Using M&M's to Teach Diversity and Disability Inclusion

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Activities for Diversity and Disability Inclusion; Removing the Stumbling Block

If you search for ideas to teach diversity in the classroom, you will find dozens of articles about helping children to learn about and appreciate multi-cultural and racial differences. This is wonderful. This is important. This is necessary. 
And this is a missed opportunity to also teach about differences in ability.

It is quite simple to weave in conversations of ability when teaching diversity. I have shared some great examples:

My favorite (and the one I use in disability inclusion training most often): Teach Diversity Using Oranges

And a great one where students can take the lead: Teaching Disability Acceptance and Diversity - A Survival Kit

Here is another great activity you might use:

On the inside we are all the same; Removing the Stumbling BlockUsing M&M’s to Teach Diversity:
  • Display a bowl of M&M’s. Do not let students touch the bowl or the candy. 
  • Ask: 
    • What do you see?  
    • What can you tell me about these M&M’s just from looking at them? (e.g. different colors) 
    • Are there any of these M&M’s better than the others? (acknowledge that some may have a favorite color, steer conversation to the value of the candy itself)
  • Make the following statement: We are just like this bowl of M&M’s. We may appear different on the outside, but we are very much alike on the inside. 
  • Let each student have one M&M to eat. Ask them to bite into it, if they can, to look at the inside. Compare insides, noting how they are all the same. 
  • Say: We may like the red ones or the green ones best, but that does not mean the yellow ones aren’t as good. This is the same with people. There may be some people we like a lot, but this does not mean other people are not as good. The M&M’s are all made of the same ingredients to make chocolate. Just like M&M’s, people are all made of the same things. We all have blood, muscles, skin, a heart that feels, and yet we all look different on the outside. What if you were all the same size, shape or color? This class would not be as interesting or fun. Our differences are what makes life exciting. Highlight differences in ability along with difference in size, shape or color.
  • Eat the M&M’s! 
  • As an extension: Read the poem Different. It can be read as a class and discussed, read in small groups and discussed, students can read and then write their own poems, etc.

Hey! Hey! I’m just me!
I’m different from anyone else you’ll see!
Taller than John - shorter than Sue...
Hair that is darker than Nancy’s too.
Eyes not black or really green
Nor really blue, but in between.
I’ve got more freckles than Don or Fred.
Jane reads better but I can add,
And Jim runs faster (which makes me sad!)
Johnny’s arms are chocolate brown,
And he’s got the happiest grin in town.
Judy’s arms are almost white
And I’m dark tan - and it’s all right
‘Cause Johnny is him, and I am me,
And Judy is Judy, plain to see,
And we’re all as different as we can be!


What are some of your favorite activities for teaching diversity? How can you be sure to include diversity of ability? 

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