Page 1

in a roundtable conversation. She emphasized taking action by creating healthy ethnic identity environments for all children at school and at home.

On Nov. 6, Meridian engaged in an inspiring and moving conversation about race led by nationally recognized writer and speaker Ijeoma Oluo, who is the author of The New York Times best-seller So You Want to Talk About Race. Oluo led discussions with our fifth grade students, at a staff meeting with faculty and staff, and at an evening presentation for Meridian families and attendees from other independent and public schools, Good Shepherd Center organizations, and our neighborhood. Our faculty and staff prepared for Oluo’s visit with a book study and facilitated conversations. We reflected on how the responsibility to actively interrupt racism needs to be owned by every member of our community. We continue our intentional work on reflecting this commitment in our program, curriculum, and books by offering mirrors and windows, breaking stereotypes, fostering empathy and critical thinking, and empowering our students and school community to take action. Each Meridian employee generated ideas for specific actions toward these goals, and leadership held a follow-up meeting to reflect on institutional practices. In the spring, Ilsa Govan, co-founder of Cultures Connecting, shared three strategies

- Work intentionally and actively on becoming aware of your own assumptions about human behavior, values, biases, and preconceived notions, and how they impact your behaviors and attitudes toward others. - Actively attempt to understand the worldview of culturally diverse populations. - Develop and practice relevant and sensitive strategies and skills. - Advocate on behalf of others by taking action to create a culture of respect and equity.

Children constantly get negative messages that perpetuate racism and stereotypes through media, books, news, music, etc. The counternarratives have to reach children just as often. As Govan stated, “There is a benefit that you get by colluding with racism that can be hard to give up.” For this reason, it is necessary to be intentional about providing messages through media, lessons, books, and experiences that run counter to negative messages and stereotypes. This includes positive role models of people from all backgrounds who have stood up against injustice.

Children are making sense of race concepts all the time. If we don’t guide them, they interpret reality based on the lens of their own experience. Teachable moments provide

In a society built and sustained on systemic racism, how do we educate and empower ourselves and our children? How do we fight racism and become allies with our everyday thoughts and actions?

opportunities to address issues or offer counternarratives. They can involve something that children noticed or said, or something that you noticed. When responding to teachable moments, be intentional, ask questions to learn more, and practice. Remember that you don’t have to respond right away, and the response doesn’t have to be perfect or profound. Finally, don’t shame or blame children. These strategies also work to combat systemic discrimination against people that represent other diversity and identity categories like gender, religion, physical abilities, etc. Not talking about race, ethnicity, or other discriminatory issues that marginalize communities in our society is an “option” of privilege. Many parents have to engage children in these conversations very early, which makes all parents responsible for working on these strategies, bringing awareness to bias, and talking with their children about what it means to be an ally. For more insights, see “Dear Child” videos from black parents and Muslim parents. See also books like So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo, White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo, and Blind Spot: The Hidden Biases of Good People by Mahzarin Benaji and Anthony Greenwald.

The Equity and Inclusion Board Diversity Committee is a group of board members, parents, and administrators who oversee the strategic planning and implementation of the equity and inclusion commitment at Meridian. Their work is mostly at an institutional level, making sure that our practices and procedures are accessible, equitable, and inclusive. The Meridian Equity and Inclusion Team is a group of parents and staff members who help to develop strategies to involve the entire school community in a cohesive approach to cultural competence education. This team brings the voices of people from all different backgrounds and has representation from most grade levels. It is an amazing support for our work in equity and inclusion, particularly at the programmatic and community levels. If you would like to join the Meridian Equity and Inclusion Team please contact Yaneth Vrentas at

Equity and Inclusion Committees: Board Equity and Inclusion Committee: Laurie Alexander, Sandy Aslanian, Erica Goldsmith, Paige Hansen-Shankar, Vanashree Jhaveri, Taylor Kanemori, Meghan Kimpton, Shavette McGhee, Kurt Streeter, Yaneth Vrentas, and Kimberly Watson. Meridian Equity and Inclusion Team: Parents: Anna Alonzo, Beth Fishman, Lianne Caster, Jaisri Gangadharan, Erica Goldsmith, Vanashree Jhaveri, Nadia Khawaja, Michelle Lo, Amee Patel, Jamee Smith, and Kurt Streeter. Faculty and staff: Libby Bode, Sarah Bien, Lydia Laurant, Aimee Miles, and Yaneth Vrentas. THANK YOU!

EQUITY AND INCLUSION NEWSLETTER Yaneth Vrentas Director of Equity and Inclusion Editor: Rebecca Kettwig Pictures by Janet Klinger and Meridian Staff The Meridian School 4649 Sunnyside Avenue North, Suite 242 Seattle, Washington 98103 Find this newsletter online at

Global Competency, Equity and Inclusion Meridian educates global citizens in an equitable, inclusive, and increasingly diverse community. Issue 08- June 2019

Educating and Acting on the Global Sustainable Development Goals The Meridian program is being enhanced with global competency and anti-bias education. These emphases are driven by support from leadership and the increasing ownership that the staff and faculty demonstrate toward equity and inclusion. Inspired by our global competency program, the Meridian faculty has been creating a curriculum that empowers students to inquire, investigate, innovate, and make an impact to improve local and global conditions. Global competency is not a unit of study, but rather an intentional combination of lessons that are delivered throughout the years. Global competency curriculum aims to encourage students’ learning attributes, like empathy, compassion, critical thinking, risk-taking, collaboration, and communication, among others. These skills support culturally competent, well-rounded, The first grade students learned about traditions of indigenous cultures critically thinking citizens of the world, who are inspired to see of Puget Sound, the Northwest Coast, and the Columbia Plateau. themselves as agents of change in everyday personal and local actions. Students explored traditional and contemporary objects from the Burke Museum and listened to stories told by Native American storytellers, To guide our actions as global citizens, this year Meridian integrated the including Roger Fernandes, a local tribal storyteller and historian. 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into our curriculum. In 2015, the United Nations announced the SDGs after identifying ways to Inspired by Native Americans’ connection to their environment, first address global problems. The U.N. developed a worldwide mobilization graders focused on sustainability and learned how natural resources are of local efforts to target three overall goals: end extreme poverty, an important part of our everyday lives, as well as how people’s choices reduce inequality, and protect the planet. In connection with their units impact environments like rainforests in South America. Students then of study throughout the school year, students were introduced to the wrote persuasive essays to teach the school community about the four SDGs through experiential learning opportunities such as field trips, R’s: reduce, reuse, recycle, and refuse. guest speakers, and workshops. Students also were inspired by people around the world who have taken on these goals. Faculty members intentionally emphasized books, resources, and leaders that represent diverse perspectives and a broad variety of racial, ethic, gender, and When learning about neighborhoods ability backgrounds. Themes included identity, migration, indigenous and ways in which communities work voices, climate change, human rights, immigrants’ stories, and agents of together to improve conditions, change. Here are some highlights of this year’s social studies learning at second graders visited Mary’s Place, a Meridian. nonprofit that helps people who are homeless. With Seattle Police Officer Eric Zerr, students discussed ways to help people who are homeless. Students also talked with Seattle City Councilwoman Teresa Mosqueda about the role of communities in solving common problems. Later in the year, second graders learned about Seattle history and how entrepreneurs, activists, immigrants, significant events, and individuals have made Seattle what it is today. The unit included lessons on the lives of the Duwamish people before and after early white settlers. After learning about identity and family structures, kindergarten students studied habitats, migration, and peaceful leaders. As they studied the migration of the arctic tern, an amazing bird that migrates through the Pacific Northwest, South America, and the western coast of Africa, students discovered people who inspired positive change in each of these regions.

With this great foundation, students studied agents of change in North and South America. Second graders learned about people from diverse backgrounds who have made positive changes in their communities on issues of equity and social justice. Students visited the Museum of History and Industry, the Seattle Underground Tour, the Wing Luke Museum, and Pike Place Market.

In the fall, third graders learned how identity is made up of four different pieces: self (our name, culture, heritage, and values), others, place, and journey. Students explored questions like “Who do you represent in the world?” Based on Peter Menzel’s Material World (a book of family portraits from 30 different nations), each student created an identity web and a family portrait to represent their family’s background, traditions, and prized possessions. Later in the year, third graders investigated how local for-profit and nonprofit businesses impact communities and reflect a neighborhood’s identity. Students looked at Wallingford and the International District to see how identity affects different places in the same city. They interviewed business owners in both neighborhoods. Finally, third graders researched local and global environmental issues. During this unit, students visited the Duwamish Tribe to learn about the history of the Duwamish River, the pollution created by settlers, and its impact on the tribe’s way of life. Motivated to take action, students wrote individual commitment statements to protect the environment, educated others about their research, and developed possible solutions to one of the many pollution problems they researched. For service learning, third graders visited one of the Superfund sites managed by the Port of Seattle and spent a morning helping with restoration efforts.

In their unit Explorations of the Pacific Northwest, fourth graders learned about the Lewis and Clark expedition from two angles. In addition to considering the perspective of the explorers, traders, and settlers of the time, students used the Honoring Tribal Legacies curriculum to investigate the perspective of indigenous populations throughout the Pacific Northwest. Students had the opportunity to work with Seattle’s Center for Wooden Boats to learn about traditional paddle-making methods through short lessons and hands-on woodworking. They sanded, shaped, and painted paddles that they put to use in Lake Union.

At Meridian, we strive to create a genderinclusive learning environment in which all students feel comfortable being themselves while being aware of the existence and effects of gender stereotypes. For the last four years, Meridian has embarked on a learning journey with the support of Dr. Jennifer Bryan. On Dec. 5, Dr. Bryan spent a day at Meridian discussing how our institutional practices reflect our commitment to being a gender-inclusive school. Our faculty had opportunities to observe and discuss lessons and books. Dr. Bryan also offered an open-to-the-public parent night with the participation of other independent and public schools and other members of the community. We continue implementing practices and education that intentionally address gender diversity and sexuality in a developmentally appropriate manner, because we believe this education is relevant for the healthy identity development of all children.

Later in the year, fourth graders researched an international icon who has advocated for human rights. They connected each of these figures with one of the 30 human rights named in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Fourth graders learned how these leaders impacted the lives of others through action. Focusing on a diverse group of world leaders and a variety of relevant topics, students described the problem, the actions taken, and the connection to human rights and the SDGs.

Fifth graders started the year by learning the SDGs. Students worked on a challenge board that gave them concrete ideas for creating positive change in their community. Later, fifth graders studied the impact of colonization. Students began by defining civilization and learning about various civilizations before colonization. Students engaged in deep conversations on topics such as how colonialism established and perpetuated racism, and how established cultures were dehumanized by colonists. In the winter, fifth graders embarked on a journey to learn more about themselves and others in their identity unit. Students considered essential questions: Who am I? How has my identity evolved over time? How do our personal values inform our identity? How do identities change depending on where we are or the people we are with? They considered these questions through discussions, self-portraits, biographical poems, stories, and character traits. Students discussed the elements that help create their identity, and how social media and group membership can affect their identity and perspective. Finally, students explored the difference between feeling proud and feeling superior. This spring in their immigration unit, fifth graders investigated topics such as immigration reform policy, migrant caravans, the Border Patrol, refugees, undocumented immigrants, DACA, sanctuary cities, and the human rights of immigrants. Students visited the Seattle World School (SWS) and interviewed a group of students. SWS students represent over 40 countries and speak over 30 different languages. SWS is one of only a few schools in the country designed as a preliminary entry point for immigrant children in their quest for academic achievement and full participation in American society.

At Meridian, we have been intentional about creating opportunities for families of color to connect and share experiences, exchange resources, and identify successes and challenges. We also strive to support families who represent other diverse backgrounds and identities, as well as allies who uphold our equity and inclusion commitment. Sometimes our gatherings are for people who share an identity (e.g., race, gender, etc.) and recognize that their identity affects how they move through the world. Sometimes the gatherings are community-building events for all. Our goal is to make everyone feel welcome, appreciated, and included in our program, events, and school life.

On Feb. 22, Meridian’s Global Citizen Symposium offered interactive hands-on workshops presented by different organizations, parents, and faculty members. The conference goal was to educate and empower students as they learn how people help to improve conditions in their communities with everyday contributions, both large and small. This year, the conference theme included the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the region of Latin America. Students enjoyed the participation of organizations such as Long Live the Kings, Washington Green Schools, Art With Heart, and the Snow Leopard Trust. Stories and experiences were shared by Native American educators Chelsea Craig and family (of the Tulalip Tribes) and Roger Fernandes (of the Lower Elwha Band of the S'Klallam Indians from Port Angeles). Music and dancing were a big part of the day, with music and drums from Africa and Latin America with Silvio Dos Reis and Arturo Rodriguez. Parents and faculty members offered workshops on topics such as mapping, sustainable cities, self-managing screen time, science and the Amazon rainforest, allies on the playground, creativity and perseverance, environment and positive change, and the history of rain sticks. The Global Citizen Symposium is a great example of a community effort to offer experiences for students to learn about the world and its challenges, to think critically, and to find creative ways to be responsible and active local and global citizens.

Sikh Captain America, Vishavjit Singh, told students his story and the ways that he overcame his struggle growing up in the United States as a Sikh and as an American with Indian heritage. Though cartoons, Singh helped to break stereotypes and inspired students to be themselves, to share their stories, and to be real superheroes who stand up and care for themselves and others.

Fourth and fifth grade students engaged in age-appropriate conversations to prepare for seeing "The Diary of Anne Frank" at the Seattle Children's Theatre, a play for children 9 and up. Acknowledging that this is a sensitive topic with personal significance for several of our families and faculty members, we took several steps to prepare for this event. Our learning about the Holocaust was set in the context of our equity and inclusion framework, in which children are learning about themselves and others, understanding and normalizing differences, learning to identify injustice, and being empowered to stand up for themselves and others. These lessons were integrated into the human rights unit in fourth grade and the unit on immigration and refugees in fifth grade. Students explored questions like these: How do prejudice and discrimination dehumanize people? How does discrimination impact basic human rights? Where do you see unfair treatment of people in the world today? How does it make you feel? What can you do about it? As we got ready for the play, we attended several trainings at the Holocaust Center for Humanity. Ilana Cone Kennedy, director of education at the Holocaust Center, read the children's book Anne Frank's Chestnut Tree (by Jane Kohuth). Students painted small stones and brought them on the field trip. After the play, students took the stones to Anne Frank's tree at the Seattle Center Peace Garden. The experience was followed by a thoughtful reflection at Meridian.

Native American artist David Boxley and his family, members of the Git-Hoan (People of the Salmon) Dancers, offered an inspiring presentation at Meridian to celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day. David Boxley is a Tsimshian carver from Metlakatla, Alaska, an internationally recognized Northwest Coast Native artist and culture bearer. The dancers touched the hearts of the audience with their amazing artistic talents and the stories behind the dances. Meridian appreciated the experience of seeing the pride of David’s family members, ages two and up, as they danced, played instruments, and shared aspects of their culture.

In December, Book-It Repertory Theatre presented a bilingual play based on the book The Upside Down Boy by Juan Felipe Herrera. For two weeks, students learned about the book and had conversations about migrant farm workers. They reflected on who harvests food, how demanding that work is, and why migrant farm workers had to advocate for their labor rights. They learned about the leadership of Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, and current leaders. Finally, students learned about the Fair Food Program.

Profile for The Meridian School

Meridian School Equity and Inclusion Newsletter 2019  

Meridian School Equity and Inclusion Newsletter 2019