Diversity is part of everything we do and who we are. We believe that an important part of growth and of preparation for success in the real world is teaching students to understand, respect, and appreciate others who are both alike and different from themselves.
A focus on respecting others is integral to our curriculum. Our phrase "Diversity Beyond the Numbers" conveys that our efforts toward diversity only begins with our demographics.
At New City School we work to teach children to make decisions about others based on appropriate information, and not stereotypes. We begin working with even our youngest students to help them understand the perspectives of others, to show concern and empathy for others, and to respect the individuality of each person.
From a curricular standpoint, diversity is integrated across subject areas. Classes address diversity through their social studies and theme focuses, among many other ways. Whether it’s race, nationalities, cultures, or other social identifiers (such as socioeconomic status or gender), history is studied in a way that looks at events from a variety of perspectives. Similarly, opportunities are seized in literature, art, science, music, mathematics, and on field trips to help students look at historical perspectives, point of view, and bias. Again, the goal goes beyond understanding and respect; we want our students to appreciate and celebrate others.
Social action is another key component of the New City experience as students are given opportunities each year to plan and execute social action projects related to areas of study, class interests, or current world events. It is important to instill in children the understanding that people of all ages can, and should, help others locally and globally.
Three-Fours: All About Me
Children are encouraged to think outside of their developmental tendency to be egocentric and recognize others’ perspectives. They are guided to play out of their comfort zone and expand friendships. As they gain knowledge of themselves and others through show and share, same and different graphing, books and stories students begin to see that all people are not just like themselves. Through our Person of the Week Interviews and Family Celebrations, the children are exposed to a variety of traditions, holidays, and celebrations that are different from their own.
NCS models community outreach that helps children learn when others are in need and what they can do to help. Even at this young age it is important to begin the process of teaching children to reach out to help others. The three- and four-year olds spend time drawing pictures, writing letters, and singing songs that are shared with the elderly in a local retirement center as their social action project.
Fours: Exploring Our World
Within the theme, The World Around Us, the four-year-olds are looking at similarities and differences, making observations and drawing conclusions about what they see and hear in their world. They compare skin color, hair type and color, and eye color with their classmates. They graph the information, make self-portraits and learn that although everyone is unique, all people share some traits.
Throughout the year they also look at family make-up, houses, holidays, and traditions, and learn greetings from countries around the world. Literature such as, The Color Of Us, It’s Okay to Be Different, All the Colors of the Earth and Who’s a Family are used to start discussions that help students understand that these differences make the world a richer place. Students also are introduced to the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and write their own dreams for the world.
During the past year the four-year-olds “adopted” an orphaned little girl younger in age than themselves. They brought in toys, diapers, and other items they thought she might need or like. They made a personal connection with her, which is always important at this age. In addition, they took part in the sixth grade drive for Operation Food Search. Because the last day of the drive was on the 100th day of school and there were ten children in the class, each child brought in ten cans. They were amazed at how a little from everyone made such a big difference, an important lesson for blossoming young philanthropists.
Four-Fives: We Are All Alike; We Are All Different
Through the theme, We Are All Alike and We are All Different, students are taught and encouraged to explore, question, and discuss the similarities and differences of people, celebrations, and the world around them. Through discussions, modeling, and role-playing students are working on: recognizing when someone is hurt and needs a friend to help them; playing with a variety of children; and, using materials or engaging in activities regardless of who is using them.
In addition, students are beginning to understand others’ perspectives and show awareness and appreciation of the similarities and differences of their peers. They recognize that others have traditions, holidays, and celebrations that may differ from their own. Four- and five-year-olds are exploring acceptance, discrimination, and tolerance.
Each year, students participate in service learning projects within the community. Projects are hands-on, meaningful, and developmentally appropriate for their age group. In the past the four- and five-year-olds have:
- baked dog biscuits for local pet shelters
- collected and counted Pennies for Peace
- created and shared art with friends, neighbors, and local retirement centers
- collected food and sorted it by meals for Operation Food Search
Kindergarten: Busy Bodies
At the Kindergarten level, diversity is embedded throughout our curriculum. Students learn about diversity around them by having discussions with each other and comparing body characteristics. Diversity is explored through literature, music, and art. During reading and artists’ studies, special attention is given to introducing students to authors, characters, and artists that come from a range of cultures and backgrounds.
Students are taught greetings and songs from around the world and learn about a variety of holidays. As part of the kindergarten holiday studies, families are encouraged to come in and share their customs, beliefs, traditions, and stories. Time is taken to compare these holidays, traditions, and beliefs for similarity and differences.
Diversity permeates the environment from center activities to art materials, and from dolls and puppets to classroom displays. Diversity in Kindergarten is more than skin color. It includes racial, cultural, family compositions, gender, socioeconomic, learning, and geographical similarities and differences.
Kindergartners are involved with the school-wide focus on social action. Attention is given to being sure the projects are developmentally appropriate. Projects have included:
- collecting toys, books, and supplies for schools in need
- making bookmarks to sell to earn money for Pennies for Peace
- donating books earned from Scholastic book club to schools in need
First Grade: How Does Your Garden Grow?
Life in first grade reflects the diversity in the world around us. We look at the diversity of learners within our own community, using the lens of the Multiple Intelligences to highlight and celebrate our differences as well as our commonalities. A wide selection of books prompts students to notice and discuss stereotypes such as gender and ability. Our theatrical adaptation of Dr. Seuss’s The Sneetches, offers an age-appropriate exploration of discrimination -- one which students transfer to their own lives. Moreover, our genre study of biographies provides a natural opportunity to expose the children to different cultures, races, religions, and experiences.
Through service to our classroom, school, and local community, students become aware of the needs of others and develop empathy and compassion. First graders sweep the playground, sort terracyclable items in the lunch room, create feasts for animals in the neighboring park, and make blankets to keep others warm. Children become peacekeepers and vow to care for others, respect others’ property, be responsible for their own actions, let others go first, and share. Concern for others and social action are an integral part of the learning process at New City School.
Second Grade: St. Louis - Gateway to the West
Diversity, equity, and justice are key components of second grade life and woven through the academic and social expectations. Each day begins with Morning Meeting, a time to help create and maintain a strong classroom community and give each child a sense of belonging. Everyone can start the academic day knowing that their voice will be heard and their ideas respected.
Purposeful curricular choices provide opportunities to teach acceptance, reinforce respect, promote understanding, and dispel stereotypes. Resources, activities, and discussions reflect the gifts that a broad range of people have contributed to each field. Authors and illustrators from diverse demographics and experiences are reflected throughout our Integrated Language Arts program. Historical events, motives, and changes are examined through a number of lenses beyond the traditional male euro-centric view. In all academic areas, students collaborate and cooperate with classmates with similar and dissimilar strengths, learning from one another’s strategies and styles.
Second Graders become invested in their relationship to Forest Park through a number of theme-related explorations and volunteer opportunities. They take great pride in providing a service that contributes to the success of a St. Louis landmark, assisting the Flora Conservancy in preparing garden areas for seasonal changes. At school, students develop relationships with pre-primary students through a number of multiple intelligence oriented activities and opportunities to assist as younger students learn and discover the world around them.
Third Grade: Keepers of the Earth
Students are beginning to think beyond themselves and try to understand the perspective of others. Learning about Native Americans helps the students appreciate other cultures as well as their own. The third grade theme, Keepers of the Earth, is focused on Native American history and culture, and immerses students in caring about the environment, respecting others’ belongings, and accepting the differences in their peers. Through the theme development, students look at history through the lens of other people and work towards accepting and understand others’ perspectives and points of view. By focusing first on the treatment of the Native Americans and looking at history from their point of view, students are able to look at other events historically and personally, and begin to consider other’s feelings, emotions, and perspectives.
Students at this age have a strong love for animals. This caring meshes well with the third grade theme by placing an emphasis on taking care of other creatures on earth. Historically, the third grade service project revolves around collecting needed items to bring to animal shelters in our community. In addition, the students visit the shelters to learn about proper care and treatment of animals.
Fourth Grade: Citizens Making a Difference
At the core of the fourth-grade curriculum is acceptance of others and how individuals can make a difference in the world. Through research about people who have made a difference in the world, heavy emphasis is given to representing people from all aspects of the racial, religious, ethnic, political, and social strata. Of particular note is the in-depth study of people with disabilities and how they are treated. This becomes personal as students take part in simulations and visit students of their own age.
As noted, the fourth-grade year revolves around the theme, Making a Difference. From working in the garden, to making and delivering food and sandwiches, to interacting with clients at local pantries, fourth graders learn first-hand how to be change-makers in their local community. On a much larger scale, students participate in World Food Day where they package rice and soy protein meals to be shipped to Africa. Fourth graders raise money through a rummage sale to offset the cost of attending World Food Day.
During our Insights unit, students visit Ackerman School, which is within the St. Louis Special School District. After receiving training from an Ackerman teacher, students act as volunteers assisting disabled students with daily school activities. These may include participating in physical education class, assisting in art projects, helping with computers, and experiencing an inclusive playground.
To supplement garden expenses, fourth graders help with fundraising by making and selling herb-flavored vinegars. Students also manage the Real Change machines in the Central West End where the designated recipient of monies collected is the Central West End Farm.
Fifth Grade: We, the People
The fifth-grade program teaches students to appreciate and embrace diversity, and stand up and take action for justice. This ties in with the theme of American history, as students recognize that our nation was created by diverse groups of people with a variety of customs and heritages joining forces. The students learn about the ensuing battles to ensure equal rights and opportunities for all.
Students today need to understand their country’s history so that mistakes from the past will not be repeated, but rectified. They need to practice the principals discussed in the curriculum both in and out of the classroom, and to see those principles lived out in the faculty and other adults around them.
The fifth-grade program contains histories of all peoples; deliberate inclusion of diversity ensures that all students see themselves in the curriculum. Students have opportunities to hear and understand perspectives different from their own, and to practice conflict resolution.
As students gain increased understanding of diversity, equality, and social justice they can use the skills of problem-solving, listening, and working together to have an impact on the world around them. Examples of this are evidenced through their service projects, which include raising money for victims of Hurricane Sandy and efforts to purchase books for a library in a Honduran village, among others.
Sixth Grade: Beyond the Red Doors
Diversity is a core component of the sixth grade theme. As the students study China and other world cultures they are looking at many issues.
- What does diversity versus tolerance look like in Chinese history?
- What are ways in which I understand and respect cultures unlike my own?
- How does an individual find the balance between social norms, individual expression and what is right?
Sixth graders also look at issues of diversity and discrimination in the literature selections they read as a class. One such book, Stargirl, looks at those topics within a school setting, as an avenue for reflection and discussion on cliques, tolerance, and being true to yourself and your beliefs. And of course, as sixth graders they are expected to be leaders in modeling acceptance, tolerance, and appreciation for those who are both similar to and different from themselves.
In addition to their in-school studies, students spend four days in the spring at the Heifer Ranch located in Perryville, Arkansas. The powerful global education experience sponsored by Heifer International exposes the students to the idea that one person can make a difference in ending hunger and poverty.
Social action and social justice are strongly integrated into the sixth grade curriculum. Sixth graders at New City are responsible for coordinating and implementing the school’s recycling program, and the sixth graders take this responsibility seriously.
Sixth graders also have an ongoing relationship with Operation Food Search and volunteer quarterly at their facility. In addition, during the fall outdoor education trip, the students help to maintain and improve eroding trails at the Panther’s Den Natural Wilderness Area in Southern Illinois.