Thursday, January 19, 2012

Celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King: Shades of Skin Collage

Tyler, being a bi-racial child (as well as living in a highly diverse city), is no stranger to differences in skin tone. He's seen a sharp contrast within his own parents since birth. While of his grandmothers is about as dark-skinned as you can be, his other grandparents (as well as his mother) are some of the palest you will find. Though he has unfortunately faced discrimination already (from another child's parents), he was unaware of it. To him, there isn't much to think about the whole "skin color" thing yet. It's life. It's "people". It's quite normal. The walls of his large motor room are filled with  multicultural photos as well.

While I felt that Tyler was a bit young (28 mos) to understand the influence Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has had on the world, and his own life, I wanted to celebrate in some way. Creating a collage full of various skin tones and hues and talking a bit about them seemed to make sense this year.

I gave Tyler a dish of colored glue (dyed with food coloring) so that he could see where the glue was on his paper. He used a large paint brush to spread it around.

During nap, my husband and I went through several of the National Geographic magazines I was lucky enough to win on Freecycle long ago, cutting out faces of every shade we could find.

Before Ty started, we looked over the many faces and talked very simply about how different people have different colors and shades in their skin. We talked about the differences skin shades seen in members our family as well as our friends and neighbors. I didn't talk about how we're all the same inside or trouble him with the ideas of racism. We just noticed how skin can be different.

Tyler noticed who had dark skin and who had light skin when I asked. He also noticed who was smiling and had a "happy face" or who was wearing glasses.

Tyler calls this his "faces" collage. It now hangs over his table. He often looks at the different faces while he eats snacks and meals. He likes how you can see the "blue-green glue". He smiles back at the big grinning man at the top. It's people. They are as they are.


  1. Lovely lesson! I somewhat know the challenge you'll face when he gets older, because my brother is biracial and I grew up in a diverse family...but my own kids have never experienced diversity outside of visiting my family. We live in a secluded area with no racial or ethnic diversity at all, so I feel an extra burden to make sure they understand diversity and acceptance. We did a color mixing activity to show how skin colors can be different, but they all started with the same colors as part of our Martin Luther King Jr lesson with my 5 year old.

  2. Beautiful. I love the way you taught this lesson!

    We are very blessed to live in a very multi-cultural town that is very accepting. I can only hope that my children will always love and feel loved by all people types.