Main Street School students welcomed artist Angélica Dass – the creator behind the “Humanæ” photography project – to their school on March 5. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Irvington Union Free School District
Main Street School students listen as artist Angélica Dass talks about her"Humanæ” photography project. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Irvington Union Free School District

Lessons Of Inclusivity Don't Have To End While Schools Go Online

Children need help reinforcing school messages like inclusivity — especially now while remote schooling in isolation, so parents might look to Main Street School in Irvington whose learning project was inspired by a Brazilian photographer who has amassed a large portrait collection that challenges the way we look at skin color and ethnic identity.

Before the recent closure, Main Street fourth- and fifth-graders watched a Ted Talk, then met the presenter who paid them a visit, Angélica Dass, of Madrid, Spain, who is the creator of the photography work in progress titled  "Humanæ."

It features 4,000 portraits of people from various races and backgrounds. Humanae is currently at the Nature of Color Exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City temporarily closed, but also on her website here and here is where to view the Ted Talk featuring Dass about Humane.

The work helped to foster character-building and build an inclusive environment this school this year at Main Street, said Principal Joyce Chapnick. Teachers bolstered their lessons in inclusivity from activities and books with characters from varying ethnicities.

In addition, through a partnership with the  Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation’s Welcoming Schools program, the children worked on their own school project called "Welcoming Hands," a collaborative art piece to celebrate the inclusion of all students.

Dass at press time was in transit back to Spain and unavailable to tell of her visit, but Chapnick explained her impact at Main Street.

“We are beyond appreciative and thrilled that she connected with us in person,” Principal Joyce Chapnick said. “Her visit further inspired our students to consider how they are kind and respectful of our many identities. Through this work, we have taught explicit lessons in the classroom related to our students’ many identities, including religion, gender, race, etc. We used Angélica Dass' Humanae project as the foundation of our conversations around race," she related.

"As a school, we completed a project celebrating our identities, including race, which was inspired by Angélica's work. Additionally, we spent time reading picture books and having many conversations about race along with our other many identities this year," Chapnick continued. She added that the school works hard to develop its students into becoming "global citizens and maker of change" through these experiences.

Parents can find books for their children through Westchester Library System which has made many online services available during the coronavirus closing. Patrons can get free, unlimited access to Kanopy Kids for 30 days here and TumbleBooks without a library card through Aug. 31 available here. Find out more about library online resources in Westchester here.