Wonders + Social Justice
From an early age, children begin to notice difference. This developmental stage is a fertile time to teach children about similarities and differences and to begin to dismantle stereotypes that limit our connections to one another and negatively impact children’s identity development. Anti-bias Education for Young Children and Ourselves is a valuable resource for adults who want to help guide children’s thinking and development to ensure respectful and positive approach to our diverse world.
Children receive messages and societal cues about gender, race, ethnicity and ability, which help shape their identity. Attitudes about difference begin as early as two years old and by the time children enter Kindergarten, they have begun to identify as a member of a group. (source)
Many adults believe that young children are not capable of participating in discussions about bias, diversity, discrimination, and social justice or we want to delay exposing them to injustices as long as possible. However, young children have a keen awareness of and passion for fairness. They demand right over wrong, just over unjust. And they notice differences in their environment. So why wait on teaching children about non-bias and introducing diversity in a positive way?
A vital aspect of programs at Wonders is our commitment to multicultural and social justice education. We carefully create an environment that reflects not only the cultures of the families we serve but the world around us. We believe this validates children’s experiences, teaches the importance of valuing similarities and differences and builds the connection between home and school. Guiding children to accept and respect individual differences is an integral part of our program. We provide an inclusive learning environment through an engaging curriculum, service learning and by promoting respectful relationships.
At Wonders, we teach anti-bias education in both our early learning and extended day programs. Books that address the topics of bias, diversity, and social justice broaden children’s understanding and illustrates stories about people who are similar to and different from your students, affirm their identity, or provide examples of people who stood up to injustice.
Wonders has expanded the concept of “helping others” to include discussions with children about some of the inequities that contribute to a problem and consider actions that can address it. For example, in our extended day programs, children learn about a local issue, homelessness. We explore what it means to be homeless, discuss the stigma and stereotypes associated with homelessness, learn about issues that contribute to homelessness and reflect on solutions and ways that children can take action. This culminates with signs designed and made by the children and a walk to raise awareness.
Empowering children to think critically and build respectful relationships is an essential part of the Wonders learning environment. Wonders’ commitment to social and emotional learning is the foundation from which teachers build a classroom community that welcomes the exploration of identity, connection and social justice.