Inside a display more like an art installation than a classroom project, fifty second graders at Georgetown Day School presented a living museum about the most important things in their world: each other. Standing on chairs, they spoke eye-to-eye with visitors and described their multidimensional identities in a socio-culturally informed context.
Throughout the “Identity Project,” students systematically explored the “Big 6+3” social identifiers—Race, Ethnicity, Gender, Religion, Age, and Ability, plus Geographic Background, Family Structure, and Personal Choices—and celebrated the ways in which they identify through cross-disciplinary visual and print media. Teachers helped them embrace multiple aspects of their identities while affirming others for who they are as valuable, diverse individuals within a broader community.
“There were lots of questions, and I really liked answering them,” says Georgia Lindenhauer. “I got to pull things out of my project to show them and express my culture.” The safe space also allowed students to practice critical empathy skills. “The most reserved kids (mine included) rose to the occasion,” says one parent, “and presented their projects with a sense of pride and ownership, even as they shared their vulnerabilities.”
The museum, and a film featuring the children and their parents discussing family heritage, served as a beacon for conversation and growth and a means of strengthening their community. “I feel good about what I taught,” says Ella Wood. “I told people what my family religion was, and that they didn’t have to believe what I believed in. But now they know what I believe in.”