- Special School District of St. Louis County
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Diversity Awareness Day Celebrates Inclusion
June 4, 2021 – Walking through the halls of Brown Elementary in the Hazelwood School District, it’s common to see students using sign language to connect with their deaf and hard-of-hearing peers.
That’s just one of the ways that students and staff celebrate diversity and inclusion at the school, where the motto is “Our Differences Make Us Unique and Special.”
“Teaching and modeling for our students that the world needs all kinds of people to make it work is important to us,” said Brown Elementary Principal Melanie Davison.
The school’s students and staff participated in a schoolwide Diversity Awareness Day on June 2.
“In previous years, during our weekly morning meeting, we taught about all the differences that we have within our school. We wanted our student body to see how unique and special our students were and to highlight our differences in a positive way,” said Davison. “This year with the year being so different, we decided to teach the lessons and activities throughout one day.”
Rachel Gill, an SSD teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing, and Lauren Walls, an SSD speech-language pathologist, were part of the committee that planned the Diversity Awareness Day activities.
Gill said the day was a natural extension of Brown Elementary’s inclusive climate and culture.
“Since we have a large population that are deaf or hard of hearing and use sign language to communicate, we began teaching one sign of the week at our morning meetings prior to the pandemic,” said Gill. “Since going virtual, our principal continued to uphold a strong commitment to this practice and continued with teaching a sign of the week on our virtual morning meeting videos.”
Among the Diversity Awareness Day activities was a Kahoot learning game featuring signs learned throughout the year.
“This is a fun way to test their retention by watching the video of the sign and choosing the correct word or phrase,” said Gill.
Each planning committee member contributed to development of the lesson plans and activities that were used in classrooms throughout the day. They included both virtual and in-person learners and were implemented in a socially distant manner.
“We looked at all of the different abilities and cultures that are at our school,” said Walls. “We really wanted our students to feel celebrated, seen, and valued.”
Among the day’s highlights were activities designed to increase awareness about dyslexia, diabetes, autism, stuttering, vision impairment, and alopecia. They aimed to help students better understand the experiences of their peers. For example, students enjoyed a diabetic-friendly snack and colored a picture without their sense of vision.
Classrooms also created Aztec sun art to celebrate the cultures of Mexico and Honduras, played mancala to learn about Africa, and explored the main Muslim festivals.
Students and staff ended the day by watching the movie “Wonder,” which aligned the day’s theme of “We Are All Wonders.”