Yates Elementary School
MiX -It Up DaY!!
Like a lot of students, children at Yates Elementary tend to sit with close friends at lunch. But on Mix It Up Day, they shifted out of that comfort zone to connect with new schoolmates – particularly those from different socioeconomic backgrounds, races, and cultures. The aim was to rebuff misconceptions and to illustrate tolerance and acceptance at a level the fourth- and fifth-graders could easily grasp. “It is a simple act with a profound implication. Interactions across ‘lines of difference’ can help reduce prejudice,” said PGES coach Katina Brown, who organized the cafeteria activities.
In one exercise, groups of students worked together to unscramble letters into words related to diversity such as beliefs, languages and traditions. Then they offered up examples like the Thanksgiving holiday. In tabletop discussions, they also dissected the word “diversity” and talked about what it looks like and how it happens. “We have to figure out a way to be more accepting and be a global Yates,” Brown said. “We’re very diverse here, and we’re so blessed to be this mixed up!”
When Brown called up students for open-mic sharing, she got some profound answers. Among them was fifth-grader Kevin Jones’ response, “(Diversity) happens when people from different cultures come together and become friends and learn about each other.” And this from fifth-grader Marcella Hite, “The great thing about diversity is the world would be boring without it.”
The simple element that pulled everything together was when students removed the wrappers and bit into the center of their lollipops, which came in various sizes, colors and flavors. As Principal Twanjua Jones noted, “We’re more alike than we are different.”
Mix It Up Day was part of Yates’ ongoing efforts to encourage culturally responsive teaching and learning. The school, which is in the fourth year of a five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education, is building a welcoming environment led by teachers working with myriad children. The faculty came up with the idea for Mix It Up Day.
“It’s about all children feeling appreciated and respected,” said Carolyn Witt Jones, a consultant from Georgetown College who assists at Yates four days a week. “We coach the teachers to a more inclusive kind of instruction so they’ll ask questions that all children can address. We find this raises achievement for all students as all children feel like they can give their best.”