Club Provides Early Education of Racism

The Campolindo Cultivate Thinking Club teaches elementary students in the Moraga School District, primarily grades 3-5, about racism over Zoom.

President of the club sophomore Mira Shah was inspired to make the club due to “such a need for it in the community,” especially with the Black Lives Matter movement opening her eyes in the summer of 2020.

Shah drew from her own personal experiences in her decision to make the club. “For me when I was younger, I didn’t get to feel like I was represented in the curriculum… none of my peers were the same color as me. I’m Indian, and so there wasn’t a lot of representation for me, and I know for a lot of people of color at our school and for a lot of my peers of color, they have the same experience of walking through our community feeling underrepresented and unseen and so it’s really important to me that for the next generations, they don’t have that same experience,” said Shah.

Shah added, “The 1st thing that we discuss [with the students] is, ‘What’s the difference between race, ethnicity, and nationality?’ Because, at the core of these conversations, it boils down to these specific terms that they don’t understand, and when you don’t know something, you feel uncomfortable and scared about it.”

Student teachers present information about racism through engaging slideshows, skits, Kahoots, and videos to cover their topics. Each class focuses on a specific aspect of racism, such as systemic racism, implicit bias, privilege, and microaggressions.

Shah hopes that by teaching students about racism at a younger age, they will be “so much further along” in terms of racial awareness by the time they are in high school.

Sophomore Emily Floyd, who has taught 1 class so far, said, “The kids are actually really engaged, which is great to see because they are learning about really important stuff…[and] it’s really great to see them actively participating and asking questions. It’s not something that we learned about when we were their age.”

AP European History teacher Paul Verbanzsky’s 2 daughters were some of the 1st students to attend Cultivate Thinking classes.

“My daughters really enjoyed learning from [the club] and they did such a nice job presenting the information, that the next time they had sign-ups for [classes], we were pleasantly surprised how many kids had signed up to be part of it,” Verbanzsky said.

The club started off by reaching out to students and parents through the community site Nextdoor, but in January the club went districtwide and has already taught 5th-grade classes at all 3 elementary schools.

Verbansky added, “Elementary school kids admire, adore and look up to their teachers and they especially admire teenagers… it was really a great thing for the girls to learn from other than their parents about how to view the various issues of racism.”

Club adviser Shannon Sieckert said, “Many parents struggle to talk to their kids about issues like racism, but…these courses empower learners to be curious, to speak up and think about how they can… be the change they wish to see in the world.”

“People aren’t born hating their peers and neighbors, and making sure young people understand cultural forces, such as racism, allows them to grow up disrupting systems that would otherwise maintain inequality,” Sieckert added.

Floyd said, “They are the future generations. They’re gonna be the ones who change this world as they grow up and if they start learning from a young age just to be inclusive and know what racism is and know how to stop themselves… When they grow up it’s automatically gonna be in their minds for them if they’ve been learning about it and the world is just gonna be a much better place.”