Shades of Us

After hearing some negativity in her classroom about skin colors, Master Teacher Glenna Jakush was inspired to create a project that showed the many skin tones of the room and build self-confidence for the scholars. “Sadly, there are so many opportunities that could have caused this negativity,” said Glenna, “Racism is so pervasive.”

I wanted the students to know that there are many colors of skin and feel proud of who they are,” said Glenna of the project titled, Shades of Us. Starting with conversations with each child to pick a paint color that matched their skin and mixing if needed. The paint colors offered had names of flavors like peach, chocolate, and cinnamon – making it even more relatable to the young scholars and encouraged fun responses.

They talked as class about the melanin in their skin, drew self-portraits and answered questions of why they chose the colors they did, and how that made them feel. Once presented on the wall the students were proud and excited to share their work with their families.

It’s so nice to embrace the community of the classroom,” says Glenna of the installation.

Beyond the interesting nature of this project is the Reggio-Emilia influence. The principals of Reggio are present in the multiple ways of self-representation, the representation of identity, and the display of the scholar’s work in such a meaningful way.