I’ve been lucky enough to work in and around classrooms for the last few years, and there is nothing like walking into one that’s been newly stocked, organized, and decorated. You teachers AMAZE me!
Whether it’s at the district I work, or in my child’s own school, I truly appreciate the creativity and attention to detail educators put in to their spaces. I’ve been especially impressed by extra attempts to make these places increasingly inclusive. Whether outwardly celebrating diversity, or simply expanding color selections in art supplies, these special touches undoubtedly enhance the learning environment for ALL students by making it more inclusive.
Here are a few products and resources I’ve found in the best classrooms. Are any of these in your room? What other inclusive supplies are on your list?
1. Multicultural Drawing Tools
Students of all ages benefit from flexing their creative muscles, so it’s no surprise that many projects involve drawing, coloring, painting, and more. Tools like markers, colored pencils, and crayons (even the large size!) now come in a diverse array of skin tones that gives artists a greater opportunity to create people in their world that more in line with what they see… or wish to see. These supplies are becoming so popular that you can even find them bundled together for easy shopping.
2. Multicultural Construction Paper
My own kiddo has yet to outgrow the construction paper phase. I can’t believe how quickly we go through it at home, and I know it’s just as hard to keep in stock at school. I was thrilled to learn about these multicultural construction paper packs a while back at my school. They are definitely worth the extra effort to have around for special activities.
3. World Views
A globe is an exciting way to instantly change a child’s world view. Incorporating exploration of places near and far can provide countless opportunities to engage and include. However, globes can be a little pricey for something that does tend to need updating every once in a while. If a globe is out of your price range, consider a map. Both heavy duty and budget friendly versions are easy to find.
4. Skin Tone Bandages
It may seem trivial, but being given a bandage that seems made just for you can bring such comfort to a child. Sometimes that’s having cartoon characters and superheroes on their bandage. Sometimes it’s having it actually match their skin tone. In cases of the latter, these skin tone bandages offer a range of colors to add to those we usually have on hand.
5. Updated Visual Aids
Nowadays, there’s really no excuse for having classroom posters, bulletin boards, and other decor that don’t include a bunch (or really bunches and bunches) of people with different ethnicities, abilities, and more. Simple internet searches can help you find lots of free images. Sites like Teachers Pay Teachers offer some free and many low cost tools that are not just really helpful, but also super cute – and current. Even a visit to amazon lead to the item pictured above, along with plenty of other options at varying price points.
6. Updated Books
Reading lists come out in force in Fall, but not all are created equal. Some schools are beginning to come under fire for not updating the books in their classrooms or libraries to reflect changes in the world at large. Organizations like We Need Diverse Books have great resources for ideas on books to add to your collection. Also, please remember that while including prominent figures in underrepresented groups is always welcome, don’t forget to look for titles with diverse characters dealing with everyday issues or simply just having fun!
7. Anonymous Note Box
Whether it’s for compliments, concerns, suggestions… Creating a safe space where students are given the opportunity to be heard gives them something else, too: A voice. This is a great inclusion practice that can be personalized to meet the needs of your class, year after year. Try it out for a day, a week, a month – and fine tune your process as you figure out what works best for each group. There are a lot of possibilities with this one!
When inviting guests into your classroom, consider family and community members from a wide range of backgrounds. Sometimes simply meeting a person with different experiences, traditions, abilities, and more can open a whole new world to some children, and bring to the surface an all too often hidden pride in others. Look for people who live different lifestyles, are from different places, look different, walk different, talk different, are different! One of the most powerful ways to show others that differences are interesting and beautiful is to invited them to see and discover for themselves.
No matter how your room is decorated or stocked, the biggest advocate for inclusion in your class is you! Getting to know each student and keeping opportunities for equity, diversity, and inclusiveness top of mind will translate into the every day activities and interactions you have with students. Never doubt the impact you have, even on the tough days. You. Make. A. Difference.