an activity to validate a study claiming that students with birthdays between the months of January and June are smarter than students with birthdays between the months of July and December. For one day, students with birthdays between January and June are asked to wear a blue ribbon to signify that they are part of the smarter group. Throughout the day, the "smarter students" are given more rewards and positive feedback. After the experiment, students discuss how it felt to be discriminated against.

    The Class Race

    Everyone starts on a line in the middle of the room facing one wall. They are asked a series of questions, and are told to take one step forward or backward, depending on their answer. The questions are all related to race, economic, and gender differences. After the last question, students are asked to freeze and look at where they are standing in relation to others. Then they are told that they will race to the front wall and the first few to touch the wall will land a good job or get into a great college. At the end of the activity, students discuss how the race is symbolic of real life.


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