The 5 D’s of Bystander Intervention

With the trial of Derek Chauvin in the news, as well as numerous stories of horrible aggressions toward Asian-Americans here, I have spent a lot of time in the last couple of weeks thinking about how I would handle such a situation as a bystander. I am not brave, by any means, but would like to think that I would find some way to try to help the victims – especially considering my own past of being assaulted while people stood by.

I am grateful to have recently discovered these resources from Hollaback, “The 5 D’s of Bystander Intervention.” The organization provides training on using The 5 D’s, so if you belong to an organization that could partner with them, you may want to reach out to them to see if they can help your community. In the meantime, just reading through the 5 D’s along with examples has helped me to feel more empowered to act if I encounter a situation. Before seeing these, my first impulse would probably have been, “Direct,” which I would then cower away from because I am terrible with confrontation. But I now see “Distract” as a better option – not only for me, personally, but also as more likely to de-escalate a situation. Unfortunately, that would not have helped in the case of George Floyd, but neither did “Direct.” The bystanders in that case, especially the brave young woman who chose to “Document” what was happening, were unable to save Floyd from being murdered but did what they could. They will forever be haunted by what they witnessed, but those who attempted to stop this tragedy will at least know that they stood up instead of just standing by.

It would be helpful to give direct training to young people, at appropriate levels for the age groups, so that they practice using each method and identifying when each would be the best to use. We tend to give students mixed messages by telling them to “Delegate” (inform an adult of the problem) but then accusing them of tattling, and we definitely don’t do enough to teach them the “Distract” method, which could help them when dealing with peers.

The best we can do in education is work hard to eradicate prejudice altogether, but in the meantime we need to help children – and adults – to understand the strategies we can use to undermine it in our presence. Some other helpful resources for this are, “Racism Interruptions,” and “The Bias Toolkit.”

I will be adding this post to my growing collection of Anti-Racism resources. Please take a look, and feel free to offer suggestions!

Your True Colors

You may have noticed that I’ve been playing around with re-designing this website, which has included trying different color schemes. I keep getting sidetracked as I teach myself different tools, and though I’m fairly proficient when it comes to technology, I have a lot more to learn about design. I think my attempts at creativity hurt my husband’s eyes whenever I ask for his opinion so my drafts range from rebelling against his traditional perspective with crazy rule-breaking combinations to realizing that it’s not really my goal to blind my readers.

I’ve done different units on color with various age groups, from investigating the science behind it and writing poetry with my 5th graders as we read The Giver, to teaching about Color Theory in my Principles of Arts high school class. Along the way, I learned about Canva’s free Color Wheel tool, how to assess my color IQ, and Color Theory for Noobs. We examined websites like this one to see how different colors can evoke different emotions.

Since then, I’ve learned about Adobe’s Color tool, which can extract color themes from a photo you upload, or allow you to choose colors and find pleasing additions to create your own theme. If you subscribe to the Creative Cloud, you can even save those palettes in your libraries to access from your Adobe products.

I also learned about Coolors, where you can explore palettes that are trending, or generate your own. On any of these sites – Canva, Coolors, Adobe – you can copy the hex code of any color and paste it as a custom color in presentations you are making.

So, teachers and students can use these tools to improve their designs. But you can also use them for introspection. @WickedDecent shares a Slides activity to use with students where they identify their own Personal Color Palettes. This would go well with another activity my students used to do where they designed their own “Character Strength Floorplans.” Or, you could extend the idea by having students design color palettes for historical figures or book characters, justifying their answers with researched evidence.

Another way to go (especially if you are using yesterday’s post about dining traditions) is to explore what colors mean in different cultures. The Kid Should See This has a great collections of videos on this topic. And if you really want to delve deep into all things colorful, this 5-Minute Film Festival includes videos and multiple resources.

orange yellow green and blue abstract painting
Photo by Steve Johnson on

Don’t Gross Out the World is Back!

When I had the good fortune to win a grant to visit Japan about 20 years ago, I received a packet of etiquette rules to study before the trip. One that was firmly lodged in my mind was to never leave chopsticks standing up in your food, as this is a ceremonial act seen at Buddhist funerals. I’m still conscientious about this decades later, and it was one of the many things I learned that serve as a reminder how easily we can offend people if we don’t take time to get to know what is important to them. I wish that every person could go on a trip to a foreign country to give us this perspective, but in the absence of that kind of experience it is fun and important for students to learn about diversity in cultures around the world. Way back in 2016, I wrote about an online quiz called, “Don’t Gross Out the World.” Players could learn about food traditions that might seem strange in their native country but are the norm elsewhere. At one point, the game disappeared and I updated my post with a link to a video of someone playing the game instead. However, FunBrain just commented on that post yesterday that they have brought the quiz back. I updated that post, but here is the new link in case you don’t have a habit of reading my blog articles from 5 years ago. Your students will enjoy guessing the answers, and you might learn a few new things – as I have whenever I play!

plate of sashimi
Photo by Christel Jensen on

Design for Change

The single most impactful adjustment I made to my curriculum in the later decades of my teaching career was to make room for students to work on issues they chose that were interesting and relevant to them. This was scary for me because I never had any idea where the year would lead me. But I learned so much along with the students that the risks I took and mistakes I made were definitely worthwhile. One year, my small 3rd grade class decided to investigate overfishing for their Genius Hour project. (I always did a group Genius Hour project with my 3rd graders because it was their first year doing major research in Gifted and Talented, and my classes in that grade level were generally tiny.) If you had asked me at the beginning of the year about my interest in overfishing on a scale of 1-5, I would have said 0. But these students were all passionate about the ocean, and that is where their interest took us. Weeks into their research, I was just as committed and concerned as they were – especially after our Skype session with a journalist covering the issue.

From that project to many others that I could describe where students were making plans to solve real-life problems, the message was clear – when students see the value of their work, they are much more engaged and ultimately become more empowered. This is where the Design for Change website could help you. Instead of starting from scratch as my students and I did, you can begin with a framework that is chosen by your students. With racial justice, educational equity, and climate change as the three main topics to select from, they can then find out more from podcasts and other materials that have been curated to guide them on paths toward making positive contributions toward our world as they learn. Whether you want to do a long-term unit, or focus on “Empathy Warmups,” “Design Sprints,” or “Community Action” individually, the free resources on this website – including a teacher platform to monitor progress – will give you much more support than I ever had when my students initially began passion projects.

Design for Change has a site for the United States and a global site. Both boil down the Design Thinking process to these four steps: Feel, Imagine, Do, Share. The global site even provides toolkits written for specific countries in their major languages. There are also options for using the materials virtually or in face-to-face environments.

Though we can’t always do this in education, I found that engagement comes quicker if you start from a place a student already values rather than working to convince a student, “this is what you should value.” But students often need to investigate a bit to realize what is important to them, and this is where Design for Change can help.

use your voice inscription on gray background
Photo by Polina Kovaleva on

Peep Your Science

I must admit that I enjoy a good pun every once in awhile – though some may argue that “good pun” is a contradiction in terms. Regardless, the people at The Open Notebook appear to have a sense of humor along with an appreciation for science, prompting them to host a “Peep Your Science” contest for 3 years in a row. Inviting entrants to submit science-themed dioramas featuring something nearly as passionately loved or hated as puns – marshmallow Peeps – this contest demonstrates how enthusiastic creators of all ages are about science and/or dioramas and/or sugary, pastel-colored candy.

You and your students can see the 2021 entries in all their glory (and vote for your favorites), from Jane Goodall Studying Chimpeeps to the Peeprona-19 Vaccination Clinic by clicking on the links near the bottom of this page. Challenge your students to see what they know about each scientific reference, to make a timeline of Peep-o-ramas, or to design their own. I think we all need a tad more light-heartedness right about now, and a glimpse of a Peepriodic Table is just what this not-a-medical-doctor-in-real-life-or-any-parallel-universe-ever has ordered.

Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

My Heritage

We may fear artificial intelligence with all of its potential harmful uses, but as with all technology it brings benefits as well. One of those is being employed by a website called My Heritage. A site for tracing and keeping records of your ancestry, it has recently added a new tool called, “Deep Nostalgia.” You can apply it to your photographs in order to animate them, and it can be quite enchanting. Of course the intent is to help you to imagine relatives from the past as they might have been when alive. But I played around with it to see how historical figures could be brought to life.

Since it is Women’s History Month, I looked for a website that listed past women who have made an impact on the world. I came across Bessie Coleman, the first Native American (she was part Cherokee) to get a pilot’s license. I was drawn to Bessie’s smiling image because it reminded me of some of the teenagers I taught in the past, and I immediately wanted to know her. I downloaded the following photo from Wikipedia.

I then went to My Heritage, where I had already created a free account, and uploaded the photo to my album. When you open a photo in your collection, you see an option to animate it in the top right corner. It takes a few moments to “apply its magic,” and then your video appears. There are several different ways to animate the image, so you can play around with trying different movements that seem to fit the personality of the portrait. When finished, it is saved to your album, and you can share it multiple ways, including downloading it.

Don’t you wish you could meet this young lady?

Of course, my curiosity is never quenched, so my next attempt was to find an image of someone from history before photography existed. I found a drawing of Boudica, legendary warrior queen, uploaded it to the site, and waited with skepticism. However, this also produced amazing results. I haven’t tried rudimentary drawings, like stick figures, but I have a feeling there are probably limits to this artificial intelligence tool.

My Heritage also has an app, so you can use pretty much any device to animate the images. The videos are short, but just long enough to make you feel like you are glimpsing through a window into the past. If I was a history teacher, I would definitely use My Heritage to help my students connect to people who may seem irrelevant and unreal (if they are even mentioned) in the pages of a textbook.