Lab educators present at the virtual 2020 NAIS People of Color Conference

Lab educators present at PoCC

Lab educators present at the virtual 2020 NAIS People of Color Conference

Among one of the most highly viewed presentations at the virtual 2020 NAIS People of Color Conference in December, N–2 head teacher Tracy Aiden and fellow Lab educator and counselor Lauren Snelling told 900 participants the story of how Lab's youngest learners ended up inspiring an entire community to support their efforts to honor diversity.

Their presentation shows how developing spaces for young children and providing experiences like sharing peace bracelets with teachers, making Black Lives Matter buttons, signs, and t-shirts help children connect the ideas of fairness, justice, equality, and kindness to the relationships around them, and to use their own voices as advocates and allies when they spot injustice.

Breonna Taylor memorial

"The kids wanted to create a Breonna Taylor memorial," Aiden said. "When it was vandalized, the Lab community came out and reconstructed it with kids not once but twice. What a powerful way to teach them the power of their own expression."

They say that teachers are capable of having age-appropriate conversations about what is happening in the world as both a way to process the children's own lived experiences, and the social emotional learning that comes with reflection on those experiences.

Also presenting at the conference were Lower School homeroom teacher Michelle Holmes, U-High history teacher Naadia Owens, fourth grade science teacher Mikki Sanders, and U-High college counselor Sharon Williams. Their presentation, "Woke is not a destination," is a call to action for communities committed to making their environment anti-racist and culturally responsive.

A community that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive requires "ongoing work beyond reading a book and quoting anti-racist words," says Sharon Williams. "Anti-racist communities know they are constantly learning, constantly adapting to new information they may have never known" Holmes says.

"The best way we can help the children cultivate their skills of citizenship, voice, and allyship is through conversations, exposure, practice, and reminders of what aligns with our shared values in our classrooms and when we engage with others," says Aiden. "By always asking the questions, 'Is this fair? How can I help?' children become more self aware and make it a practice to assess when to be supportive or an ally to a friend."