Spotlight on Our Sisters’ School: The Importance of Diverse Friendships

Students at Our Sisters’ School located in New Bedford, MA engaged with the ThinkGive prompt: Give to a Friend. Throughout this lesson (co-created by me, 5th Grade teacher KT Mosca, and educator Drea Moore, who now works at Alma Del Mar), students were asked to consider the following questions: 1. Why is it important to have diverse friendships? and 2. What does diversity add to our lives?

To examine these questions, students first watched segments from the film The Color of Friendship, a Disney Channel movie based on the true friendship between two teenagers during the 1970s: Piper, a Black American, and Mahree, a white South African.

After watching clips, students were asked to answer questions such as:

1. What is Mahree’s view of the protests and violence happening in South Africa?

2. What does Piper teach Mahree about the South African government?

Through class conversation, students examined the pervasive impact of colonization and racism, its effect on South Africa specifically, and how the lived experiences of those who hold different identities than our own can teach us important lessons we might not otherwise have known or understood. Students then completed a Venn diagram with their seat partners, sharing and learning about their differences and similarities.

The goal of this activity was to spark conversation about the identities we hold and how teaching each other about our lived experiences can help us to develop empathy and compassion for one another.

The hope is that by engaging in real conversations about identity and the oppression faced by those targeted by the dominant culture, students will be more aware of how important it is to seek out and learn from diverse relationships so that together we can begin the necessary work towards social justice.

Here’s how the 5th graders answered the following questions:

Why is it important to have diverse friendships?
“So that you can learn from other’s perspectives.”
“So you won’t be racist to each other and so you can get along.”
“Because it would be boring if all of your friends were the same. Plus, don’t you wanna learn more? If you are all the same you don’t learn.”

What does diversity add to our lives?
“Diversity adds friendship and community to our lives.”
“It adds different knowledge and culture.”
“It adds love and care and also friendship.”