Exploring identity, and beginning to understand who we are and who we are not as individuals and as a community, is a huge part of my teaching. I start this inquiry on day one and continue it throughout the year. One big project we do is with skin color.
When it started to come up in our conversations, I read a few books that explore skin color. The Colors of Us, Shades of People, The Skin You Live In, Chocolate Me and All the Colors We Are, are a few of our favorites. We learned about the science behind skin color and played around with mixing paints that match our skin color. Based on the beautiful language in The Colors of Us, we chose our words for what we would call our skin color. We made up colors like, “whipped cream peach” and “cocoa caramel mocha” and “honey gingerbread”. We mixed the paints and made our self-portraits.
Our big questions that guided this inquiry were:
Why is our skin different colors?
How do I see myself?
How do others see me?
Who am I? Who are we?
We read books, had lots of conversations, made art and played around with self-portraits in many different mediums – using paint chips, buttons, empty picture frames, ribbons and assorted loose parts. We interviewed our friends and asked them, Who am I to you? and How do you see me?. In our completed self-portrait paintings, we wrote the answers to these questions. We also created and drew a symbol that represented who we are in the world.
This exploration into skin color and self-identity was a celebration of who we are and who we are to our friends and to each other. It made our community even stronger and helped us explore, appreciate and celebrate the differences and the similarities that make us special. We will continue to go back and revisit our thinking, revise our thinking and celebrate who we are as a community this year.
Where did you get the desk mirrors?
Amazon – they are just two-sided make-up mirrors on a stand.
A third grade teacher and I are doing some work with her students around identity and exploring differences. I love this idea! Thank you for sharing.
Those creations are so adorable. What a great way to teach about our differences. So creative.
This is such an important conversation to have with young people. My daughter teaches middle school and they’re doing an identity unit, which I think is really important at that age also. Thanks for sharing this.
Oh my goodness! I noticed this post as I was reading the other. Katie, thank you for sharing so much.