This lesson will explore students’ voices from multiple perspectives around Covid-19 and Black Lives Matter. The foundation of the activity is excerpts from statements that elementary students have shared during listening circles we have facilitated. It will also create an opportunity for your students to reflect on their own experiences and share them. (See our related lesson for students grades 6-12.)
You might consider these guidelines for discussing difficult issues before you facilitate this session.
Gathering: Mindfulness Moment
Ask students to close their eyes and take four deep breaths in and out to prepare for the content of the lesson.
Introduction & Community Agreements
Share a community agreement or practice that is important to consider while discussing difficult issues. (This might be listening carefully while others are speaking or not sharing what is said here with others, etc.)
Share with students:
- We have gone through a lot together, from the impact of Covid-19 on our community to the protests against police brutality and racial injustice. After the death of George Floyd, an African American man who was killed while in police custody, people were tired of seeing this type of injustice happen too many times. As a response they have gone into the streets to demand justice.
- In this lesson we will explore what we know about what’s happening, the feelings that have come up in each one of us, and what we can do about it.
- We are going to use the circle process to give you a chance to listen to other students’ voices around Covid-19, police brutality, and racial injustice. We will talk about how we have been affected by these events and how to help each other as we put the world back together.
Community agreements for listening circles include:
Before you open up the topic, review your community agreements or "community practices” (that is, ways that we want to treat each other in this and other gatherings). These might include:
- It's okay to pass if you need more time to think or would rather not respond.
- Speak from your own point of view.
- Be your own barometer - share as much as you feel comfortable sharing.
- Confidentiality is important. We need to agree that what we share among ourselves will stay private.
Invite each person in turn to share what they are thinking and feeling right now about what is going on in the world.
Listening to Student Voices
We will now hear the voices of students taking part in conversations and listening circles at elementary school P.S. 6X Bronx and P.S. 224 Brooklyn. We thank them for the depth of the conversation and their wisdom.
You, or the student will read the questions and excerpts below and then use the reflection questions to process the excerpts.
Student Voices: When it comes to Covid-19, the police brutality protests, or George Floyd, what is happening? What have you heard, or what have you seen? What do you know?
- I am scared, I haven’t got Covid-19 yet, but I live in a building with lots of people and I am fearful that I might get the virus.
- With all of the things going on the world now from Covid-19 to the police brutality protests, people on the frontline are trying to work towards more justice in our world, but at the same time there is the risk of Covid-19. We all need to find ways to support one another and fight against injustice, providing people with food who need it, or to be showing up to protests.
- There was this guy named George Floyd and as everyone has heard he has died because the police put his knee on his neck and he shouldn't have, and everyone said he can’t breathe, he can’t breathe and then the police officer still did not take his knee off George Floyd. Next thing you know he has died.” Now the police officers are in jail.
- It is a constitutional right and they are exercising their right because they are angry about the inequality because the cops aren’t being equal, and they are treating Black people wrong.
- When it comes to Covid-19, the police brutality protests, or George Floyd, what have you heard?
- What questions do you have, or want to learn more about?
Student Voices: How does all this make you feel?
- I want to be able to be outside with my friends, I miss seeing my friends.
- I really miss my grandmother; I haven’t seen her for a long time.
- I feel scared that I might be killed for the color of my skin, this world is unfair, I hope we can live equally to white people.
- I wish to live in a world where everyone is treated equally, and where police don’t hurt our people.
- My family is stressed because my dad is an essential worker because every day we are scared that he might come home with something. He has to be out there in the public working.
- Considering the quotes above and all that is going in the world today, describe how these students are feeling.
Student Voices: When you have these feelings, what are some things you can do at your age to make yourself feel better? What else can you do to make yourself feel better when these feelings come up?
- I go to a quiet place in the house and take 4 deep breaths.
- If I am feeling scared, I listen to music and start to feel better.
- When I feel like everything is too much, I talk to a friend.
- Have the students look at the quotes. Then ask them to name some of the strategies that these students used to feel better.
- Now ask the students to name some strategies they themselves use to feel better when they are worried, scared, or angry.
Student voices: How do you stay strong during these challenging times?
- Something I do is, I think, because everything that has been going on with Black people, I think like I am Black you know and that’s my race. I think that’s what makes me special and different, that’s what makes me really special. In my household I am pretty much the most positive person here, like I don’t like thinking negative.
- For me what I do is I journal a lot, that’s a way of making sure that what is inside is not kept there but it is put out on paper. I have to believe you know that things will not remain the same, I just need to remain hopeful.
- What I do to stay strong is like I help other people, like I help my family. I usually clean the house sometimes and I usually wash the dishes and do the bathroom.
- Have the students look at quotes, and then name some of the strategies that these students used to stay strong during time.
- Then ask students to share what they themselves do to stay positive and strong during challenging times?
Student Voices: What have you or other people been doing to make things better?
- There was a poor lady across the street, and she wasn’t able to go out, so me and mom bought food in order for her to have food to eat. It felt really good to do that for her.
- I called an old friend from school to see how he was doing and it turns out it was his birthday a couple of days ago and since his family was spending money on food, they couldn’t get him a present, so me and my family sent him some birthday presents over. When I delivered it, he texted me back. He was like OMG thanks so much. I felt really good about it because he didn’t get any presents and he deserves that.
- What do you think about the ideas of these students?
- What have you done, or seen other people doing during these times to make things even better?
- Name some things that you can do during these times, to make your community an even better place?
Student Voices: What is one piece of advice that you would give to adults about how to deal with these challenging times?
- I think adults should stay really positive because I feel like kids are really positive and carefree. Adults have a lot on their shoulders, so they have a lot of negativity. Some adults put it onto kids, but I honestly feel fine about that because I know they are going through a lot.
- I would tell an adult like my mom, to stay positive, stay calm, pray, and make sure her body stays healthy.
- The advice I would give an adult is encouraging words because for us kids it’s not really a problem, but for the adults they have to put food on the table, they need money, and like it’s hard to work online when you have a job that is outside.
- Do you you think that the students gave good advice to adults on how to deal with these challenging times? Why or not?
- Is there any additional advice you would give to an adult about how to deal with these challenging times?
Student Voices: What are your hopes and dreams around these issues, and what actions can you take to contribute to making them a reality?
- What I want to happen when everything is over, I imagine all of us meeting up with our family and friends, like the streets flooding with everyone.
- I would like to see all communities come together, it doesn’t matter what skin color you have, just all come together and no judgment and no hatred.
- I wish there was one celebration that could bring white people and Black people together to get to know each other and they won’t think negatively of each other.
- Reflect for a moment on the hopes and dreams of these students. What are your hopes and dreams?
What did it feel like to listen to other students’ voices about what is happening in the world?
What is one step that you can take toward making that hope or dream a reality?
Share Your Story
Provide students with the opportunity to use different modalities to share their own story about their experience during the Covid-19 quarantine, or their response to police brutality, racial injustice, or the protests. For example, students could make a video, write a poem, make a piece of art, or create a song. Then invite students to share their creations with classmates.
Facilitate a listening circle with your students about Covid-19 and the protests against racism and for racial justice.
Here are some relevant prompts:
- When it comes to Covid-19, the protests, or George Floyd, what is happening? What have you heard, or what have you seen? What do you know?
- How does it make you feel?
- When you have these strong feelings, what are some things you can do at your age to make yourself feel better? What else can you do to make yourself feel better when these feelings come up?
- How do you stay strong during these challenging times?
- What have you, or other people been doing to make it even better?
- What is one piece of advice that the adults would give the students and one piece of advice that the students would give to adults about how to deal with these challenging times?
- What are your hopes and dreams around these issues, and what actions can you take to contribute to making them a reality?