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Anti-Racist Activities for Upper Elementary and Middle School Students

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I am planning to do anti-racist activities with my elementary students (5th and 6th graders) this coming fall.

When you’re essentially [teaching] a kid to be anti-racist, you’re deliberately encouraging them to talk about race and Racism. You’re deliberately teaching them that all the racial groups are equals. You’re deliberately showing them, yes, there are different colors and there are different cultures. And we should value them all equally.

It’s important for parents and for educators to be intentional about preparing our young people for the world that they are inheriting and living in. To not talk about it is a disservice to all young people. So not just black students who need to learn about their blackness and their history, but white students as well and nonblack people of color need to know our country’s history and talk explicitly about it.(How Can Parents Make Their Kids Understand How To Be Anti-Racist?)

During this unit, designed for grades 4 through 8, students will gain an awareness of inequities, privilege and racism in the United States, and how to use their voice to express their wants, needs, and rights (most of my students at my Title 1 school are Hispanic) as well as how to be allies to Black communities through anti-racist actions.

The activities I plan to do (can be completed using social distancing) with my students include:

  • Introduction Using Bitmoji Classroom
  • Antiracist Children’s Talking Books
  • I Am Poem
  • Make a Podcast or Write a Song
  • Quilt
  • Online Book/Zine or Scratch Game


Learners are given access to the following Google slide and asked to explore the resources independently.

Anti-Racist Children’s Talking Books

Learners read each of the following anti-racist children’s books either independently or as read alouds. (I bought a set for my classroom.) To view the full set, access the link to the Wakelet aggregate.

Each learner chooses one book to make it into a talking book. To introduce them to their task of making a talking book using the microcontroller, Makey Makey, they are shown the content found within the web article, Makey Talking Book From Scratch, which includes a video, written instructions, and images.

Once they use Scratch programming to record the reading of their selected books, they program it to correspond to different Makey Makey keys. They can add sound effects available on Scratch to correspond with each of their reading segments. Next, they wire their books with copper tape. They then connected the Makey Makey to their book’s copper wires using alligator clips. Learners can then take their talking books into classrooms with younger grades so they can play their books.

In lieu of and as an extension to this activity, learners can create laser cut or 3D printed characters from these books, using Make “Joy” Using Google Drawings & Tinkercad, as a reference guide.

I Am Poems

Learners search through Stories of 40 Incredible Kids Who Have Changed the World and identify one BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, Person of Color) young person about whom they want learn more. After doing some more research about their selected young person, they write an I Am poem from the perspective of that person. An alternative for older students is to do this activity choosing a Black activist. A sample list can be found at

Here is the template for the I Am Poem with an online version found at

Using Adobe Spark (a free and easy option to create multimedia presentations), they create a multimedia presentation that incorporates both images and a recording of them reading their poems. Here is an example (not made with Adobe Spark but still a good example of what can be done):


For this activity, learners created a podcast and/or write a song related to anti-racism. They can create a opinion piece where they discuss their thoughts and opinions about anti-racism, they can create a show where they interview other learners about their thoughts, or they can write and record a song.

Learners are asked to listen to the podcasts, Hey Black Child and Art for Activism with the Butterfly Effect; and listen to the song wrote and sung by Keedron Bryan called I just wanna live for inspiration. (These resources can also be found in the bitmoji classroom.) For older and more mature students, there are the Generation Justice podcasts. These are created and produced by a group of high school and college students, “

Here are some resources about podcasting and recording with students:


The inspiration for this activity comes from the Social Justice Sewing Academy. Here are some examples that young people created:

Learners design their quilt blocks on Powerpoint slides basing it on anti-racist messages they would like to convey. The slide dimension should be 12″ x 12″, the size of the finished quilt block. Powerpoint allows for shapes to be merged to create some more complex shapes. (Google Slides doesn’t have this function.) These shapes are cut out from fabric using a Cricut machine or laser cutter. These pieces are glued onto a piece of 15″ x 15″ fleece. Learner quilt pieces can be combined using the no sew method described here – Students are asked to write an artist’s statement similar to the examples above.

Online Book-Zine

Learners complete this unit by creating an online book or zine that describes the actions taken or the plans for actions to be taken in order to educate others about anti-racist practices. Here is an example.

Open Your Eyes: See What the World Could Really Be

Book Creator is a great tool to use for this. The illustrations can be drawn and painted (like the example) using Paint Online or Sumopaint or a Pixel Art tool such as or and then upload those drawings/images into their ebooks. They can then use the text tool in Book Creator. As an alternative, students can do a series of comics using a tool such as Storyboard That. These art pieces are downloaded as images and then uploaded to Book Creator where students can add text.

Scratch Video Game

An alternative to above, learners can create a Scratch game about the actions they can take regarding educating others about anti-racist practices. Here are some examples with the theme of Black Lives Matter.

Learners can create their sprites and backgrounds either with the Scratch painting tool or upload images they make with papers and colors.


In order to acknowledge student work and progress, they earn badges for producing quality work. We are using Open Access Canvas so the badge chart is embedded into it where they can keep track of their progress in comparison to the other students.

Finally, here is a Book Creator ebook I created for my students to use as a reference:

Anti-Racism Activities

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

July 12, 2020 at 4:00 pm

A Culture of Kindness: 26 Acts of Kindness – 2013

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Why on earth would a rational person give money to charity–particularly a charity that supports strangers? What do they get?

A story.

In fact, every time someone donates to a good cause, they’re buying a story, a story that’s worth more than the amount they donated.

It might be the story of doing the right thing, or fitting in, or pleasing a friend or honoring a memory, but the story has value. It might be the story that you, and you alone are able to make this difference, or perhaps it’s the story of using leverage to change the world. For many, it’s the story of what it means to be part of a community.  Seth Godin

This Seth Godin quote provides a solid rationale why adults give to charities.  Kids and young people don’t have nor do many of them think about charity in terms of dollars and cents.  A precursor to giving both time as a volunteer and money as an adult, I believe, is creating a culture of kindness and giving in kids’ home and school lives.

We need to create a “culture of kindness,” encouraging a spirit of generosity and love where differences are accepted and celebrated, rather than targeted. In a culture of kindness, students stand up for and next to one another, all for one and one for all.  A dedicated effort to teach, advocate, and model kindness will work much better than efforts to punish meanness. Michael Josephson

One of the best ways to create a culture of kindness is to model and live one.  Last year, in response to the Sandy Hook travesty, Ann Curry propose 26 acts of kindness to honor the 26 children and teachers killed at the elementary school. My post of last year’s acts, Living a Life of Kindness: #26acts.  I plan on making this a yearly occurrence and posting about it – hopefully to inspire others to add a little more kindness into their own and their kids’/students’ lives. (Note: I actually have been doing acts of kindness for years especially around the holidays when I get a break from my college teaching.  I never told anyone of these acts as they are personal and I don’t do them for any need of acknowledgement.  But as I’ve stated, I hope telling this story inspires others to be proactive in their acts of kindness.)

Below are the beginning of my 2013 list as a response to Black Friday – they are my stories of giving kindness.  They begin with acts that were not financial based and then with acts of giving money to charities.

#1 – Clerk with Autism

I went to the local Hastings to buy my brother some books for the holidays.  I asked for a specific genre – WWII – because this topic is a passion for my brother, who has Aspergers.  I explained this to her.  She said that she has Asperger’s, too.  I told her that she was doing well as a clerk and she said sometimes it is hard for her.  That night there was a special event at the mall.  The center of the mall was set up to host live bands and some of the local restaurants were giving away free appetizers.  I explained this to the clerk who did not know of the event.  I asked her if she had a break to go check out the event.  She said she did not as she was only on 5 hour shifts.  At the same time, two of the young Hastings clerks, early twenties possibly, were going on break and headed towards this event.  The clerk asked them as they were leaving, “Can you get me some food?”  They totally ignored her.  As soon as I finish paying for the books, I headed to the event, grabbed several appetizers, went back to Hastings, and handed her the food.

#2 – Birthday Party for Kim

20131106_165623Kim is a very sweet and dedicated spin bike instructor.  She is giving is time, energy, and resources . . . goes way beyond what one expects or gets from a fitness instructor.  She told us a birthday was coming up.  I got party decorations and a decadent chocolate cake and set up the spin room prior to class.  She celebrated through three of her classes.

#3 – An Unexpected Hug

I take a pottery class at the local community college.  There about 15 in the class including an older woman from Germany.  She is abrupt in her comments and thoughts; and lacks the humor that most of the rest of us have in the class.  She is not well-liked due to this.  I have somewhat befriended her talking to her about her pots.  We had a long break coming due to Thanksgiving.  She was leaving and wished me a Happy Thanksgiving.  I asked her for a hug before she left expecting a little, slight embrace.  The opposite occurred.  She gave me a strong, long, caring hug – such an unexpected treat.

#4 – Donated to Save the Children disaster relief efforts for Typhoon Haiyan right after the typhoon.


#5 – Supported the amazing Black Girls Rock by Tweeting about their sheros show and purchasing a t-shirt.

#6, 7, 8, 9, 10 – Donated special gifts through Save the Children – 2 goats, school clinic, clean water clinic, community book bank, 14 week supply of ready to use food


#11 – Selected a Donors Choose program for a local classroom teacher to buy books, The Fault in Our Stars and Thirteen Reasons Why, for her teen students.


#12 – Another donation to help with those in the Philippines affected by the typhon


#14 – Donation to help in Haiti’s Beyond the Borders to help end childhood slavery there.

#15 – Donated to Indiegogo project – Afrimakers: Empower makers in Africa to develop sustainable projects and use making to solve local challenges and create an exchange of best practices between locals.

#16 – Gave a Hug & a Chocolate Treat

I have a fitness instructor who is amazing in fitness but lacking in social skills.  She often runs her group fitness classes like a drill sergeant – making everyone be there on time and yelling about form the whole time.  Many don’t take her class due to this.  But I like her routine, so I put up with her “meanness”.  That day someone in class mentioned it was her birthday.  After class, I took a deep breath and went up to her to give her a hug.  During her barely touching me hug, I said that I appreciated her classes and was happy I got to take them.  That day I went to the local bakery and bought her chocolate brownies and gave them to her as a birthday/Christmas present a few days later.  She seemed genuinely appreciative.

#17 – Donated to Be K.I.N.D. to a Girl in Malawi. Provide a School Scholarship.


#18 – Ceramic Sponges to My Pottery Buds

Bought and gave out specialized ceramic sponges to my pottery buddies.


#19 – Toys for Tots Zumbathon

Attended a Zumbathon where the entrance fee was a toy for tots.

20131214_122444FYI – I bought the Black and Decker kids’ toolkit seen in the front.  It supports my belief that kids’ toys and play should involve creating, making, innovating.

#20 – Holiday Treats for My Brother and His Family

I have been disconnected with my youngest brother and his family for about three years – no calls, presents, or cards.  It was not precipitated by anything.  It just happened.  I bought and am sending his family a basket of baked treats for a local bakery for Christmas.

#21 – Donated and Supported (through Tweets) to Project for Awesome

Donated to get a t-shirt and a signed copy of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars (score! in many ways).


#22 – Donated to Pencils of Promise to Help Build a School

2013-12-17_1917#23 – Helped 80-something Betsy learn how to shape a pottery bowl

I rented some studio space at Santa Fe Clay for the month of December because the college where I do pottery is closed for the winter break.  Studio space costs some $$$ – it has as such become a place where retired and a bit wealthy patrons make pots.  I have been going in a few hours several days a week.  I tend to just focus on my work.  I did notice a woman probably in her mid or late 80s working on some bowls and asked her about it.  She told me that she made pots in her 20s and wanted to get back into it.  She explained that it was NOT like riding a bike and that she was struggling a bit.  I have a great handmade wooden tool, called a rib, that’s great for shaping bowls.  As she was working on a bowl, I asked her if I could shape her bowl to show her how.  She watched intently and asked some questions.  I told her to try the rib on her next bowl.  When she got to the point of shaping with my rib, I went over and talked her through using it.  Her bowl looked good – much better than the bowls she made earlier – and showed me as such.  She thanked me and said it was probably the best tip she’s gotten since going back to pottery.  A little bit of my time made a difference for her AND for me as the gift in giving is priceless.

#24 – Donated to Unicef USA as an end of year matched donation

2013-12-31_1037#25 – Donated to Save the Children

2013-12-31_1115#26 – Donated to International Rescues


Parting shot . . .


Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

December 1, 2013 at 10:42 pm

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