The Copper Room Celebrates Rosa Parks Day

In the Copper Room, the teachers are using the book Our Favorite Day of the Year by A. E. Ali, as inspiration for their curriculum. As we prepare for each week, we scan the National Day Calendar for celebrations the children might connect with or which might extend some of the learning that is happening in the classroom.

At the end of November, we made a list of some of the upcoming December celebrations from the National Day Calendar on our whiteboard to discuss during group time.

Student (in reference to National Pie Day): Do we have to celebrate that one? What if we don’t like pie? 

Fair point! Sometimes, there might be things some people celebrate and some choose not to. (Of course, everyone was intrigued by Bathtub Party Day…)

As we gave brief descriptions of each celebration, the children seemed more interested in some and less in others; however, Rosa Parks Day immediately sparked conversation. It was clear by their discussion that the injustice and unfairness that Rosa Parks experienced ignited something in the children and they wanted to know more.

Student: But Rosa Parks is a good person. Why did she get taken to jail?
Teacher: Hmm… Does anyone have any ideas about that?

  • Student: What does jail look like?
    Student: I know about jail. You have to stay there and it’s where bad people go. It’s plain and boring.
    Teacher: How do you know what jail looks like?
    Student: Because we’ve seen a picture of it. But, Rosa Parks was a nice person. Why did she get taken to jail if she was just trying to be nice?
    Teacher: That’s a good question. 
    Student: Did the police let her out?
    Teacher: The police did eventually let her out but she had to pay money to leave.
    Student: Can we please watch a video of her?
    Teacher: Yes. Let’s find a book that tells her story during snack.
    Student: Jail’s not just plain. They have an office somewhere and police cars and there’s a lot of bad guys there….
    Teacher: I’m going to pause you there. I have a question. Was Rosa Parks bad? The children shake their heads “no.” Rosa Parks was good and she had to go jail… I wonder why.
    Student: Maybe she had to go to jail because she said “I’m not moving.”
    Teacher: I think you might be on to something. The rule at the time was that Black people had to sit at the back of the bus.
    Student: And that’s not a nice rule.
    Student: She was making her own rule.
    Teacher: In a way, yes. She chose to stand up (or, I guess sit down) for what she knew was right.
    Student: I’ve sat at the back even though I have light skin.
    Teacher: Yes. Now all people can sit wherever they want on the bus because of Rosa Parks. It seems like you have a lot of questions about her. Let’s listen to a story about her during snack today.

We supported this conversation by reading a couple of books about Rosa Parks, including Little People, Big Dreams: Rosa Parks by Lisbeth Kaiser and I am Rosa Parks by Brad Meltzer.

Children at this age often role play to explore big ideas. We see it quite a bit in the Copper Room as police officers set out to catch the “bad guy.” The discussion surrounding Rosa Parks flipped the script in asking “What if the rules aren’t fair to begin with?” How do we change that? Four and five year old children are very much navigating what it means to be fair and kind and are absolutely capable of having conversations about what it means to be an activist. 

“People always say that I didn’t give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn’t true. I was not tired physically … No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.” – ROSA PARKS

Reflection by Amanda Lautenbach and Mickey Willis, Copper Room Co-Teachers

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