DEI Initiatives: Lower School

The Lower School is in a unique position – serving students from a wide-range of ages from four to eleven – and the division is thoughtfully curating age-appropriate DEI resources for its teachers and implementing age-appropriate practices for its students. Some examples of DEI initiatives for the 2020-21 school year are:

Inclusive Library
In the spring semester of 2020, the Lower School Library began conducting a racial diversity audit of its picture book collection. For each book, the race and ethnicity of the author(s), illustrator(s), and main character(s) are recorded and will be analyzed to determine how well the collection as a whole represents various racial and ethnic identities. We hope to complete this project by 2022.

In addition to the Lower School Library, several teachers have also done inventories of their classroom libraries this year, and have been intentional about including more diverse books in their classroom settings.

Inclusive Classrooms

The Coordinator of Community and Inclusion and Lower School Head, in partnership with Lower School Community and Inclusion Liaisons, have been hard at work researching, curating, and vetting a variety of resources to offer Lower School teachers opportunities to readily incorporate DEI and anti-racism activities into their classrooms. The Liaisons are sending out weekly communications with ideas teachers can implement right away, such as read-alouds, and opportunities to go deeper, such as in-depth lesson plans.

Individual Professional Development
A number of Lower School teachers participated in a variety of DEI and anti-racism professional development opportunities over the summer. The group shared a wealth of information and takeaways with the Lower School faculty in the fall to allow all teachers the ability to implement some of the participants’ learnings into their own classrooms.

Community Partnerships
Once again this year, the Lower School is a registered No Place for Hate School. No Place for Hate is an Anti-Defamation League (ADL) program that helps schools tackle issues of bias, bullying, and injustice in a variety of ways, and the division is looking forward to partnering with the organization again next year.

Books as Windows and Mirrors
Books offer our students both mirrors (stories that reflect their own culture and experiences) and windows (stories that offer views into someone else’s culture and experiences). Peruse a sampling of the books our Lower School students have been reading by clicking on the link below!

Positive Identity Development
Lower School students engage in a variety of activities to learn more about themselves and others. In classrooms throughout the Lower School, students are reading, discussing, and celebrating differences and commonalities in regards to many aspects of identity: race, ethnicity, gender, physical abilities, religion, beliefs, values, and family structures, to name a few.
Some examples:
  • One class began the year with a project around the book I Like Me. Children thought about what makes them special and created self-portraits to highlight those special features, taking note of how each of us are alike and different. 
  • Another class has placed a special focus on gender and has spent time broadening students’ understanding of gender roles and encouraging inclusive pronouns.
Family and Cultural Traditions
Students have been enriched by families and students generously sharing their own important traditions, customs, and cultural celebrations with their classrooms.
Some examples:
  • One class created a customs and celebrations quilt and all families were invited to share special recipes from their families’ traditions.
  • In December, one grade’s monthly theme was “Exploring Family Traditions.” In addition to talking about winter holidays, they learned about different traditions and cultures within their families.  Each child made a poster sharing one of their family traditions throughout the year, presented the poster to the class, and displayed them for all students to see and learn about each other.
  • Another class enjoyed celebrating Lunar New Year through the generosity of a family sharing their Taiwanese culture and family traditions. The family sent in a goodie bag with symbols to help celebrate Lunar New Year and Zoomed in with the class to talk about the holiday and how they celebrate.
Role Models and Civil Rights History
Teachers introduce students to important role models and integrate the ongoing struggle for social justice into their classrooms in age-appropriate ways throughout the Lower School.
Some examples:
  • During this year of getting to know and use technology more and more – and encouraging students to use the iPads interactively – one grade integrated Little People, Big Dreams, biographies of people who have achieved incredible things and helped create positive change in the world. Children to listen to the biographies and record themselves telling about a person who inspires them.
  • Students read Belle, the Last Mule at Gee’s Bend about a mule who played a key role in the Civil Rights Movement: he was chosen to pull Dr. King’s casket. The women in Gee’s Bend, an African American community, are quilters and the teachers tied the story into a hands-on quilting project, teaching how quilts are made and how they were used during the time of slavery for night travelers to know if a house was safe.
  • To help give students historical perspective and context, one class created a timeline starting with Newman’s founding in 1903 through present day. Added to the timeline were pictures parents sent in of significant events in their own families and important Civil Rights events and people including Rosa Parks, Ruby Bridges, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Current Events
Lower School teachers provide spaces for students to engage in learning and conversation about important current events.
Some examples:
  • In various classes students watched Amanda Gorman's inaugural poem and discussed the beauty of her words and how she has overcome a speech impediment. Others watched videos of the inauguration and held discussions on the significance of this important day in our country and the significance of electing the first woman and woman of color as Vice President. 
  • In fifth grade, connections are being made between their study of the Middle East , their class novel which is set in Afghanistan (N.H. Senzai’s Shooting Kabul), and the rights and freedoms that Americans have thanks to the Bill of Rights. Students have drawn parallels between Dr. King’s message of nonviolent protest with Malala Yousafzai who used the power of her voice to stand up to the Taliban.  They’ve also discussed the role that the Bill of Rights has played in American protests from the Civil Rights Movement to contemporary protests on environmental issues, politics, and Black Lives Matter.  They have used picture books like Enough!: 20 Protesters Who Changed America to foster conversations and expand their understanding of Black History and the way themes connect different peoples and places throughout history.
1903 Jefferson Avenue
New Orleans, LA 70115
Phone: 504.899.5641
Fax: 504.896.8597
Open 7:45 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Monday through Friday
An independent,
non-denominational day
school in New Orleans for
early childhood through 12th grade