“The Skin I’m In” inspires museum, personal lessons at Confluence Academy-Old North
“The Skin I’m In” inspires museum, personal lessons at Confluence Academy-Old North
Posted on 02/22/2015
logo“Thirteen-year old Maleeka Madison is tall, skinny and dark-skinned. That’s a problem for her, because it’s such a problem for everyone else at school, it seems. To make her life easier, Maleeka befriends the toughest girl in school. Only, bullies force you to pay more than you’d like, so life for Maleeka just gets harder, until she learns to stand up for herself and love the skin she’s in.”

Seventh-grade students at Confluence Academy-Old North spent weeks reading “The Skin I’m In” by Sharon G. Flake. The young adult book was the center of an English language arts lesson, and included lessons in self-acceptance, self-esteem, colorism, confidence and bullying. It is the first culturally-related book the seventh graders have read together during core class, taught by Anastasia Preston.

Going beyond the old-school book report, students created a book museum to teach others what they learned from the novel.

CAON Book Museum As visitors entered the museum – held in the school gym – they were greeted by Jakaleb Armstrong and Jaheim Williams. Instead of wearing school uniforms, the boys were dressed up. Sometimes, being dressed differently can be intimidating.

Jakaleb said he was a “little scared because so many people were calling me handsome.” The fear subsided. “It feels good. I’m thankful that I’m dressed up like this. It feels like showing respect,” he said.

“I like being dressed up,” said Jaheim. “It’s the kind of person I am. I feel more comfortable about myself being dressed up.”

The Book Museum
A table of handheld mirrors and a silver tray encouraged self-reflection. Posters revealed students’ personalities, and essays gave insight into perspectives learned from the novel.

In one area of the gym, a girl transformed from a student to a teacher.

“What if you have a dark-skinned friend and you had to be separated because you’re light-skinned? How would that make you feel?” she asked.

She paused to listen. She spoke and listened again. “You shouldn’t be a bully or judge people,” she said. The small group talked a little more.

Jayrissa Grayson was intent on making a point. She stood tall and commanded a presence. “I’m trying to teach them how not to judge people by their skin color,” she said.

CAON Book MuseumThe display, titled “The Color Complex,” outlined colorism, judgment and physical features. With examples from “The Skin I’m In,” she supported her points with an energy borne from a personal interest.

“My grandfather is African American. My grandmother is Caucasian. My parents are dark skinned. My grandmother taught me how not to judge people. If you judge other people, they’ll judge you,” said Jayrissa.

To her, the book was “interesting” because she hadn’t “experienced a book like it before.”

“It teaches you to be your own person. You learn lessons against jumping to conclusions and against peer pressure. You learn that you shouldn’t judge people by their complexion or skin tone,” said Jayrissa.

More than a Book Report
“This novel was not just a simple read, answering of questions and a paper assessment. Students participated in self-esteem workshops where they learned how to look themselves in the mirror and see themselves under the surface of their skin,” said Preston.

“The book report museum is an opportunity for the students to teach other students and peers what they learned about the novel, and about being in the skin that they are in by loving and appreciating it.”

“The easiest concept to understand is how important it is to have self-confidence and how it affects our daily lives and future. The hardest concept to understand is that bullying people about skin color is an issue that can be hard to stop, or correct, from a peer’s perspective,” Preston said.

Each attendee was given a compliment and suggestion form. Student attendees ranged from fourth through eighth grade.

“Overall, the museum was received well by the students and teachers who attended,” said Preston. The students “enjoyed learning more about who they are, why having confidence is important, and how not to put others down.”

The book museum served two academic purposes as well. One is to help students transition to the rigor of Common Core standards in English language arts by making them “comfortable learning real-world information, completing and performing project-based assignments, and teaching someone what they have learned,” Preston explained.

The other is preparation for the annual Missouri Assessment Program.

“The upcoming MAP test will be different than previous MAP tests. There will be more reading and more writing to explain what was read and comprehended. The big focus is on reading, comprehension, analyzing and creating from what is read. The connection will allow students to see the realness in what they are doing in school and how the program prepares them for life outside of Confluence Academy-Old North.”

CAON Book Museum

CAON Book Museum