Third Graders Explore Identity Through Holiday Research Project

Third graders in both Rachel Mainwaring’s and Ted Quinn’s classes recently completed holiday research projects to supplement their study of identity. Applying what they’d learned in reading, writing, and social studies, students fostered empathy and joy through virtual holiday presentations and celebrations.

Earlier in the year, students used picture books to discuss Columbus Day and Thanksgiving, acknowledging that perceptions of these holidays vary depending on one’s identity. Afterwards, students chose other holidays to research and share with their classmates. Some of these included Arbor Day, Ramadan, May Day, Passover, Chinese New Year, and Day of the Dead. Students explored holidays that mirrored their own identities, learning something about themselves in the process. They also gained new perspectives on race, culture, and religion.

Some students enjoyed carrying out the research, while others preferred the end results. When asked about their favorite part of the project, Ibrahim said “researching all the fun facts” and Bryn said “learning about our holidays as we researched them.” To the same question, Julian answered “[the] feeling of pride when I finished the project.” All students seemed to enjoy the experience in one way or another.

Not only was this project enjoyable, but it was also relevant. “We felt that it was especially important to build connections and understanding between students in response to both the isolation and stress of the pandemic and the racial injustice in our society,” said Mrs. Mainwaring. Her students picked up on this significance as well. “It’s important to learn about different cultures because the information can spread around the world and other people can learn, too,” said Olivia. Why care about others’ identities? “So we can know who they are and learn about what they believe and what’s important to them,” said Inaya. Through this holiday project, these third grade students learned to value differences as well as similarities. 

Students engaged with each other by giving compliments and asking questions. They sent “sparkles” over Zoom, by wiggling their fingers, to make each other feel supported and appreciated, much like a hug or high-five would. Students were eager to discuss current issues and events through the lens of their favorite holidays. Mainwaring said of the project, “It helped us strike a balance between digging into hard conversations about race and injustice, but also making sure our students experience joy during a stressful and scary time.”

By Katie Kasperson ’17, Marketing and Communications Intern

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