Students and staff at RMS engaged in discussions of stereotyping and perspective-taking through an all-school activity organized by Mrs. Powers and Mr. Lacrosse. Students involved in both the leadership course and student council led group discussions and facilitated an activity in mixed-grade groups.
The activity provided an opportunity for students to better understand how stereotypes and generalizations are formed and the ways they influence thinking. Students considered how categorizing people can lead to assumptions that prevent people from seeing one another as individuals. We hope that all involved increased their understanding of the multiple perspectives that exist in any situation and the potential of one's perspective to influence perceptions and behavior.
Using an activity adapted from curriculum created by the Anti-Defamation League, students studied and created stories about lemons. Then in their small groups they shared these stories which included name, age, history, place of birth, family group and other variables. Once all of the lemon stories had been told all of the lemons were placed in the middle and group was asked to try and match the lemons to the stories. A discussion followed with questions like:
-Given the short time you have "known" one another, what feelings have you developed toward your lemon?
-In what ways did your feelings about lemons as a group change, once you got to know your lemons personally?
-What are the conditions that make it possible to see someone as an individual?
-What stereotypes, if any, emerged in the lemons' life stories?
-Why do you think stereotypes are harmful?
Certainly, using lemons added a bit of fun and we hope made what can be a challenging topic more accessible for students. This effort is part of expanded discussions of topics of diversity and community that we hope to introduce this year.