Working with Students at Raymond E. Shaw Elementary School

We’ve photographed whole schools, but our other activities have only been with small groups. That changed in a big way in February. As part of their Color Team Day, we ran two of our curriculum activities at Raymond E. Shaw Elementary School with 12 separate groups totaling over 400 students!

At one station, we took our matching exercise normally done by physically walking around a room trying to match a list of labels with photos from the project posted on the walls, and went digital. We created a Kahoot! computer game version so larger groups could play together. Each team had their own networked laptop and could vote on what they thought was the correct group of labels in a game show format. This format also makes it possible for classes to do the activity with remote learning from home.

With so many students participating, it created some amazingly insightful conversations about differences and the people featured in the game. Several students even opened up about how they could relate to some of the labels being used, and you could see that they were getting to know each other better, correcting negative stereotypes that came up, and were supporting each other as well.

For the second station, instead of photographing the students and having them pick three labels, they created art that let them open up about who they were. The students chose from a variety of printed silhouettes to represent themselves, and then using a variety of crayons and markers, filled them with as many labels as they could think of to describe themselves.

Some of the labels the students used in their drawings were very personal, and it was a great way for their teachers to get to know them better on a deeper level. In some cases, it was also an opportunity for the school counselors to check in and offer help and resources if necessary.

The No Evil Project graced us with their presence at RE Shaw Elementary School in Millbury, MA in February 2020 — before the world changed as we knew it. During that day of team building, our students in grades 4-6 and staff, participated in two activities: Matching Kahoot and Labels Self-Portrait. Through this exploration of diversity, stereotyping, and dialogue of our sense of belonging, I’d like to believe we were preparing ourselves for the unrealness that would indeed become our reality in the months ahead, as the world was plagued with two deadly pandemics: COVID-19 and racial injustice. This PROJECT allowed peers to SEE each other in their own light; to HEAR each other’s truths; and SPEAK up about the importance of recognizing and embracing differences and the uniqueness of one another. These life lessons allowed us to expose the biases that consistently attempt to keep us all from uniting — and truly living with No Evil.

—Coleen Thomas-DeBari
Black Educator, Millbury Public Schools