BOCA RATON — “Skin tone doesn’t matter. It’s the heart that counts.’’
“Islam is a peaceful religion.”
“Don’t talk down to disabled people.’’
For the past week, middle school students at Pine Crest School in Boca Raton have been reading these messages, posted on the school’s walls. And they can’t stop talking about them.
“It’s bringing up some of the issues we are facing today without putting people on the spot,’’ said Lauren Brown, 12, a Pine Crest 7th-grader who lives in Lake Worth. “We are learning things about each other that we didn’t know.’’
The 22 yellow signs currently posted on Pine Crest’s campus are part of the school’s Yellow Sign Project, hosted by the school’s Multicultural Club. Students created signs about issues that mattered to them as a way to spark dialogue between students, faculty and administration about race, ethnicity, lifestyle differences, religion and other diversity topics. The program was originally started in 2005 at another private school in Manhattan.
“It gets the kids to slow down and think,’’ said Karla Dejean, the school’s diversity director, who brought The Yellow Sign Project to Pine Crest’s campus. “It’s food for thought.”
Said Alex Crossley, 14, an 8th-grader: “It’s been very educational and it’s brought up topics most people wouldn’t talk about.’’
The signs’ messages range from little-known facts (the second-richest person in the world after Warren Buffet is Mexican) to hard-hitting questions (Does being prejudiced make you feel better about yourself?)
“The signs are all over the place because these kids are thinking all over the place,’’ Dejean said. “They are infusing their own feelings into these signs. Things that touch them or concern them came out in this project. The overall goal in diversity work is that all children feel empowered and comfortable in their own skin as they learn because that is when a child learns the most.’’
Alexus Williams, 13, of Hollywood, said the project provided an opportunity to “broaden our horizons. We are learning different points of view.’’
Williams, a 7th-grader who is currently in her first year at Pine Crest, said she’s broadening her own perspective. Her sign read: “It feels awkward when you have on a blue shirt and everyone is wearing yellow.’’
“When I came to Pine Crest,’’ Williams said, “I was one of only two people in my class of color. I felt awkward. But people didn’t look at that, they looked at what was on the inside.’’
Middle School Head Scott Wing said the Yellow Sign Project has launched great learning opportunities in the classroom. One sixth-grade teacher asked students to draw up a budget for under $10 a day.
The lesson coincided with another sign’s message: “At least 80 percent of humanity lives on less than $10 a day.’’
“We want to raise an awareness that all people are not the same, but all people are equally welcomed at our school,’’ Wing said. “It’s been very enlightening for the kids.’’
Photo by Khary Bruyning. A sign at Pine Crest School