Diversity, Racism, Equity, And Dramatic Play: What Does This Look Like From A Distance?

Yesterday, our Board gave us some additional time to go back into the school and get things organized for returning to the classroom on Monday. As Paula and I set things up for next week and began to plan for our return, we ended up engaging in a very deep conversation. The discussion stems from a pre-assessment activity that the kindergarten classes will be doing to align with our Board’s Equity Action Plan and our school’s plan to collect student voice data around diversity, racism, and equity.

Paula and I began to infer how students might respond to an image that we will be sharing with them.

  • What might they say?
  • What might they not say?
  • How many follow-up questions should we ask to get them to share more? What might they be?
  • What should we maybe consider at a later date?

This got us thinking about some conversations that we had with students before the Winter Break after listening to and discussing, The Skin You Live In.

While at the time, nobody identified differences in skin colour, the next day, a child began to talk about how his skin colour is different than his friend’s. What changed between these two days that allowed for a great discussion that went nowhere the day before? As Paula and I were reflecting on this yesterday, we wondered if returning multiple times to the same topic and bringing parents into the conversation (as we did through our classroom blog posts), made a difference. If these are the reasons why, this left us with an uncomfortable reflection point: are we having these important discussions with kids enough? If not, what more can we do?

These questions brought us back to some online learning from last Spring as well as a professional blog post that I wrote around the same time. Thinking about both, led to a conversation around dramatic play. For you see, we know that most students of this age are egocentric. We also know that many of them demonstrate their understanding, share their wonders, and make sense of their world through dramatic play. This is one of many reasons that we love the Kindergarten Program Document that views The Arts, including drama, as language. Reflecting on how we’ve helped elicit understanding with students before, and how they’ve shared their understanding with each other, we would usually be looking at our dramatic play space right now.

  • How do our dolls, pretend food items, and home materials represent diversity?
  • How might we observe the dramatic play occurring in this space, and enter this dramatic play, to also get students thinking more about diversity, equity, and racism?
  • Would dramatic play help make abstract topics more concrete for our young learners, and could we then help extend this learning with text to further solidify their understanding?
  • How might this play, coupled with some pre-planned book talks, change the conversations that students have with others in the classroom, at home, and in the dramatic play space?

We don’t want these important conversations to only happen at certain times of the year (such as during Black History Month), and in our kindergarten classroom, we have to wonder if re-looking at a dramatic play area could help with this. Then comes a problem though, and it’s a big one due to COVID: what does dramatic play look like at a time when COVID restrictions limit the sharing of toys and the close contact between students and adults, even when masked? These restrictions hold true especially when materials cannot be disinfected, like many dolls.

While Paula and I know that we can look at various read aloud options, artwork connections, and ongoing discussions with students and families that are so greatly addressed in the Learn, Disrupt, Rebuild lessons, we wonder though if we’re missing something here when it comes to cementing learning for our youngest learners.

We’re hoping that others will share what they’ve tried or what they intend to use to support meaningful conversations around diversity, racism, and equity with kindergarten age children. Depending on materials available, maybe the dramatic play component could happen at home and be supported through conversations with parents and siblings. How might this play be extended and/or further discussed in the classroom? Are there ways to engage in storytelling through dramatic play, but without sharing items and within a distance of 1-2 metres? We might not have administered our initial assessment yet, but we’re trying to think ahead to what we could do differently and what we could do better. We’d welcome your support and ideas along the way!


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