JANUARY 20, 1997
At Kokanee Elementary's Safe "D" Zone diversity fair, Kristin Higginbotham (left), Katie Butler (right), and Erik Seidel (rear) were given paintbrushes and watercolors and told to paint their names to experience life as a quadriplegic. The exhibit was one of the most effective at helping the kids become aware of challenges others face.
Photo by Andrew Walgamott/staff.
by Andrew Walgamott
In conjunction with Martin Luther King Day, Kokanee Elementary launched its Safe "D" Zone program, a continuing effort to teach kids awareness and understanding of other cultures and disabilities.
Set up in the gym, the "safe from discrimination zone" was made up of about 20 booths. Through games and education, kids were challenged to see the world through others' eyes. The booths also schooled the kids in self-esteem and cooperation skills.
"We're doing this is in correlation with Martin Luther King Day," said Cheryl Sablan, the program's chair. "Awareness is our big thing. Part of the reason we're doing this is that Woodinville doesn't have a lot of diversity."
Several booths keyed on diversity and the Northwest. Artist/educator Rob Stauffer was on hand with some examples of Northwest coast native designs he's created. In another location were tables dedicated to Mexico and Korea, Pacific Rim countries the students are studying.
Elsewhere, information was provided on American Sign Language and English As a Second Language. Other communication-oriented exhibits allowed participants to write self-esteem songs, taught the importance of positive language, and brought awareness of the pain gossip creates. At the Friendship Fence Club, kids were encouraged to sign up for pen pals.
The students were also exposed to the rigors of physical challenges. At one table, students were given watercolors and asked to write their names with a paintbrush held in their mouth, simulating the experience of a quadriplegic. Elsewhere, they took steps in walkers and rolled in wheelchairs.
In C-O-O-P-E-R-A-T-I-O-N, kids were given a bucket full of mismatched materials and told to cross a 15-foot-wide "sea" via a chain of "islands." Working together, they found new ways to bridge gaps and leap-frog across the ocean.
"I think it's really cool. It teaches about teamwork," said voyager Adam Ybarra after he and his teammate Sarah Symington made it safely over the waters.
At the snack bar, children were segregated by hair color. Black-haired children sat in chairs at a table with a tablecloth while strawberry blondes were told to sit on blankets spread on the floor. The exhibit attempted to show the subtleties of discrimination.
"We consider Safe 'D' Zone a huge success. Every comment has been positive," said Kokanee Elementary office manager Evie Shoeman.
The students were positive about the fair, as well. Said Rachel Saimons, "I thought it was a good idea, because it showed that being different is OK."
According to Shoeman, administrators from other schools observed the event and now want to begin their own programs modeled after Kokanee's.
A total of 500 kindergarten through sixth-graders were taken through the Safe "D" Zone. Sablan said the program would be held annually.