February is Black History Month. Historian and writer Carter G. Woodson created Black History Month to celebrate African American achievements and promote intellectual curiosity of African American life and history.
At All Our Kin, equity and justice are at the heart of the work we do. Current studies show that children can distinguish racial differences as early as six months old, and begin to develop racial biases in their toddler years. Our family child care professionals strive to work against these biases and positively affirm the identities of each of their children by providing early childhood education that is culturally sensitive and inclusive.
He had a dream, we are the dream!
Family child care provider Shanee Wilson, who owns and operates Sunflower Family Daycare in Stratford, focuses on love and friendship during Black History Month. Shanee read All The Colors We Are by Katie Kissinger to the children and encouraged them to point out what they saw while she read. “We talked about how the children in the book looked different from each other, but they were all still friends.”
Shanee extended the lessons from the book reading and discussion in a special Valentine’s Day art experience. The children made handprints using black paint on white paper, and white paint on black paper. Shanee encouraged the children to see how the colors blended as they added their handprints to the paper. The children then decorated their art with paper hearts. When asked what she hopes to inspire in her young learners through their Black History Month activities, Shanee says, “I want them to love one another. I want them to know that they may have different skin colors, but they are all the same where it counts.”
Every culture, every race, matters.
Family child care provider Danaisha Lawrence introduced the concepts of segregation and inequality to the children in her program, Pieces of the Puzzle Daycare, with a sensory experiment using eggs. She showed the children two eggs, one white and one she had dyed green. “I told them the green egg wasn’t treated the same as the other egg, simply because it was green,” she says. “Then we cracked the eggs and I asked the children what was different about the eggs on the inside. They all said, ‘Nothing, they’re the same.’ I told them it’s the same with people.”
Danaisha focused her Black History Month lessons on highlighting African American Civil Rights pioneers. After learning about Rosa Parks through a storytelling and short YouTube documentary, Danaisha facilitated an art activity incorporating the lessons they had learned about inequality. Using magazines, the children cut out people they found in the pages. Danaisha encouraged the children to look for pictures of people who were different colors and genders. They then took the pictures they had cut out and glued them onto the windows of paper buses they had made.
Danaisha hopes the lessons and activities will inspire the children to dream big and never give up. “I want them to know that no matter what, you can be what you want to be,” she says.
We are Black history, too.
For Tané Trimble, who runs Tané’s Little World Day Care in New Haven, creating memorable moments with the children in her family child care program is important to her work. To teach them about Black inventor Garret A. Morgan, she led them in a sensory activity to make their own stoplights. Tané gave each of them a small picture of Morgan to glue on the back of their stoplights. “I repeated his name and had them say it back to me. I told them a Black man had made this stoplight. I wanted them to understand what it represents and be able to share what they learned with their families,” she says. Tané has fond memories of what she herself learned from her teachers as a child, and she hopes when the children grow up and hear Morgan’s name or read about him in school, they will remember that they learned about him in her program. “I want it to be remembered as something I gave them,” she says.
In addition to honoring important Black historical figures, Tané also likes to spotlight the unique qualities of African American contemporary culture in her program. Inspired by the many creative ways educators highlight Black culture during Black History Month, Tané facilitated a “Black girl magic” art activity. The children painted uncooked pasta in different shapes with black paint and glued them to faces of various shades of brown; they then made dresses for the children. Tané chose the activity to highlight the beauty of African American hair textures and styles, and the joyfulness of Black life.
Carter G. Woodson envisioned Black History Month as the beginning of a year-long celebration of Black life. Our family child care providers honor Woodson’s dream by incorporating racial and cultural diversity in all aspects of their family child care programs.
Shanee makes sure the dolls and toys she uses in her program, and the books she reads to the children, reflect different races and ethnicities. She enjoys creating activities that increase the children’s understandings of diverse cultural practices.
Danaisha, who is from Jamaica and has children in her program from parts of Africa and South America, keeps a world map prominently displayed in her program and uses it to teach the children about different parts of the world. “I want them to know every culture matters,” she says.
Tané keeps the reading area in her program stocked with books by Black authors and books with pictures of Black people. In December, she recognizes Kwanzaa and teaches the children about the origins and rituals of the holiday. She also makes keepsake books with photos of her and the children, which she gives to the children when they complete her program and transition to school. She does this to “let them know they are special,” and also to remember their early childhood teacher, a Black woman. Celebrating Black History Month with the children in her program reminds Tané, “We (their Black teachers) are a part of Black history, too.”
All Our Kin was created with the belief that all children, regardless of their racial and ethnic background, deserve an educational foundation that allows them to thrive in school and in life. They deserve to feel valued as citizens who contribute to society, and Black History Month is one way to encourage and celebrate that value. And as this article reminds us, Black History Month is not just for Black people, it is for all of us who inhabit this world together.
As we strive to create a more just, equitable society, we hope people of all races will recognize and celebrate Black History Month and carry the lessons it teaches of Black life and culture beyond February. Young children see color and are capable of recognizing and forming preferences based on the differences they see. Learning about the many ways African Americans impact American society and culture is one powerful way early childhood educators make a difference in how our youngest learners see the world and themselves and others within it.
If you are interested in learning more about anti-bias and anti-racist early childhood curriculum, this link provides excellent book lists, articles, and other great resources to get you started.