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Interested in being an OBS school or just want to build community by addressing stereotype and identity issues in your school? Here are some lessons to help you start that journey.

Lesson #1

Warm-up Introductions

Encourage your learners to build community through reflecting and sharing. You may want to document your learners’ responses as community knowledge that they can return to later. Consider the following prompts to guide this activity:

  • One word that describes a part of you
  • One thing that divides us from each other
  • One thing that connects us to each other

Identity: View, Reflect and Discuss

Watch, listen to, or read Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s The Danger of a Single Story. Adichie’s TED presentation helps combine the ideas of stereotypes and identity.

Then, engage your learners in a reflection and/or discussion around the following questions:

  • What does “a single story” mean?
  • When have you encountered a single story about yourself or someone you know?
  • What single stories exist about your school, community, state?

I just want to share how OBS has affected my life. I went to Walton High School which was a very diverse school in the Bronx. I was already exposed to different cultures, nationalities, economical backgrounds. So I was well versed with different societies of people. Boy was I wrong. In my senior year I was asked to be a part of this program called Operation Breaking Stereotypes and initially I’m like what’s that? Well, I found out it is an organization that brought kids from different parts of the U.S. to meet each other. Kids from Orono, Maine, came to my school in the Bronx. They shadowed a select group of us from class to class and got to know how we lived. At the time I didn’t know that sixteen years later I will still have a bond with that person that shadowed me. We learned about the differences we had and even the similarities we’ve experienced living in two different places. It showed me that we are all just human. Made me want to try harder at being a better person because at the end of the day we are all just vulnerable, fragile people trying to figure out what and how our lives are going to be lived out. Even though as an adult we all have our personal journey, I know my outlook has allowed me to persevere and be accepting of flaws but to also celebrate difference.

— Original OBS Student

Lesson #2

Connecting Stereotypes and Identity

Lead your learners in a dialogue about stereotypes. Begin with an introduction to the concepts of stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination.

The following is excerpted from Race and Membership in American History: The Eugenics Movement, a resource book by Facing History and Ourselves, Brookline, MA, 2002:

Stereotyping reduces individuals to categories. Therefore stereotyping can lead to prejudice and discrimination.

The word prejudice comes from the word pre-judge. We pre-judge when we have an opinion about a person solely because of a group to which that individual belongs. A prejudice has the following characteristics:  
  • It is based on real or imagined differences between groups.
  • It attaches value to those differences in ways that falsely assume that one’s own group is superior to others.
  • It is generalized to include all members of a target group.
Not all prejudices result in discrimination. Discrimination occurs when prejudices are translated into action. But all stereotypes tend to divide a society into us and them.

Reflect and Discuss

Then, engage your learners in a reflection and/or discussion around the following questions:

  • How do stereotypes develop?
  • Where do they come from?
  • How do stereotypes influence our behavior?
  • What stereotypes do you see in your school and your community? 
  • When has a stereotype influenced your behavior or actions?  Be honest — it has happened to all of us.
  • Are stereotypes and single stories the same thing? Why? Why not?

Writing Activity: Five Minute Poem

The “Five Minute Poem” writing activity is a great way for your learners to reflect on their communities and their experiences and also a great opportunity for creative expression, collective learning, and sharing through performance.

There are 4 stanzas in the poem.
Each stanza has 4 lines.
Each stanza begins with the words:  “We are from….”

First Stanza: (Familiar sights, sounds, or smells of your home and neighborhood)
Second Stanza: (Familiar foods)
Third Stanza: (Family Sayings)
Fourth Stanza: (Friends)

A sample poem from Beverly Daniel Tatum

We are from...
The food that my mother cooks
The orange leaves lying on the ground
The heat from the sun
The smell of sweaty socks from my brother's room

We are from...
The cheesy lasagna in the oven
The hot tortillas in my plate
The gooey chocolate chip cookies in my stomach
The smell of coffee in the morning

We are from...
Clean the house
Do your homework
Do the dishes
Just saying…

We are from...