Humans of FWCD: A Fourth-Grade Project on Diversity, Inclusivity and Community
Inspired by the work of Brandon Stanton’s “Humans of New York” blog, which features street portraits and interviews collected on the streets of New York City, Fourth-Grade Teacher Alicia Schordine created the Humans of FWCD project. “This project serves a dual purpose as the introduction to an integrated unit on immigration, and also serves to help students gain an understanding of diversity in community,” she shared. The full gallery of work is on display in the Lower School Library.
Students considered the following questions:
- Why is it important to have a diverse community?
- How are we all the same?
- How do we celebrate our differences?
They thought about these questions as they viewed Stanton’s work and studied his photographs of the wildly diverse individuals that make up the five boroughs of New York City and the succinct, yet deeply personal, stories he elicits from them.
Conversations with the students centered on how Stanton was able to connect with these individuals and get them to open up to him, not only sharing their stories, but then granting him permission to share them with the world. Through group conversations and analysis of many different profiles, students began to see the commonalities among the individuals. “We began to sort the profiles into common themes, such as love, friendship, persistence, struggles, fears, hopes and dreams,” Schordine noted. “We saw that although each person’s story was uniquely their own, they all share the essence of what it means to be human.”
The conversation then turned to identifying the types of questions Stanton may ask his subjects. The students centered their questions on the themes they noticed in the profile, including:
- What is your secret passion?
- What is your biggest worry?
- What is the craziest thing you have ever done?
With these questions in mind, students dug deep within themselves to answer one of these big, personal questions to write their own profile. The profiles are coupled with photographs of the students taken on their first day of school as a fourth-grader.
For the fourth-grade team, the goal of the project was multifaceted. They wanted students to:
- Learn what it means to be a member of a culturally diverse community.
- Better be able to find the commonalities within a diverse group of people.
- Become better listeners so that they may understand the importance of individual experiences and stories.
- Grow their sense of inherent kindness, and instill empathy and compassion for all members of our community.
“When the students first walked through the library and saw their portraits and profiles displayed, that was such a powerful moment. Even though these fourth-graders all know each other, it was as if they were seeing one another for the first time,” Schordine said. “As they read each other’s stories, there was a real sense of pride and understanding. It was a moment of connection as they recognized others’ stories within themselves too. I love how this project has helped to strengthen the bonds between classmates. As the leaders of the Lower School, these fourth-graders face a lot of responsibility and changes throughout the year. It’s empowering for them to know that they are not in it alone. They are a community. They are the Humans of FWCD.”