Students will be segregated within the class based on an arbitrary criteria. This criteria must be socially visible. Students will be randomly assigned stickers circles and squares, for example, which will be worn on the outside of their clothing throughout the experiment. One group, either circles or squares whichever the teacher decides will comprise a majority of the population; the other group will represent the minority. The minority will not be given the same privileges or opportunities as members of the majority.
1. Majority will be given brand new crayons for class activities.
Minority must use old broken crayons.
2. Majority will use pencils with the convenience of an attached eraser.
Minority will have access to only primary pencils without any erasers causing them to scratch out mistakes on their work.
3. Majority will have access to new paper for projects.
Minority will be permitted to use only recycled scraps of paper.
4. Majority has special permission to eat lunch in Teacher’s Room with teacher.
Minority must eat lunch in cafeteria with the other classes.
5. Majority will be given large workspace in classroom.
Minority will be cramped into a smaller space.
6. Majority will be dismissed from class first.
Minority will be dismissed from class only after majority has been dismissed.
The aforementioned “privileges” will be exercised during the course of one full school day.
Students will be required to keep a personal journal throughout the mock segregation. The journals will afford the students the opportunity to discuss the dynamics of segregation and discrimination as well as the emotions involved. The journals will serve as a vehicle for students to explore self-evaluation, expression, and their development as readers, writers, and thinkers. Some thoughts explored will include: how did it feel to be a member of the privileged group? How does it feel to be discriminated against?
Students, within their own respective majority groups will then break up into subsets of four. These subsets will provide an atmosphere for students to share their ideas and thoughts on the mock segregation experiment and all of its ramifications.
The task of the subsets will be to list (through drawings or sentences) the most striking aspect of the mock segregation from the student point of view. Each subset will report their findings to the whole class, as a means to create a Class Feeling Chart On Segregation.
Prior to dividing the class from its minority and majority groups into subsets, the teacher must familiarize students with working in cooperative groups. This can be achieved by assigning the responsibility of the project to each member of the group. Equal distribution of labor as well as the autonomy of problem solving will give students confidence to work with others in the future.
Division of labor is as follows:
COMMUNICATOR: This student is responsible for asking the teacher or another team’s communicator for help. The communicator is the only team member who may leave the team and seek help from the teacher or another team’s communicator. The communicator may then share with his or her own team the information obtained.
MANAGER: The manager is responsible for picking up and returning the supplies and equipment that the team needs. The manager reports to the teacher if any supplies are damaged or broken.
TRACKER/CHECKER: The tracker is responsible for team’s progress through the steps of the team’s activity. The tracker simply keeps the team on task.
COACH: The coach is responsible for encouraging teammates to practice the team skills. The coach inspires the team to work cooperatively by looking for positive examples.
I would be remiss if I did not mention that during a mock segregation exercise, there may be some psychological impact on the children in both the “favored” and “disfavored” groups. It is suggested that a letter to the parents of students be drafted, informing them of the objectives of the mock segregation. If any parent is opposed to the idea of their child’s participation, then of course that child is excused from the exercise.
The teacher should also be aware of stressful impacts on the children. Prior to the mock segregation, students should be informed that the exercise is merely an “act”. Teacher must set up a risk free environment allowing adequate amount of time for each and every student to voice his/her opinions and feelings on the mock segregation.
Children usually develop interesting concepts about rules. For example, within the context of a child’s game, during the egocentric stage of cognitive development (age 2-5) children become aware of the existence of rules, and imitate older people. However, the cognitively egocentric child functions by himself or herself without actually wanting to win. Their play in groups is characterized by a lack of social interaction or true cooperation. They play alongside other children but do not truly interact. At this stage of reasoning about rules, children believe everyone can win. Rules are viewed as fixed and respect for them is unilateral.
It is usually not until age 7 or 8 that children begin to cooperate socially in playing games. Around this time, there is a clearer understanding of the rules of a known game. The objective of the game for children becomes to win. Their reasoning processes are logical. Children will come to understand that rules are, or can be made by the group; the group can change rules; and rules are necessary for fair play.
Because of the progression of cognitive development in young children, it is anticipated that students will be well equipped to handle the dynamics and implications of a mock segregation exercise, given the opportunity for discussion and expression.