Creating a Caring Culture: Appreciating the Diversity of Your School
Cross Bayou Elementary School

This lesson is particularly effective in the beginning of the year as it allows students to begin to know each other. The book Is There Really a Human Race? by Jamie Lee Curtis and Laura Cornell raises the importance of appreciating our differences, learning from our mistakes, and working together to be successful. The detailed illustrations provide an opportunity to notice subtleties, thus allowing children the experience of taking their time to enjoy a book. This can be compared to life’s journey.

Students will:
  • recognize that our differences began at birth.
  • recognize winning or losing is not what is most important.
  • see mistakes as learning opportunities.
  • understand the importance of helping each other.
  • Is There Really a Human Race? by Jamie Lee Curtis & Laura Cornell (illustrator), Joanna Cotler (2006)
  • Paper or tagboard cutouts of a student (“paper dolls”)
  • Small items or pictures which illustrate the students’ interests
1. Introduce the book Is There Really a Human Race? Ask your students to predict what the book will be about. Have them “turn and talk” with their partner about what the title means to them (allow 2 minutes). Comment on what you heard one pair say to each other.

2. Begin the book and ask the students to look very carefully at the illustrations noticing all the differences in the appearances. Ask students to think about people they have seen in the mall or elsewhere. Do we start out differently at birth? How do we treat those who are different from us?

3. Stop and discuss the following pages of the book as you read:

  • Is the race like a loop or an obstacle course? Talk to students about when things become difficult for them. Talk about the word “obstacle.” Ask students to “turn and talk” about a time when something was very hard for them and how they dealt with it. Did someone help them?  Reflect on what you heard a partnership say.
  • When I get off track. This page provides an opportunity to talk about choices. What do we do when we make mistakes? Do we learn from them?
  • Take what’s inside of you and make big, bold choices. Talk about our responsibility to help our classmates, our school, the environment, and those less fortunate.

4. Culminating Activity: Create a template of an outline of child. Copy it on to plain white paper, construction paper, or tagboard. Cut it out or allow students to cut out their own “paper dolls.” Have students take home their paper dolls to dress and decorate, illustrating things they are good at or really enjoy doing. Encourage students to talk to their family about what they might put on their doll. Have students turn in the paper dolls so that they can be displayed in the classroom or hallway with the title “We’re a Team.”
  • Observe student discussions and check for understanding.
  • Evaluate paper dolls for completion and effort.