On February 22, 2017, Ridgeway Elementary was a sea of pink shirts and a flurry of activity celebrating the diversity of our community: Kindergarten classes making cut-outs of pink shirts, honoring kind acts around the school; students and staff writing thank you notes to others which were read over the announcements; and discussions and activities in the library about gender diversity in the attempts to raise awareness of the harmful effects of gender stereotyping.
The main event was the school-wide assembly where the goal was to celebrate and appreciate all forms of diversity at our school. Our aim was to send the message that “Ridgeway is for Everyone.”
The assembly was student-led, beginning with the history behind Pink Shirt Day. A slideshow and short film entitled “Love has no Labels” was shown, and our SOGI school lead, Anne Watt, had her grade ones present a class book they wrote and illustrated. Ms. Watt’s grade ones learned about gender stereotyping and how “these stereotypes are often used to confine and constrain people.” The students presented a class book based on the concept that toys, clothes, activities and colours are for everyone. From princesses to superheroes, from long hair to dresses, the grade ones drew pictures and wrote about the infinite possibilities for all children.
Student leaders had created a “Ridgeway R.O.C.K.S.” montage, celebrating acts of kindness and leadership seen around the school. Our grand finale was a flash mob, which had been choreographed by three grade 5 students to “Can’t Stop the Feeling.” After the dance, people were energized and moved outside to take a photo on the field with the whole school population standing in the shape of a heart.
After the assembly, student leaders were asked how they felt:
“ It was a bit nerve-wracking,” said Kathryn Marton, one of our assembly MCs, “but everyone had so much fun.”
It was wonderful to dance, laugh and celebrate together. Parents were impressed by the knowledge and creativity of the grade one students and were equally impressed with the assembly overall.
Each of these events was chosen purposefully as a way of celebrating who we are as a school community and with the intent of bringing people together. We wanted to recognize and appreciate our diversity and to focus on all the great aspects of our school.
The entire school community came together to make the day a success. Students and teachers could be seen at recess and lunch practicing the flash mob dance, student leaders were snapping photos throughout the day and kids were working with pink paper and pink paint. Natalie Vermeer, a Ridgeway staff member, used any break time available to check in with student leaders, help students and staff learn the dance and find ways to celebrate kindness.
This question was posed to Anne Watt by one of her grade one students: “If we are celebrating everyone, why do we all have to wear pink? I don’t really like pink.” Her response was: “Wearing a pink shirt shows that we are allies with that grade nine boy who was bullied for wearing pink. We want to show that it’s important to stand together with one another and to remember that everyone belongs.”
In our minds, every day is pink shirt day; at Ridgeway, we accept and celebrate everyone.