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Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Early Learning Center

“In our mission statement, we promise to graduate students who are at “ease beyond their borders”; that is, students who have the cultural competencies necessary to engage with and serve in communities other than their own. Whether those borders are defined by race, culture, physical ability, socio-economic background or other measures of identity, Avenues equips our students to connect across differences and embrace access for all—both in and out of the classroom.” – Kym Ward Gaffney, VP Leadership, Learning & Inclusion

Integrating Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) work throughout our curriculum is core to supporting our commitment to ensuring that our community upholds our values of welcome, safety and respect. 

  • Welcome means that we behave inclusively, making members of the school community and guests feel comfortable and at home.
  • Safety means that every student, teacher, faculty member and visitor should work to keep one another safe, in all ways, and be mindful of the well-being of our community, at all times.
  • Respect means that all members of the Avenues community regard one another as partners in a common enterprise, recognizing each person’s dignity, worth and contribution.

Cross-divisional Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) coordinators at our Annual Inclusion Awards

As Avenues, DEI is more than a simple topic that is taught. It’s the lens through which we teach and build community, and we believe it’s of vital importance to educate children to acknowledge, understand and celebrate diversity from the very beginning. The foundation for DEI at Avenues is set in social and emotional learning as we believe it’s only when students feel comfortable, safe and trusting that they are able to learn and grow.

DEI and social justice is taught in a developmentally appropriate manner in the Early Learning Center (ELC) as children learn about identity, kindness and fairness and equity.

  • Identity: Students start by learning about themselves and their classmates, with a focus on what makes them the same, different and unique. They explore topics such as skin tone, language, family structures, family celebrations, gender and more – learning how to proudly speak about their own identities while celebrating the identities of others.
  • Kindness: Students not only learn how to recognize and be grateful for the kindness of others, but they learn how to be kind to themselves. We examine the ways in which people can be kind and deserving of kindness no matter their identity.
  • Fairness & Equity: Pre-kindergarten and kindergarten classes learn the importance of differences, not everyone is the same.  So the focus is on how to make sure that people get what’s important to address their specific needs as it varies across different people.

For example, all classes learn about the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in January. In addition to his fight for equity, we focus on how he taught others to solve problems by using their words rather than their hands, which is a constant theme in any early childhood classroom. We then move into studying other change makers who helped others, bravely tried new things and stood up for kindness and fairness.

We believe it’s important for young children to discover the many identities of changemakers, so they can be able to see themselves and others in that light. We create opportunities and projects for children to practice helping others and our community.