The guiding precept of the Fieldston Lower ethics curriculum is simple: each individual person is of infinite worth and is to be treated with respect and kindness. We define ethics as the study of how people should treat one another: it is the way we behave toward one another, within our community, and toward our environment.
Community, Family, Identity, and Social Justice each play an important part in the work we do in ethics, and we emphasize that ethics is not just a class, it is practiced wherever you are: in school, on the playground, in your many communities. Children need help in developing appropriate self-confidence as independent ethical decision-makers, and we offer guidance, support, and encouragement in this effort.
Ethics class is an integrated part of classroom life, and the ethics teacher works closely with classroom teachers to make ethical thinking and discussions a part of children’s daily routines and everyday life. Together we work to create a program that naturally examines ethical concepts within the context of the existing curriculum and children’s daily interactions. Discussions and activities happen in both whole groups and flexible small groups. While ethics discussions may happen at any time during the day, children will see their ethics teacher in the classroom at least once a week.
Please don’t hesitate to contact me via email or phone, or just stop by. I’m looking forward to a great year!
FL Diversity & Ethics
Our formal ethics curriculum begins in the first grade, and the work we do can be organized into four key themes: identity, community, family, and diversity/social justice.
Our identity shapes how we see ourselves and how we think of ourselves. We carry with us a variety of identifiers, including age, gender, family structure, race, religion/beliefs, or physical ability. For children, other things that matter a great deal might include height, interests, or whether you wear glasses. Some things about ourselves change, or can change, while other things do not. Understanding the many layers of oneself can help to better understand the things we have in common with other people, and to recognize and celebrate our differences.
What is a community? and What does it mean to be a member of a community? are two fundamental questions that play an important role in our everyday interactions with one another. Part of this work includes getting to know the members of our community outside the four walls of our classrooms, identifying and understanding our responsibilities as a community member, and practicing the arts of cooperation, negotiation and communication. Continuing to build this important foundation supports all of our work together, inside the classroom and out!
Children begin discussing questions of family from the very earliest grades. In ethics, we work to complement the kind of work that happens naturally in classrooms. One of the things we have done is bring a photo exhibit, called In Our Family: Portraits of All Kinds of Families, to the school. The photos include just what the name implies: ALL kinds of families. Visiting this “museum” of families helps children share thoughts and questions about families, and gives them an opening to share both their unique and common experiences. Exploring families helps give children opportunities to talk and think about other important ways we identify ourselves, from race and culture to sexual orientation and physical ability, and more.
Issues pertaining to diversity are interwoven throughout our ethics curriculum. Understanding ourselves in the context of our community, understanding other members of our community, and seeing beyond our community to understand and appreciate the diversity that exists in the world will help all of our children move through the world with empathy, compassion and understanding.
Within the key themes of identity, community, family, and diversity/social justice, we cover a wide range of topics in our ethics curriculum. Many are worth revisiting from year to year, with increasing depth and understanding as the children mature. Some are topical or timely, and arise from the interests or experiences of the students.
Topics include: ethics, community, allies, family, sustainability/economics, hunger, identity, stereotypes, race, culture, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religion/beliefs, disabilities, civil rights, equity, natural disasters, consumerism/media, and body image.
As part of discussions about being an ally and paying attention to the words you choose, the phrase “Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will never hurt you” came up. On the right, you’ll see a video on how some of our students respond to that common phrase.
Students in the fourth grade practice their communication, negotiation, and cooperation skills in a short community-building activity.
Working together with your team and using only index cards, try to build a structure that is either tall or that will carry the weight of a book or small object!
"It's hard to be an ally because it's really hard to stand up for each other. And because the bully might start picking on you. You have to be confident and brave." --Anna, 2nd grade
“The best way to get an ally is to be an ally.” --Eliza, 3rd grade
Ally Week was created to bring attention to and bring an end to anti-LGBT language in schools, because slurs such as "that's so gay" are still common and accepted, but ultimately harmful, to students and families. At Fieldston Lower we broadened the idea of allies: our goal is to end harassment aimed at any person, particularly those perceived to be "different," and to empower students to speak up when they witness bullying behavior.
Allies are people committed to ending bias, dicrimination, and bullying against others. Here at Fieldston Lower, students have many opportunities to practice being an ally: through skits, stories, discussions, and community-building activities. In addition to supporting children as they practice being active allies, we recognize that each of us is capable of causing hurt through our actions and words. We help students recognize their own negative words and actions so they might find ways to connect in more positive, productive ways and make amends when their actions cause hurt. Additionally, we talk about being a "bystander," or someone who witnesses bullying or teasing but doesn't do anything about it. We recognize the challenge of transforming oneself from a passive participant to one who actively works to stop teasing, and we talk with students about the work it takes to become an ally.