Category Archives: Equity & Inclusion

Global Citizenship

By: Guest Blogger, Yaneth Vrentas

Meridian’s commitment to create an equitable and inclusive culture is both inspiring and engaging. It is present in all aspects of our school from institutional practices to program and community. We strive to reflect this continuous and intentional work in our everyday practice. For this reason, we offer opportunities and experiences that challenge and promote growth in cultural competency for our entire school community. At the center of these efforts is each and every Meridian student. Our ultimate goal is to educate culturally competent, well-rounded, critically thinking students who are prepared to be responsible and active local and global citizens. We are continuously enriching our program to achieve this goal.

Our faculty’s current work involves reviewing our curriculum through the lens of our Global Citizenship Framework. Based on the desired outcomes and skills that we want to foster in our Meridian graduates, we integrated global competency with equity and inclusion education based on curriculum frameworks and core standards. Throughout their years at Meridian, students will develop the awareness, skills, and knowledge required to take action and promote positive change locally and globally.

The framework includes four domains: inquire, investigate, innovate and impact, which we refer to as the 4 I’s. Each domain has a set of outcomes that faculty assess within their units. Students discover more about themselves, others, and the world through inquiry and investigation. They learn about identities and cultures and how we all contribute to diversity and enrich our communities. They analyze and consider how our respective experiences and cultures influence our perspectives. By understanding and valuing the existence of multiple perspectives, students to develop critical thinking skills and empathy. Students also thoughtfully discuss natural and social issues and how they affect communities. They develop a sense of responsibility as global citizens and are empowered to collaborate, plan, and take action to change conditions with big or small everyday actions.

Here are some examples:

Kindergarteners have been learning about aspects of identities and families, and considering what makes us who we are and how it can change over time. As a part of this unit they are discussing internal and external identity, cultural and religious celebrations, and the many family structures and traditions that make up our classroom community.

First graders are learning about rights, responsibilities, and what it means to be an actively engaged local and global citizen.

Second graders are investigating how people and place are connected through exploration of how individuals contribute to the many different communities that they are a part of.

Third grades are completing a unit about cultures, systems and values. Students will soon begin analyzing how people affect the environment and how global warming affects communities.

Fourth graders have been learning about Native American perspectives, Washington state history and tribes of the Pacific Northwest. Later this year, students will engage in conversations about civic and human rights.

Fifth graders are researching their family heritage and will begin studying immigrant stories from the past and present in connection with our thematic, regional study of North America this year.

Classroom libraries are also part of our focus as we are intentionally reviewing educational resources to ensure that they reflect inclusion of multiple perspectives and positive representation of different communities.

Other aspects of the program include field trips, guest speakers, classroom workshops, and school assemblies that foster the development of global citizenship skills in our students.

Developing cultural competence as a learning community requires active participation in education, and the willingness to step outside of our comfort zones to ensure that students become true engaged and responsible global citizens.

Parents are encouraged to follow-up at home with meaningful conversations, attend school or local educational series relating to equity and inclusion topics, and to actively participate in the program. For example, at this time we are looking for parent volunteers that would like to teach a workshop during our Global Citizen Symposium on February 23rd! Share how you have created impact and social change through professional work or civic engagement. We will also use the opportunity to learn more about Central America, the Caribbean and North America. Please contact Marika or Yaneth to share names of people that you think could contribute to the symposium.

Global Studies Museum Day

As global structures and systems evolve due to changes in cultural and social ideologies, politics, the environment and technological growth, teaching and learning about the world also needs to be dynamic and relevant for students. At Meridian, we want our students to gain an understanding of how global social and natural systems interact and progress. We also want our students to realize and act upon the notion that: “Thinking Globally and Acting Locally” impacts and creates change for local and global communities for the betterment for all. Our Global Studies program is one way we engage our students in this level of learning, thinking and doing.

Throughout the year, students across all grade levels participate in an extensive regional study of one of the continents.  This year’s focus was the region of Oceania. Our Global Studies program is enhanced by partnerships with local organizations, visits from local experts, and programming during Friday Morning Meetings and classroom workshops. Classroom studies are celebrated on our much anticipated Global Studies Museum Day. This past Friday, our classrooms transformed into exhibits and students embraced their role as museum docents, eager to share their acquired knowledge and research projects with museum visitors.  One or two representatives from each grade level volunteered to sharing their reflections (included below)!


Global Studies was SO MUCH FUN! If we had to choose a favorite part, it would probably be the Museum Day at the end and seeing the projects everyone created. Kid museums are the best. It was our first time doing a project like this, which made it kind of hard. But it we were able to do it because we made a group plan.

We learned a lot almost by accident, it felt like we were just building things, writing books and doing activities. One of the most interesting things we learned was about how ocean currents and winds carry seeds all the way to far off places like islands! It makes sense how all the islands have plants growing on them, since seeds can travel without people. We can’t wait to do Global Studies again!

First Grade

In first grade, our big idea is “how does where you live affect how you live?” We studied things like how people can make boats out of the trees in their environment, and we also learned about different problems that people have, and how that affects their lives (like global warming and rising sea levels). One question we talked about the most was how our relationship with the environment here in Seattle impacts our lives, and we thought a lot about how the impacts are different or similar in Oceania.

Some of the favorite things we learned were how to throw a boomerang and how to perform the haka, a traditional Māori dance! We also learned that there’s a type of tree kangaroo that you actually call the cuscus, which we liked a lot, and we got to meet a real, live wallaby!

Second Grade

In second grade, we focused on two different topics. In Ms. White’s class, our topic was how people and cultures share their stories. In Ms. Spring’s class we focused on how where you live tells a story about you as well. It was quite a different process in second grade compared to what we did in Global Studies as first graders. We still built things, but there’s a lot more research involved. We think it’s a good transition. It’s funny, because some of us like making displays and models, and others liked the typing part the best!

There were a lot of specific interesting parts about the projects. We learned that the hula isn’t supposed to be with grass skirts! That was surprising. We also learned that a 15 year old girl designed the flag from Papua New Guinea. It was very inspiring to think that maybe we could do something that important one day!

Third Grade

In third grade, the main focus of Global Studies was finding solutions to climate change, because global warming, pollution, ocean acidification, coral bleaching and rising sea levels are affecting people living on islands in the region of Oceania. All of our projects were around the idea of people getting involved and solving real life issue. Our proposals aren’t real solutions right now, but they could be in the future. We all went through a really long, sometimes pretty hard, design process to come up with our solutions. We used classroom time, did research during library class, and developed, changed and improved our designs in the Creativity Lab! It was a lot of fun.

Some of our favorite parts were the things that we learned. We didn’t realize how quickly global warming actually happens. It is crazy to think how much we can actually do it change it, and how little changes can make a big difference! Some of our favorite parts were making all the models in our presentation. We really got to let our creative side go wild, and were able to take our minds to the limit. This meant we could brainstorm solutions that weren’t necessarily possible for us to create, but could maybe work if we had professionals or more resources, or maybe just made sense. One other favorite part was learning about chemistry. A few of us really enjoyed it, and are excited to learn about it more as we get older!

Fourth Grade

The main focus of Global Studies was understanding the history of Oceania and all the island nations inside of it. Really understanding how they are the same, different, and how they fit together and create an entire region. Our individual projects were about zooming in on one nation, or environmental or cultural aspect. It felt like a natural progression from 3rd grade, doing more research on a different topic, and really getting detailed facts. We had to have more detail than we’ve had in the past, which made it harder to do!

We learned a lot together when we were doing this research, and it was pretty cool to see everyone’s interactions and what they chose to focus on. One class made videos, while the other wrote non-fiction books, but we all accomplished similar things. A few of us came up with some strategies to get more people interested in our topics right off the bat. One strategy that was successful was finding a few awesome facts to get people hooked. We think we might use that in other projects later on! We were surprised to learn how quickly many of the islands changed and developed. The scale of Australia also surprised us. It’s so much larger than the other islands in Oceania, which we didn’t realize because Australia is the smallest continent.

Fifth Grade

In fifth grade, we are focusing on the history of island nations in Oceania. It’s the most in depth type of research we’ve ever done, and definitely felt like a step up compared to past years. Throughout the year we visited different museums and cultural centers to learn more about communities and traditions in Oceania, and to get a real life interaction and perspective on some of the things we learned about in the classroom. We visited the Burke Museum at the University of Washington, and we even made our own paddles at the Center for Wooden Boats. We decorated our paddles to express our identity, and got to use them in canoes on Lake Union. It was one of the most engaging Global Studies projects!

During Global Studies, we learn how different but also similar cultures are even when they are so far away from us. For example, there is a type of storytelling dance called Fāgogo in the Samoa Islands, and it is a way to tell a story through movement. We learned that they are trying to preserve it, so it’s emphasized to the youth to keep it alive. It seems really different from what we do at first, but if you think about it, it’s really like our families telling stories to each other. It’s just a different way of doing it. When studying the history of islands in Oceania, we also learned about colonization, which can be difficult to think about because some people made awful choices. Sometimes you want to avoid hard topics like slavery, but it is important to realize they are difficult and to have discussions about them anyway.

Overall, it really feels like Global Studies has a good progression throughout the 6 years at Meridian. We feel like every year built on each other, and hope we will continue other forms of Global Studies when we move on to middle school!

Peaceful Leaders

Over the past several weeks, Kindergarten students have been learning about peaceful leaders and social advocacy.  They’ve discussed Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, and Mother Theresa, and connected their leadership to present-day leaders like Nobel Peace Prize recipient Malala Yousafzai, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and Water Protectors, and Marshallese poet and climate change activist, Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner. Students have been exposed to methods used to shift awareness and policy, like speeches, service, protests, and poetry. Throughout their unit, Kindergarteners have explored the following essential questions:

-Who are leaders?

-What does it mean to be peaceful?

-What is peace?

-What problems are people trying to solve?

-How can we be the change in the world?

Ultimately, our goal is to inspire our students to identify ways in which they can be positive leaders of change at Meridian, within our local community, and in the world!

By Meridian Kindergarteners

We have been learning lots about peaceful leaders and their hopes and dreams in class. We learned about Martin Luther King and how people can write, speak up and march to make change. People march and protest because they are sad and that’s a way they can show other people.

It’s happy and sad when we learn about these peaceful leaders because there are bad things that happened to them, but in the end they helped solve a problem. It’s kind of a funny feeling. It’s important to learn about these leaders so we can celebrate them. It’s helpful to know what we can do to make the world a better place. One way that you can help is to become a teacher some day!

We have hopes and dreams of our own. We dream that this world (and universe) will have more love and kindness. We also wish that nobody would want to hurt anybody else. We dream that people will be healthy, that there will be no more wars, and that people will love who they are.

Festival of Lights

By: Meridian 1st Graders

Winter is a season when holidays, traditions, and celebrations are all around us and a great opportunity to share and learn from one another.  In first grade, we spent the month of December learning about how families around the world, in the past and in the present, celebrate both religious and non-religious holidays in our literacy unit.  We approached the holidays through the lens of “What is the same and different about many winter traditions?” We investigated why lights, and more importantly candles, are a common theme in many winter holidays!  

The festival of lights is a celebration of light coming back, or the sun, especially in the winter when it’s so dark! We are learning about different holidays and how they celebrate that central idea.

kwanzaaSo far we’ve learned about Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Las Posadas, the Winter Solstice, and a few more we can’t remember right now. Before Winter Break, we will learn about Makahiki, a Hawaiian new year’s festival.

We think it’s important because this might be our only chance to learn about holidays that we don’t celebrate.

When we talked about Hannukah, we learned that though they had only enough oil to light the menorah for one night, but a miracle happened and it lasted for 8 nights!

st-lucias-daySomething that we learned when we studied St. Lucia’s Day is that Sweden has its own language. A lot of us were surprised by that!  We were also surprised that Las Posadas is similar to Christmas. The celebrations we learned about were actually all
similar in some ways. It was nice to know that they share things, and made us curious about the meaning of other holidays around the world. It is so interesting and it was a lot of fun, so we want to learn more about other holidays when they happen.

We are going to try to share what we learned with our families. We also want to read books about these celebrations to find out more because we know there can be a lot of different answers!

Día de los Muertos

By: Meridian 4th Graders

We learned a lot when we celebrated Día de los Muertos here at Meridian. Día de los Muertos is a traditional Mexican holiday where you remember and celebrate the lives of loved ones that died. For true authenticity, you’re actually supposed to go to the cemetery in a procession, decorate the graves, and be there all night!


Last Friday we had our own procession and brought offerings (fruit, candles, flowers) to the altar in the front of our gym. The altar had pictures of lost loved ones like family members, friends, and pets.

We decorated monarchs with pictures of our lost loved ones and put them all over the gym. We thought there would be stars to decorate, but instead we used butterflies. They represent the monarch butterflies that fly over Mexico. Some people believe when you die you become a monarch, and they are souls of the lost returning home.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere was special bread there called Pan de Muertos that you have during the celebration. It has bone shaped pieces to represent and honor the dead. It was really good! There was also copal (tree resin) which is like incense but isn’t bad for you. The flowers on the alter were marigolds (cempasúchi in Spanish), because they’re supposed to guide the dead to the celebration.

ddlm1The music during the event was surprising. It was kind of sad, kind of happy, and sort of bittersweet.

We want people to know that Día de los Muertos is not a scary holiday (even though the name can be scary for some people). It’s important to remember loved ones and to experience different ways of celebrating their lives.

Talking with Kids about the Election

By: guest blogger Jamee Smith, Kindergarten parent and member of Meridian’s Equity and Inclusion Committee

The 2016 presidential campaign has permeated our national consciousness and raised complex issues we’re left to grapple with as citizens, teachers and parents. Much as we strive to shelter our children from negativity they are nevertheless hearing about the election’s many controversies through media and peers, often out of context. Discussing racism, ableism, religious intolerance, sexism and even sexual assault with kids is challenging but it’s a landscape we must navigate.

At Meridian, teachers are encouraged to use the school’s Teaching Election 2016 framework to address political issues as they arise in the classroom through the lens of our Meridian CARES values. These guidelines include offering a safe, open environment to facilitate age-appropriate, reasoned, respectful conversations following ground rules created together with students for critiquing ideas, not people. It also includes learning about democracy, how elections work and the importance of voting. Within the framework, students are supported in their efforts toward civic responsibility and challenged to become informed from multiple sources about the issues that most concern them. Additionally, teachers will continue offering counter-bias to the equity and inclusion issues brought to light during this campaign after the election has ended.

Meridian encourages our parent community to reinforce these discussions at home by creating opportunities for children to express their thoughts and feelings. Sharing your own concerns is also helpful as is explaining your political beliefs and why you espouse them. Most importantly, allowing your children to see you participating in the voting process, and any other exercise of civic-mindedness like charity participation, social justice work, or protests, will help them feel empowered to effect positive change in their community and country. Working together, we hope to allay our children’s anxieties about the current political climate while inspiring them to become aware and well-informed citizens.