Developing Racial Literacy

Our approach to developing racial literacy in students recognizes that our children are learning and growing in a profoundly complex world. Race and racism have presented uniquely challenging dynamics in our society, and as a child-centered institution, we play a critical role in helping students understand these complexities in our world, while learning to navigate their place in it. We are continually guided by the idea that how you lead your life matters.

Helping students understand issues of race and racism have been part of a rich tradition of DEI work at Norwood. Since the summer of 2020, we have engaged in a focused effort to develop a school-wide approach to teaching about race and racism that would be informed by research and best teaching practice. Among other initiatives, we created a Racial Literacy Task Force and charged the group with developing a racial literacy curriculum across all grades in the school.

The task force spent the 2020-2021 school year engaging in research and developing a mission-aligned, age-appropriate curriculum, which utilized a wide variety of sources and fit seamlessly within the scope and sequence of our curriculum. Embedded throughout several academic disciplines, life skills lessons, chapel presentations, and other activities, our racial literacy curriculum engages students in a variety of projects, exercises, and lessons guided by the overarching themes identified below:

Racial Literacy Curriculum - Themes by Grade:

  • PK – Me and My Community: Celebrating Similarities and Differences
  • K – An Inclusive and Colorful World: A Celebration of Skin Colors
  • 1st – We are Part of a Larger Community: Encouraging Kindness, Social Awareness and Empathy.
  • 2nd – Diversity Around the World: How Geography and our Daily Lives Connect.
  • 3rd – Inclusion, Exclusion, Unfairness, and the Power to Change the World for the Better.
  • 4th – Identity, Social Activism, and the Myth of Racial Superiority.
  • 5th – The Peoples of Africa and North America: Culture, Heritage, Immigration, and Inequality.
  • 6th – The Construction of Race: Race in the Colonial Period and Understanding Racial Stories.
  • 7th – What is Race? How Science, Society, and the Media Represent Race.
  • 8th – What is Racism, Where Does it Manifest, and How can we Work Against it?

The creation of this curriculum was accompanied by a series of professional development trainings, workshops, and discussions for faculty and staff. We remain committed to continuing our learning and growth as educators and support effective implementation of our racial literacy curriculum and continually reviewing, revising, and refining our approach.

Racial Literacy Defined

Racial Literacy is defined in several different ways by scholars. We borrowed from several sources to define racial literacy in an educational context to help guide our efforts to develop a curriculum across the School. The task force defined racial literacy at Norwood as:

The knowledge, skills, and experiences students need to:
  • Understand race and racism
  • Develop healthy racial identity
  • Connect across racial difference
  • Navigate racialized situations
  • And work against racism.  
Located in Bethesda, MD, Norwood School develops students in grades PK-8 into confident lifelong learners who have the academic, character, and leadership skills to succeed in high school and beyond. Recognizing that children are multi-faceted, Norwood provides many opportunities for safe risk-taking, exploration, discovery, and growth in a nurturing, supportive, and inclusive school community.