This week I had the absolute honour and joy of attending and speaking at the Playful Schools Conference. The event was hosted by the International School of Billund, the Lego Foundation, and Harvard Project Zero. You can find more information here: https://learningthroughplay.com/playful-schools-conference. The Pedagogy of Play team also announced the release of their book, which can be access as a free ebook here: https://pz.harvard.edu/sites/default/files/PoP%20Book%203.27.23.pdf I met incredible educators and innovators from across the globe, and I got to play with all things Lego!
Resources and Questions from my Workshop
My talk was titled 'Creating an Antiracist Classroom' and I got to share some of the work from Scotland and the Building Racial Literacy Programme. You can find a link to my slides here: https://85e162ff-8b41-4921-a8a2-dd899f4b146f.usrfiles.com/ugd/85e162_ca4356a6daa843f9a6aee3f2feb2f84f.pdf
Here is a link to collection of resources I discussed: https://85e162ff-8b41-4921-a8a2-dd899f4b146f.usrfiles.com/ugd/85e162_71c20041f785491aa795bed3b07a6c75.pdf
Here are two questions that popped up in comments a fair bit, with some hopefully helpful words!
How do you engage with parents who have a more conservative approach?
Occasionally parents will think that talking about things like this is a waste of time, and now and again parents may think it's harmful or overly political (though a majority are wonderful!). The best way to keep the conversation as honest, open, and positive as possible to focus on the core values that underpin antiracism, like kindness, inclusiveness, empathy, justice, and fairness. Sometimes anti-racism can come across as accusatory, so it's best to emphasise the systemic and historic nature of racism. It's not one or two people, it's deeply embedded everywhere in many different forms! This is also where I say that relying on the resources can be a big help if you are not feeling confident discussing race. Letting children interact with antiracist books, songs, videos, newspaper articles, etc means you can just focus on another teaching objective and let the pupils unpack the material through any conversation it may cause. For example, you could do literacy tasks based on an appropriate newspaper article about a Black Lives Matter protest.
If you are asking questions to facilitate their learning and letting learners unpack each other's responses, you are not preaching anything political but letting them make sense of the world around them and make their own conclusions.
How do you engage young learners in antiracism? (e.g. ages 3 - 8)
Through fun things like songs, stories, and celebrations! Conversations don't need to be heavy or scary, and the focus can be on embracing differences. Some of the challenges people of colour have faced can be acknowledged through stories of people who overcame adversity. A great one for learners in the UK is looking at the Windrush generation as there are plenty of Newsround videos about them and songs or books (like Coming to England by Floella Benjamin). Art activities that encourage pupils to consider different identities - like paint mixing skin tones - are great too. Circle time conversations can talk about things like fairness and kindness. It will probably look very different that antiracism in older learners, but children are still making sense of different identities and journeys. I learnt a lot from comments too. Someone suggested using the debates about The Little Mermaid casting, which is a great idea. Someone suggested the videos of children seeing themselves represented in films (initially from TikTok), which is a brilliant stimulus for discussion! This clip might be useful for that - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oKgmd0un4Mo.
International School of Billund
It was great to nosy around ISB and get some great examples of an inclusive environment. Some highlights for me were:
Displays celebrating diversity and language
A great range of books displayed in the library, but also in the corridors/foyer
Gender neutral bathrooms
Children's work displayed celebrating different customs and languages