Color Project aims to teach diversity
WORTHINGTON -- Black people aren't black, white people aren't white, and people aren't defined by the color of their skin. These are a few of the lessons taught by the Color Project, a diversity art project for elementary-age children. "The diver...
WORTHINGTON -- Black people aren't black, white people aren't white, and people aren't defined by the color of their skin.
These are a few of the lessons taught by the Color Project, a diversity art project for elementary-age children.
"The diversity here is an asset. It makes us unique," said Sharon Johnson, coordinator of the Nobles County Integration Collaborative.
Kids can participate in the local Color Project starting at 6 p.m. Friday in front of the Nobles County Government Center as part of the 15th annual International Festival.
In the Color Project, each child blends different colors of paint together to create his or her skin color. Then, using their own unique skin colors, students paint self-portraits on a single large piece of canvas. When the Color Project is complete, students can see all the different skin colors -- and that black and white are not among them.
Johnson and other community volunteers gathered Wednesday to learn how to help children create their own Color Project.
"Diversity today... we hope it benefits everyone," said Laura Zelle of Tolerance Minnesota, an organization that promotes understanding of cultural, racial and lifestyle differences through diversity education.
Zelle named several diversity-related issues facing Worthington-area students.
Many students are bilingual or multilingual. Some have immigration issues or come from violent, war-torn countries. Some kids practice a different religion from that of the majority. Other students simply face a personal identity divide and must become a different person at school than at home.
The Color Project can help students who face these issues, but it can also help the students who don't. The point, Zelle said, is to help all kids learn about skin color in a positive way.
"And it's OK to talk about (skin color)," Zelle said. "It should be talked about. It's a matter of science."
First, kids describe their own skin color, using words like "oatmeal," "chocolate" or "caramel." Then, they talk to each other about why they look that way -- perhaps because their parents came from different countries or because their grandparents had the same kind of skin.
The Color Project can be used to talk about diversity, but it can also be used to talk about friendship, stereotypes or even the scientific aspects of skin color. Students can learn about melanin and pigment and how humans from areas closer to the equator usually have darker skin than humans from areas with less sun exposure.
Other teachers emphasize the artistic part of the project, teaching students how to draw portraits or how to using shading and shadows.
Between the canvas, the paints and the training, the Nobles County Integration Collaborative paid $1,000 for Tolerance Minnesota to come to Worthington.
The canvas at the International Festival will have 162 spaces for portraits, and elementary-age students can start painting at 6 p.m. The project will continue until all the squares are full.
"We hope to hang the canvas here so people can see it throughout the year," Johnson said.