I was first introduced to persona dolls in 2001 after my director purchased one at a conference. I immediately saw the potential for our program and wanted to learn more. My research focus for my Master’s thesis was centered on persona dolls in early childhood settings. I used the AMAZE curriculum to help my teachers integrate persona doll lessons within the program. We have many wonderful stories of how persona dolls have helped the children understand diversity and shift bias. Whenever a teacher brings out one of the persona dolls, the children quickly pay attention. The teacher has entered into their world in a profound way, a world where the children are listened to, given words for their feelings, and shown how they can work through their struggles.
—From a university affiliated program in Vancouver
The training and curriculum helped me see what an important role model I truly am. I realized more deeply that I need to constantly reassess my own thoughts and feelings about the topics that I teach so that I can teach openness and acceptance by modeling openness and acceptance.
I don’t generally teach a very diverse curriculum, so taking this course has really opened my eyes to what it truly means to add anti-bias material and learning into the curriculum. I am part of the Parent Aware program and for the past two years have made “diversity” my primary goal. Unfortunately I wasn’t sure what that looked like, and my Parent Aware coach wasn’t much help. I wanted something more than just putting up diverse posters and having the children wear costumes from different countries. I liked being able to really learn and understand the impact of anti-bias material in a program and how a well-balanced curriculum can really teach a child how to be in community from a place of connection and love.
I love the conversations I have with the children about different topics and have gotten positive feedback from a few of the parents. This has been incredibly encouraging. It’s usually difficult to broach these subjects with parents except when a difficult incident has occurred. It is also difficult to talk with parents when they themselves are using biased slurs in their everyday language. Working with the AMAZE curriculum has been proactive. By making sure the parents know what we are talking about and why we are focusing our work in this way, we get them on Board ahead of time.
—From a cohort of child care directors
The persona dolls are in circulation at this time. The schools and children have embraced them. We are communicating compassion.
Antonio loves to attend Prime Time (a Family Reading program to improve literacy skills) and visits the Library storyteller every week. He loves that the story time begins with the book Sing by Roposo. He lives in a big house next to the library with his five sisters. His favorite stories are Bein' with You This Way, Bryant, and When This Box is Full by Patricia Lillie, and Pet Show by Ezra Jack Keates. He said he misses his father, so he spends a lot of time outside on the dock watching the water in the bayou flow slowly by. Sometimes he watches friends take turns making the big alligator floor puzzle. When he grows up he wants to be a policeman, because he wants to help people.
Louis’ mother is from Guatemala and his father is African American. His sister is in the hospital awaiting surgery because she walks with a limp. A pre-K class created Get Well cards for Luis to bring back to Terasita. The cards are filled with I Love Yous and hearts. Luis is now visiting the Kindergarten class next door that has a really big map to look at the world. The cold weather had the students scrambling for something warm for Louis' to wear since they noticed he never brings his coat. They found a school sweatshirt and have made him feel very much a part of the class. We are happy to open our doors to these new friends.
—From a librarian in Louisiana
My class includes the persona doll Rahma and we had great fun getting to know all about her and what her life is like as a new immigrant. We have several Somali children in our setting, but none currently in our class. One afternoon I was told we had a new student coming to visit with his parents. He would be joining our class the next day and wanted to meet all of us. When my class met him and saw his mother wearing a hijab like Rahma, they surrounded her with questions about whether she was Somali or Muslim. The startled mother nodded and asked how they knew such things. The children brought Rahma to her and shared her story. While they did this, our new student tugged on my shirt sleeve and when I learned down he whispered, “I know I’ll be safe here.”
—From a kindergarten teacher in St Paul
One of the boys in our class, “J”, is a quiet child, who doesn’t say much. He rarely joins the group for circle time, preferring to sit under the loft stairs. Today one of the dolls came in to talk about adoption. The doll was so excited because she was going to be legally adopted by her parents that day. As we were talking with the doll about her adoption, J popped out from under the stairs, ran over to the doll and said to her, “I’m adopted too!” before darting back to his protected place.
—From a Minnesota child care center
Northern Illinois University has been using the Everyone Matters Curriculum since 2011. After searching for an appropriate anti-bias and social justice resource for use in an early childhood setting, I was thrilled to discover AMAZE. I was attending a NAEYC conference with a colleague and we knew that we hit upon something very special. We purchased the book, along with several of the persona dolls, and it was one of the best investments we have ever made. The book, Everyone Matters, is broken down into sections that provide simple but powerful suggestions for implementing a developmentally appropriate curriculum that is specifically intended for young children. They also provide specific resources (such as children’s books) to enhance the implementation of the curriculum. What we love most about this curriculum is how easy it is to fit into your existing practices, and the focus it has on welcoming and celebrating all families. The teachers appreciate the direct approach of the curriculum which provides them with ways to respond to children’s questions in a developmentally appropriate and non-biased way. They also include activities for parents so they can become involved and educate themselves as the children are moving through the curriculum.
The impact of implementing this curriculum in our program has been significant. Although teachers already have many creative ideas they implement with the children, this resource helped to expand everyone’s thinking on how we can be more intentional in welcoming each and every family. These activities also help to create a stronger home-school connection. One of our favorite activities was to have each family create their own scrapbook page, including family photos and their responses to questions about their family. The premise is to allow everyone to define their own family (which could include extended family, partners, friends, etc.). We then posted all of the photo pages up front for everyone to see and later turned them into family books for each classroom. The children LOVE the persona dolls and treat them as if they are another child in the classroom. One day I borrowed ‘Nick’ for a presentation I was giving and the children all asked where he was going, and said good-bye to him as they would any other child in the classroom. I had to promise he would be back the next day. The persona dolls are used to help children problem solve about classroom issues, explore family structures (especially ones that may not be present in their classroom or lives), and to help children learn classroom rules and common values.
Overall, AMAZE has been a wonderful resource for our staff, has enhanced our curriculum and program practices, and helped our program evolve in significant ways. We tell others about it all the time!
—From a university based child care in Illinois
Just a quick note to say Thank You for coming to share your knowledge with us here at the Department of Revenue. I think I can speak for the iLEAD Team when I say that we really enjoyed meeting you and learned a lot from your presentation.
I have some additional feedback to share with you from the audience:
“I went into the even thinking diversity was just religion and race. I learned that it goes much deeper than that.”
“It was very illuminating and thought-provoking.”
“I really found this presentation to be useful. We do foster care, so it is important for our family to better understand the dynamics of diverse families and what we can do to help address the needs of all our kids.”
“The Q+A at the end was the most interesting. Having the speaker use her (or any) family as an example helped to personalize the discussion and open the group for more questions.”
“Exposure to the types and varieties of families found in Minnesota aids employees to understand better the agency's clientele.”
“Presentation was great. Like the way she kept the audience engaged. I enjoyed the personal examples.”
—Margaret Wabaunsee, Management Analyst
Collection Division, Minnesota Department of Revenue
After working on the Equity Committee, the most common concern I hear from teachers is the challenges in bringing Equity work into the classroom and the AMAZE curriculum is just the tool SPPS elementary teachers need to move anti-bias work from the realm of professional development into education.
As an educator, it is my calling to create a safe, and comfortable environment where all students are understood, resulting in students being vested in their learning and are able to pave a path to success.
Excellent resources that I will be able to use. This is going to help my class- A LOT.
—Quotes from St. Paul, Minnesota teachers about AMAZE's curricula