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Teaching Tolerance

Benjamin Zerante's picture



We have discussed so many things in the last two weeks that are extremely interesting. I had a hard time picking out just one thing to work on, so I have jumped around a lot. One thing that keeps sticking out in my head, however, is the necessity to promote tolerance in our classrooms. We have seen this week that teaching science with a sense of place means (among other things) operating with a conscious emphasis about what is unique and important to our specific groups of students. At the same time, we have discussed and tried out many inquiry based activities in an environment that promotes free thinking and a lack of fear about making mistakes or being wrong. I think these are all important aspects of a classroom that students would benefit from experiencing. In thinking about this, I was drawn to the topic of tolerance for several reasons. First of all, I think that tolerance is an important skill to reinforce in schools. So often our students have a lack of appreciation and respect for diversity of all kinds (and they may not even realize it). Secondly, as stated above, tolerance is essential to a classroom focusing on inquiry. Students must feel that it is ok to make mistakes, express a different opinion, and explore their own questions. At the same time, they must also accept the opinions and beliefs of others. I spent a lot of time looking up ways to bring messages of tolerance into the classroom that would support the inquiry style of education that we might try to produce. Along with resources for teachers, there are also great sites for students and also parents.

Teaching Tolerance: This is a great site started by the Southern Poverty Law Center. It contains free materials teachers can order to bring lessons of tolerance into the classroom. There is a beautiful set of ten posters, many free videos, and free resource books to go along with each set. All the resources are free and there is a simple order form you can download to get the materials. (

Teachers Against Prejudice: This is another great site for teachers. It has a lot of good ideas including writing, essay, and art contests, and suggested book lists (elementary all the way to college level) for bringing tolerance into the classroom.

PBS Lesson: If you have Internet access in your classroom, this is a great lesson focusing on current international tolerance issues. It draws comparisons to stereotypes of World War II with current tensions stemming from the terrorist attacks on 9/11.

Resources to Share with Parents: These sites are pretty basic but offer some good suggestions to give to parents to take home and continue imparting tolerance to children: