Diversity & Inclusion in Kindergarten

Rainbow Room Kindergarten is celebrating Khmer New Year this week, singing a Khmer song and hearing a Khmer fairy tale in circle time. Did you know the third-largest Cambodian community in the world, after Cambodia and California, is in Massachusetts?

A New Friend

Teacher Charlotte Hoppe writes: ​”A ‘new student’ named Kim Huoy joined our class this week. We are treating her as a peer because it’s important that the children’s relationship to this Persona Doll feel real and personal. By encouraging their imaginations to grow in this way, we can work with the values of empathy, sympathy and feelings as a shared experience.

“This work is based on the concept of ‘windows and mirrors’ when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion education. We want our children to have the chance to see themselves mirrored, but we also provide opportunities to see into someone else’s life, and what it’s like to live or look differently than they do. This helps us celebrate both the ways we are the same and the ways we are different.

Rainbow Room’s “new student,” Kim Huoy, by teacher Charlotte Hoppe

“I introduced Kim Huoy (a doll that I made),” Ms. Charlotte continues, “And shared parts of her background story–not all of it, just little parts as they come up in conversation naturally. Here is the story as I created it for Kim Huoy:

“These details help build Kim Huoy’s personality,” Ms. Charlotte continues, “And help to inform how she might answer the children’s questions. Because I lived and taught in Cambodia, it’s easy for me to bring her story with true depth of understanding, authenticity and enthusiasm. Personal experience also helps to avoid stereotypes and assumptions.”

Story Circle with Kim Huoy

“Our first circle with Kim Huoy was a huge success,” Ms. Charlotte says. “The children were kind, welcoming, brave and had many great ideas. I was so proud of them! We will continue this work in circle time, and if we have a pattern of behavioral problems, or a social incident that causes someone to feel left out, teased, or embarrassed, I can bring out Kim Huoy to help the children work through their own emotions and find solutions as a team.” 

Khmer New Year in Massachusetts

Rainbow Room kindergartners will celebrate Khmer New Year in their circle starting on April 15th, with a special fruit feast. Families are also invited to connect to the local Cambodian community of Lowell, Mass during this festive time of year.  The celebration will include singing, dance and poetry.

Sour Sdey Chnam Thmey (Happy New Year)!

Lowell, Massachusetts is the third-largest Cambodian community in the world.

To learn more, Ms. Charlotte recommends these books for children:

Colors of Cambodia highlights one thing from Cambodia for each color of the rainbow. It’s is written in English and Khmer. Many children noticed how the Khmer symbols look like Hebrew symbols and they all loved the painting of the Khmer dancers and the monks. 
The Cambodian Dancer – Sophany’s Gift of Hope is about a young girl who was a dancer before the Khmer Rouge (“bad people”) came to Cambodia. This child-appropriate story tells how Sophany came to live in the United States, and how her gift of dance made her feel close to her culture, so she opened a school of dance for the Cambodian children in California. The story is told in a beautiful and artistic way, but highlights that there were people who didn’t know how to share, made lots of bossy rules that hurt peoples’ feelings, and forgot to act with love and kindness. Ms. Charlotte adds: “This story provides a great opportunity for talking about empathy. It helps to address some of the bigger problems of race and racial injustice in our culture today that many children in our class are aware of and trying to understand.”