Sometimes a crayon color can change how we see the world. That’s what fifth-graders at Amity Creek Magnet at Thompson School are learning as part of a special project about inclusivity.
The Amity students were inspired by the story of Bellen Woodard, a 9-year-old from Virginia who created her own line of crayons filled with a wide range of skin-tones to reflect the many skin colors in the world. Bellen created the More than a Peach Project after a classmate asked her for the “skin-colored” crayon, referring to the peach colored crayon.
Amity teacher Ray Page shared the Scholastic News titled "A Color for Everyone" with his students and began exploring the topics of inclusion, empathy, racism and compassion with his students.
“Bellen is so inspiring because she tried not only changing one person - she tried to change her whole school and the world,” said student Kashay.
Many of the fifth-graders were so inspired by Bellen and her efforts on inclusivity that they created videos honoring her, some of which will be shown during a special ceremony celebrating Bellen for the Anti Defamation League on Sunday.
Bellen will also be featured on the Kid of the Year ceremony on Nickelodeon and CBS Friday, Dec. 4.
“This really got me thinking, what if that was me? What if I did that to someone and how would that feel?” said student Kirra. “Bellen showed us that you’re never too young to make a difference.”
Ray used Bellen’s story to prompt several activities in the classroom to allow students to reflect on being seen, represented, being left out and respect. He appreciated that Bellen’s story is one about creating opportunity, rather than conflict.
For Lucas, the exercise changed his point of view. “This made me realize that I need to think about my words more carefully. There isn’t one skin color. This has opened my eyes and opened a lot of people’s eyes to be more kind in the world.”
Ray connected with Bellen’s mom to share how powerful her story was and that’s when the class was invited to share videos honoring Bellen for the Anti Defamation League. Many students volunteered for the project.
“I loved hearing this story about someone my age making a difference in the world using crayons. It makes a big difference. I used her crayons in my self-portrait,” said Alazar. “I like how she took this on. It inspires me to think that if there’s a problem, we should talk about it and face it head on.”
Ray hopes that this project will stick with his students and ultimately be about much more than crayon colors. “I have this thought - where are the other peach colored crayons in our lives? I want us to have an awareness that there are a lot of little things that are actually big things that can be recognized and changed,” said Ray.
Logan, a student, agrees that she wants to keep this perspective moving forward.
“There are so many small things that we can try to be more aware of. I want to be more aware that you have to be kind and be more mindful of my words and actions.”
To watch the Anti Defamation League show (which will include videos/messages from Amity fifth-graders), register in advance https://events.adl.org/concert. Find the "Reserve a Ticket" button on the top right of the screen (the concert is free, but registration is required.) Additionally, Bellen is a finalist for Kid Of The Year on Nickelodeon, in association with TIME! Friday, Dec. 4 at 7:30 p.m. on Nickelodeon. More info here: https://www.kidoftheyear2020.com/more/