How do you nurture anti-racism in children? Can educators and parents teach young people to see past their unconscious bias and ingrained beliefs to truly empathize with peers of color? How can white educators teach these topics when they have no personal experience with racism?
These are the questions many researchers and organizations have been grappling with for decades. The answers are complex, but one solution stands out: Knowledge and awareness are the keys to mutual understanding and transformational change.
These organizations collectively offer a deep well of free materials for educators and parents to address racism, inequity and bias and strategies for offsetting the devastating effects of racism on young people.
1. Learning for Justice
This project of the Southern Poverty Law Center and has been around since 1991 with a goal to stop hate and to teach children to be “active participants in a diverse democracy.” The Learning for Justice project (formerly Teaching Tolerance) provides a wealth of free resources for K-12 educators to teach tolerance with an emphasis on anti-bias and social justice. It’s Social Justice Standards show how anti-bias education works through the four domains of identity, diversity, justice and action. The project offers lesson plans, teaching strategies and materials including texts, films and posters. It also provides professional development for teachers through workshops, self-guided learning, webinars and podcasts.
2. National Museum of African American History and Culture
Talking about Race, a page on the National Museum of African History and Culture, is a great resource for educators, who have an important role in communicating black history and culture. What and how the history of race in America is presented is an opportunity to engage in thoughtful, respectful and productive conversations. This site has tools and guidance to help with these conversations.
3. Common Sense Education
This extensive list of curated resources aims to help both teachers and students build a set of social and cultural literacies via multicultural education, social justice education and culturally responsive pedagogy to navigate difficult conversations, acknowledge and challenge bias and prejudice, create inclusive classroom spaces, and fight for social justice. You’ll find links to comprehensive curriculum as well as lessons, videos, downloadables and games organized by topic areas, such as facilitating tough conversations, understanding bias and prejudice, and getting students civically engaged.
4. Teaching for Change
Founded in 1989, this national organization offers professional development, curriculum and curated resources to help K-12 teachers and students build a more equitable, multicultural society, and become active global citizens. It encourages “teachers and students to question and rethink the world inside and outside their classrooms.” Programs include anti-bias education for young children, a high school history curriculum based on Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States” and a civil rights curriculum that focuses on everyday people instead of a few major heroes and dates. The organization also identifies and promotes “the best multicultural and social justice children’s books, as well as articles and books for educators,” through the website SocialJusticeBooks.org.
5. Project Implicit
This nonprofit organization seeks to make people aware of their implicit biases, or thoughts and feelings outside of conscious awareness and control. It offers implicit association tests on its website that anyone can take anonymously to identify their own hidden biases. By making people aware of such biases, they are better able to identify their influences on their behavior. The anonymous data also is made available to researchers, journalists, educators and others so they can better understand attitudes and stereotypes. The project was started in 1998 by researchers from Harvard, the University of Washington and the University of Virginia.
6. The Children’s Community School
This Philadelphia preschool put together an infographic titled “They’re not too young to talk about race” that identifies the development of racial attitudes in young children from 3 months through age 6. The infographic is based on research showing that attitudes about race start forming very early on. For example, “by 30 months, most children use race to choose playmates,” according to the infographic.
The goal is to encourage dialogue about race and diversity with young children to develop healthy attitudes. “Young children notice and think about race,” the infographic states. “Adults often worry that talking about race will encourage racial bias in children, but the opposite is true. Silence about race reinforces racism by letting children draw their own conclusions based on what they see.” Also included is a list of resources for more information and training.
7. The 1619 Project
This ongoing initiative from The New York Times Magazine began in August 2019 to mark the 400th anniversary of American Slavery. The essays, on different aspects of contemporary life, show how various modern phenomena are connected to slavery. The package also includes 17 literary works by black writers on key moments in American history. You’ll also see a visual history of slavery and find a link to the 1619 podcast.
The content is gruesome, because the subject is gruesome. Therefore, it might be better suited for older students.
ISTE offers a wealth of resources for K-12 and higher ed educators, and while the emphasis is on edtech, digital equity and inclusion is at the forefront of ISTE’s mission and a hallmark of the ISTE Standards.
In this episode of ISTE’s Ed Influencer podcast, child psychiatrist Pam Cantor talks about why it’s important for educators to focus on relationship-building and students’ emotional well-being during times of crisis. Although the focus of this podcast is on the COVID-19 pandemic, Cantor’s research focused on the effects of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on children in New York City schools. Cantor’s study revealed that highly stressful situations cause a double whammy effect on children’s ability to learn.
Human relationships, such as those in school communities – friends, classmates and teachers – can buffer the negative effects of stress caused by trauma like racism, turmoil at home or traumatic events, Cantor says.
Jerry Fingal is a writer from Eugene, Oregon, who focuses on education. Samantha Mack is a marketing associate for ISTE. This is an updated version of a post that originally published on June 3, 2020.