We live in an ever changing world filled with human diversity. Today's children must be taught how to not only live in such a diverse global community, but to understand the benefits that this diversity offers them. This article is designed to help educators realize these goals by teaching the values of tolerance and understanding to nursery school and pre-kindergarten three and four year old children. Through the use of a very simple and yet unique lesson utilizing M & M candies, young and impressionable minds come to see that differences in skin color are not how people should be judged. Instead, strength of character should be the yard stick for measuring personal worth. Since looks can be deceptive, in the final analysis the only true way to ascertain this strength of character is by taking the time to learn what people are like on the inside. The methodologies and strategies depicted in this article have been successfully employed by this author over the course of many many years of actual classroom teaching experience. If properly utilized, they can prove to be a valuable tool for combating racism and instilling important and needed values into today's students.
To help students develop a better understanding and tolerance of racial differences
Nursery school and Pre-kindergarten classes children 3 and 4 years of age
One bag of M & M candies for each student
This lesson is a very simple attempt on the part of the teacher to show young children that any racial differences between them, their friends, or any of their classmates should not be a significant factor for judging character. I have found that this lesson, although quite elementary in nature, leaves a rather long-lasting impact. Former students, now in their late teenage years, have returned to tell me that even after more than a decade and a half they still remember this particular lesson. They say that it stands out in their minds and is in fact one of their most vivid school memories. Some have even told me that it helped them develop those crucial first impressions that have remained with them ever since.
It has been documented that educators, sociologists, and even parents have observed that children begin to notice differences in skin color in other children as early as the ages of three or four. These observations are reinforced by what they see on television and in books and magazines. As a natural part of their growth process they notice these distinctions and begin to formulate questions about these differences. This is a crucial period in which teachers and parents can set a pattern for better understanding between the races. It is a unique opportunity to begin to instill the values of tolerance and understanding.
I begin this lesson by informally speaking with the three and four year old nursery school children and Pre-kindergartners. I chat with them about what they like and what they hate. I ask them about their favorite toys and television shows and anything else that will give me a better understanding of who they are, what they believe, and just what is important to them. Eventually, I tell them how their teacher has informed me that they are an excellent class and that they are among the brightest and nicest children she has ever taught. My purpose here is to establish two perceptions in their minds prior to the actual beginning of the lesson. First, I want them to believe that they are academically capable of understanding what I am about to teach them. Secondly, I want them to believe in their innate goodness as young people. Nice people do nice things, and they are nice people. By helping to foster individual and group self esteem this initial dialogue sets the stage for a successful lesson.
My major teaching tool for this lesson is several bags of M & M candies. …