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News: Monday, January 18th, 2021

Backpack project aims to help students fight inequality and racism

When Abbotsford, B.C., teacher Nerlap Sidhu met her Grade 6 social studies students at the beginning of term last September, she knew right away she wanted to do a class project with them about anti-racism and inclusion.

Last spring, Black Lives Matter protests had ramped up in the U.S. following the killing of George Floyd during an arrest in Minneapolis.

Conversations about police violence and racism were also heating up in Canada. 

Having just completed a master's degree in equity studies in education, and seeing that almost all her students come from diverse backgrounds, Sidhu felt lessons about equity and inclusion would be timely. 

She was also motivated by her own personal experience with racism.

"I got the things where people say, 'Where are you from? No, really, where are you from?'" Sidhu said.

"And I'm born in Canada. So it did hurt and it made me feel awful.

"I don't want other kids — regardless of their background — to ever have to feel that way."

So, Sidhu came up with a class project called the "equity backpack."

Throughout the term, her students created personalized backpacks filled with artwork, journal entries and other classwork centred around themes such as equity, equality, inclusion, respect, identity and anti-racism.

For one recent assignment, students learned how to combat racial stereotypes by drawing three Band-Aids, each coloured in with a different skin tone.

On one side of the artwork, they listed "negative words." On the other side, they listed "positive words" to counter them.

"Everybody has different skin tones and that's unique about them because that makes them them," said student Sara Rotar, reflecting on what she learned.

"We should celebrate our differences."

read the full Story by Vivian Luk, CBC

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