Monday, May 11, 2009

Mix-it-up and More

Originally Posted in Common Threads Blog,
Centre Daily Times, May 23, 2007

Another school year is coming to an end. Kids are counting down to summer vacation.

Parents and teachers are probably thinking ahead to the summer too, while they evaluate the year that went by. Figuring out what worked, what to change, and what to do better next year.

Our kids grow both academically and socially at school. Since they spend a large fraction of their waking hours at school, it is a great place to teach them tolerance for people that are different from them in some way - to teach them empathy, and to fight hate.

A tool to help teachers and parents in this goal is the website, - the online tool of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The site offers ideas to teachers to make their classrooms better, to parents to engage in discussions with and partner with their kids, and to kids to empower themselves and change the world.

Park Forest Middle School implemented an idea from this website last year – they participated in the National Mix-it-Up Day program on November 17. According to the school website, the day was observed “to break down cliques and social barriers. In national surveys, 70% of students named the cafeteria as the school setting where social boundaries are most clearly drawn, so all of the students sat (on that day) at tables corresponding to numbers placed on their hands instead of their usual lunch spots.”

What a wonderful idea – I wonder what the students learnt, and also if they reverted back to their old spots the next day? Many of us adults could benefit from some “Mix–it–up” sessions ourselves – we are too often found only in our comfort zones. And stepping outside of them, and getting to know some new “others,” may reveal a few connecting common points.

The website is worth visiting as we plan for the summer and the next school year - it is a source of information and ideas. Teachers can also get grants for implementing ideas to promote tolerance for all. And of course, the more of us that are empowered

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