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Talking to Kids about Racial Injustice

Date Posted:  Wednesday, June 24, 2020

On June 10, 2020, several EB staff and a member of the Parents’ Association came together for a webinar on the topic of “Talking with Children about Racial (In)Justice,” part of a special series EB has been offering to families during this period of sheltering-in-place. Our panel of experts included Christopher Colebourn, social-emotional learning (SEL) coach; Douglas Goslin, Middle School counselor; Carla Maia, diversity coordinator and Lower School counselor; Gabrielle Hedlund, Middle School English teacher and advisor; and Will Hammond, parent chair for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at EB.

With protests taking place throughout the Bay Area and around the world over the recent deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and others, many parents are finding themselves having uncomfortable and unplanned conversations about racism with their children. The topic is fraught, and in addition to feeling unsure about how much to share, parents often think they lack the necessary expertise. They also worry about whether their children are too young for the subject matter, reasoning that such discussions might introduce ideas children haven’t yet encountered, and prematurely steal a piece of their innocence.

The most important thing is to help children feel empowered, not fearful. We want them to feel confident about speaking up for themselves and for others—to be “upstanders,” not just “bystanders”, says Middle School English teacher and advisor Gabrielle Hedlund.

EB’s panelists shared a number of insights and tips for parents on talking to children about racism. They offered four key takeaways:


1. DO have the difficult conversations. 

Carla notes emphatically that kids are not too young for conversations about racism. According to research, by the age of three months, babies are already able to recognize differences in skin color, and by the time they are two years old, children use race as a tool for understanding people’s behaviors. Further, by age five, children have learned to assign status to race and even use it as a factor in choosing friends. But studies have found that explicit conversations about interracial friendships can have significant impacts on racial attitudes in as little as a week.

“People are opting out of vital conversations about diversity and inclusivity because they fear looking wrong, saying something wrong, or being wrong,” writes scholar Brené Brown in Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts. “Choosing our own comfort over hard conversations is the epitome of privilege, and it corrodes trust and moves us away from meaningful and lasting change.” When we challenge ourselves to have these conversations, we help to advance progress, in ourselves as well as our children.  


2. Find out what they know.

While older children may be exposed to news coverage of events and protests—and even footage of the Floyd and Arbery deaths—younger children often are only peripherally aware of what’s going on. Christopher recommends asking open-ended questions to determine how much they know—for example, “what are you seeing?” They likely will have already devised their own interpretations of information and may need context and clarification. 

Relating events, even broadly, to experiences they may have had or witnessed at school—such as teasing or bullying—can be a good way to ease into the conversation. And there are a variety of books and audio-visual resources available to families that can facilitate age-appropriate discussions. Christopher particularly likes the children’s book Something Happened in Our Town (watch a video of the book below) for elementary-age students, and for older students, Gabrielle points to the documentary Whose Streets (trailer below), which looks at the killing of Michael Brown and subsequent protests in Ferguson, Missouri, from the perspectives of the activists.


3. Provide historical context.

When Carla’s family moved from Portugal to Brazil, she had the eye-opening experience of hearing Portuguese history from a wholly different perspective: instead of the proud conquerors of European lore, the Portuguese were portrayed as callous invaders and oppressors of native Brazilians. Similarly, many white Americans haven’t had a clear sense of their legacy of privilege and the inequity experienced by people of color. But exposure to different perspectives and a variety of sources on historical events can educate those in privileged positions, and generate understanding and empathy.

Will explained that the 2017 Women’s March—his kids’ first exposure to a protest—prompted family conversations about women’s suffrage, equality, and the right to vote.

“Kids have a way of connecting the dots if you can teach them how to map it,” he says. He asserts that when we’re having conversations in 2020 about police brutality, it’s important to acknowledge the through line that starts with the Middle Passage and the arrival of African slaves in the Americas in 1619.


4. Help children see they have a role to play.

The panelists agree that it’s important to be clear and honest when discussing difficult issues with children. Encourage them to ask questions, and don’t be afraid of admitting when you don’t know the answers—in fact, use such moments as opportunities to learn together. 

The most important thing is to help children feel empowered, not fearful. We want them to feel confident about speaking up for themselves and for others—to be “upstanders,” not just “bystanders”—Gabrielle says. That can extend to making active decisions about diversifying our experiences, through our choices in friends, activities, places we visit, books we read, movies we watch, etc. 

Both Carla and Gabrielle note that parents often find their children are more informed than they expect—and more radical than they are—and that’s a good thing. Today’s children are advancing society, the same way their parents advanced it from the previous generation. This is how they become leaders.

Access Resources from the webinar

Promoting Inclusion in the Classroom

Date Posted:  Wednesday, February 12, 2020

EB continuously strives to be a community where all students, faculty, staff and parents feel happy, safe and recognized. A school community that is diverse and inclusive. Those goals are deeply embedded in our Mission, Vision and Values. Every day, our teachers bring these values to life in the classroom and we see this especially present in SEL and Advisory.

We have aligned the monthly topics addressed in both SEL and Advisory to create a developmentally appropriate continuum from Grades 1 through 8. 

Christopher Colebourn leads restorative justice circles during SEL time with his students.

In January, the theme was “Power of Words”. Students learned that their words have power and can have a harmful impact on others but they can also be used to empower themselves and others. They discussed how words can either create divide or build bridges. They practiced empathy and how to apologize meaningfully. 

During the month of February, Black History Month, students will be learning about Black scientists and inventors while also exploring and celebrating their own sense of racial identity. 

Over the next months, students will dive into topics such as analyzing and breaking down gender stereotypes, gender identity, our role in stopping climate change, and understanding and respecting learning differences. 

Celebrating African-American Scientists and Inventors during Black History Month

Blog Type:  Diversity
Date Posted:  Saturday, February 1, 2020

EB is celebrating the lives and accomplishments of great African-American scientists and inventors for Black History Month. Here are some great books and videos that parents can read and watch with their children. 

Teaching Your Child About Black History Month (

Top 15 Children’s Books for Black History Month (

Black History Month (by Scholastic Kids Press Corps)

African-American Pioneers (​

Ten Black Scientists that Science Teachers Should Know About (



  • Have You Thanked an Inventor Today? by Patrice McLaurin
  • Black Women in Science: A Black History Book for Kids by Kimberly Brown Pellum, PhD
  • Mae Among The Stars by Roda Ahmed
  • Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly
  • Counting on Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13 by Helaine Becker
  • Black Pioneers of Science and Invention by Louis Haber
  • A Girl With A Mind For Math: The Story of Raye Montague, by Julia Finley Mosca​
  • Little Legends: Exceptional Men in Black History by Vashati Harrison (book)
  • Little Legends: Bold Women in Black History by Vashati Harrison (book)



Girl Power Club Takes on Issues Affecting Women

Blog Type:  Diversity Middle School
Date Posted:  Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Several G7 students created a Girl Power club that meets weekly to discuss how to handle conflict, to assert themselves in and out of the classroom, and to put their ideals to work.

Alexandra K, Stella P, Sasha P, Claire A, Leyla A, and Sonia S put together a petition to abolish the so-called Tampon Tax in California. The students researched the issue and found that 42 states, including California, charge a “luxury tax” on feminine hygiene products because they are considered non-essential.

At 7.5%, California has one of the highest taxes on feminine hygiene products, netting about $20M a year from sales. As a result of their research and outrage, they wrote a petition that they’ve circulated online and in person in the Rockridge and Elmwood neighborhoods.

They plan to submit their petition to their state Assembly person and State senator. EB community members can find and sign the petition "Abolish Tax On Feminine Products".

Celebrating Black History Month in First and Second grades

Blog Type:  Diversity Lower School
Date Posted:  Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Black History Month has been a big part of the English curriculum this February for both 1st and 2nd graders. Students began by learning about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech.

In first grade, students wrote and drew about their own dreams for their families, school, community or world. Throughout the month, first graders have been learning about famous African Americans including Jackie Robinson, Ruby Bridges and Melba Doretta Liston through various read alouds. The discussions we’ve had have opened up a lot of questions and observations about the differences in skin color in our classrooms.

Before the break we read the wonderful book “The Colors of Us” by Karen Katz. After, students did a meaningful activity with People Colors Paint, mixing various paint colors together (including Peach, Mahogany, Tan, etc.) to match their own skin tone. This activity showed off all of the beautiful and diverse skin colors that we have in our classrooms.

Finding my own skin tone. Everybody has a different one.

In 2nd grade, after learning about Dr. King and his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, students wrote their own dreams inside a self portrait silhouette they made. Throughout February, students have worked on their first ever biography reports. Each student learned about a notable African American through age appropriate books and texts. They then created a lapbook to present to their classmates, and teach one another. In the end, students have learned about numerous African Americans that have made a lasting impact in our country.  

Learning about famous African-Americans in U.S. history.
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