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Local early childhood experts share ideas for anti-racist classrooms

Posted at 9:57 AM, May 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-29 10:57:18-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Early childhood experts believe it is important to create inclusive classrooms from the start.

Dr. Kerry-Ann Escayg, an assistant professor at UNO, said, "decades of research, decades, have shown that young ages develop racial awareness." She said that could be as young as around three years old.

She said since children are developing that awareness, it's important to include examples of all people succeeding in the teachings and imagery they see.

When it comes to children of color she said they should, "see themselves represented in the curriculum, not as a single story of oppression and subjugation but as a people endowed with a legacy of resistance, gifts and strengths and talents."

Dr. Escayg has partnered with the Buffett Early Childhood Institute. They've held webinars for area teachers as educators have requested more resources related to diversity, equity and inclusion.

Dr. Amy Mart is the director of professional learning at the Institute. She says they created a more extensive cohort that qualifies as a graduate-level course because demand was there. Educators wanted to know more about how to address topics that come up in inquisitive, young minds.

"When a child points out a racial difference, for example, the tendency I think, for a lot of us, is to try to shush that or shut it down or shy away from that conversation, and we're really trying to encourage teachers to have the confidence and have the skills to lean into those conversations," said Dr. Mart.

The teachers taking part are also developing action plans to hopefully share what they've learned with coworkers and peers.

"We might have a couple hundred people show up for a webinar but if each of those people goes back and has conversations with their colleagues, you can sort of see the ripple effects that span out from there," said Dr. Mart.

Dr. Escayg says she is cautious about race relations in the future but hopeful enough people are willing to address issues in society to teach children a better way forward.

"I see it as a dream and a vision fulfilled, a dream that was fought for by many," said Dr. Escayg.

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