This week started in a very general sense in that students explored why people have different skin colors. The books that led this discussion and inquiry were, The Skin You Live In by Michael Tyler and Shades of People by Shelly Rotner.
The Skin You Live In explores all the wonder and function our skin embodies. While it addresses the various shades, it also talks about its abilities from the perspective of “a- day-in-the-life” of your skin. Through list-like verse, this books crafts a catchy rhythm the grabs the reader’s attention from beginning to end.
With this text students were encouraged to think about all their skin does for them in a day, using the book as a model craft a similar poem to tell their personal skin story.
Shades of People led a more artistic inquiry into skin color. Students explored with paint mixing to find the colors and amount of each necessary to create their exact skin tone. This activity always serves as a powerful visual model in several ways.
- It shows students that no one just picked up the white bottle of paint, or the brown bottle, or the black, or yellow, or red…
- It also enlightens students to the fact that their skin is made of tones of red, yellow, and blue. Meaning for everyone to find their unique skin tone each had to start with the exact same colors.
Teachers took initiative to get their art teacher’s support in this project. They dedicated art time to the actual paint mixing, and then spent class time painting self portraits that represented their skin tone and unique facial qualities.
Next week our conversations get more targeted as students explore the universal construct of racism and what it means in and to our society. Students will research their own family histories to better understand the variety of cultures and places that make up our unique stories and selves. Stay tuned! We’re just getting started!