New anti-racism program for kids created by the Children's Museum of Cleveland & CSU
The Children’s Museum of Cleveland (CMC) has partnered with The Diversity Institute at Cleveland State University (CSU) to develop a program to engage families in racial equity. This innovative new program titled, “Let’s Talk,” provides resources to support families with young children in having conversations about race and continuing the learning through play. Registration is now open.
The social justice demonstrations that have taken place across the globe over the past year have raised the general public’s awareness of institutional racism in unprecedented ways. “This has encouraged the team at CMC to look inward and find ways to become a greater agent for change in our community,” says Maria Campanelli, CMC’s executive director. “With our mission in mind and the issues facing our society, we are launching the Let’s Talk program in partnership with CSU.
Research has found that children can identify race-based differences as early as infancy and can internalize racial bias as early as 2–4 years old. Furthermore, young children of color and different ethnicities can experience racial biases directed at them in the same environments that teach these biases to young children. When healthy associations are not formed early on, or when existing biases are not interrupted in young children, these negative racial associations and beliefs become more difficult to change over time.
One way to create positive change in young minds is for parents to engage in conversations surrounding race and racial bias early and often. Working to address issues of racial bias can help build more just associations and unbiased thinkers. By providing consistent messaging to children, parents and caregivers can support this learning. The CMC understands, however, that talking about race with young children can feel overwhelming. It may be difficult to know where to start, how to encourage conversation, or how to answer their questions.
The Let’s Talk program was designed to support families on this journey. This program has two components. First, a toolkit of information will be provided that parents, caregivers, and educators may use to introduce or discuss the topics of race and racism with their children. The toolkit includes:
- A developmental narrative of each age range, sharing what a child at that age may be curious about.
- Learning objectives.
- A conversation guide with sample questions.
- Age-appropriate activities for children to learn through play.
- Children’s literature to support the conversations.
Second, interested parents and caregivers will be invited to join a virtual community with others to share their experiences, discuss the use of these materials and how they might further the goal of racial justice and harmony. Through this community, participants can share and engage each other in discussing this topic. The group will provide a safe and open space for conversation, and will be led by Dr. Heather Hill, research associate of The Diversity Institute at CSU. “This partnership points to the possibilities of universities, community-based organizations, schools, and families working together to support the development of our children. I'm excited to be a part of this effort," says Dr. Hill.
In addition, CMC and CSU are also partnering with The Lillian and Betty Ratner Montessori School to pilot integrating this curriculum into a classroom setting. “The Let's Talk program is consistent with Ratner Montessori's core value of growing a diverse and equitable community for children and families,” says Michael Griffith, head of school. “The foundation of the Montessori philosophy supports equity and inclusion for all, making this program a perfect fit for our school, children and families.”
With generous support from The Billie Howland Steffee Fund at The Cleveland Foundation, CMC is offering the toolkits, complete with a children’s book and activity materials, free of charge to families in the community while supplies last. All materials as well as read-along videos of all of the children’s books referenced in the toolkit are also available at cmcleveland.org/letstalkaboutrace.
The Children’s Museum of Cleveland is a leader in early childhood development, offering families a one-of-a-kind museum experience built on the knowledge that young children learn best through play. Their seven unique exhibits are designed to engage children ages birth–8 in the foundations of education through hands-on play.
The Diversity Institute at Cleveland State University is an academic research and action center for confronting the range of topics encompassed under the umbrella of diversity, equity, and inclusion. The Diversity Institute promotes systemic, measurable social change that enhances equity for all people.