As a group of fourth graders wrote a poem in which they debunked stereotypes by stating positive traits about themselves, they were empowered to better understand their own identities and increase their ability to be empathetic towards others. The activity was part of a lesson on diversity in Bronxville Elementary School’s C.A.R.E. (Community, Awareness, Relationships, Empathy) program.
“Awareness of ourselves, our environments and catching judgments are important steps towards creating inclusive learning environments,” school psychologist Dr. Minu Thomas said.
Through the C.A.R.E. program, school psychologists teach mindfulness skills and empower students with the necessary skills to tolerate distress, regulate emotions and maintain positive relationships with peers and adults. The curriculum also integrates social comprehension lessons.
“At the younger grade levels, we are using literature with themes related to children appreciating ways they are alike and also affirming and celebrating diversity in people, experiencing different traditions, living respectfully and peacefully, being part of a global community, and having an open mind to new possibilities,” Dr. Thomas said. “For older elementary students, we are explicitly teaching social justice lessons such as exploring their identity, being an upstander when faced with stereotypes and microaggressions, as well as mindfulness skills to reduce implicit bias.”
Principal Tricia Murray said the C.A.R.E. curriculum was revised this school year by school psychologists Dr. Thomas, Dr. Samantha Lewis and Dr. Joyce Vastola to integrate lessons that focus on identity and diversity for grades K-2 and bias and microaggressions for grades 3-5.
“Our hope in integrating these lessons is that it will build students’ capacity to better understand their own identities, increase their ability to be empathetic towards others and strengthen our overall community,” Murray said.
Assistant Principal Rakiya Adams said the students have been enthusiastically immersed in the C.A.R.E program and have become more in tune with their own emotions and feelings.
“This interactive, self-reflective program has led the way in fortifying our school culture around the Bronxville Promise to lead, innovate, engage the world and think critically – most importantly with an empathetic lens,” Adams said. “We look forward to seeing the continued growth of this innovative program.”