Class Family Tree
Butcher paper (any color)
Paint brushes (optional)
The class family tree is a large wall display of a tree using the teacher’s hands along with the children’s hands to create the tree, once the tree is done you add pictures of each child’s family to the tree to make a combined classroom family tree. The purpose of this activity is to display that each student and their families are important and involved in the class. This activity requires some teacher prepping to be ready for the children’s additions. This activity also requires a few days to finish, one day painting the tree and a few more to add the family photo’s. Here are the steps:
1. Staple 2 layers of butcher paper to the desired wall (size: gauge how much space you need depending on your class size)
2. Each staff member paints their hands and uses their hand prints to create the trunk of the tree.
3. Introduce the tree to the children and explain that they will be adding the branches with their hands.
4. Have 3 or 4 students at a time paint their hands and create a branch, then at the end of the branch have them do two hand prints like so:
(As each child finishes their branch be sure add their name to their hand prints. Have a staff member helping with washing hands, and the finished children can observe or move on to another activity.)
5. After the tree is finished let it dry, then send home notices for each family to have the child collect and bring in photos of their family to add to the tree the following day.
6. Have children sit in a circle around the tree; call on each child to present their photos and tell the class who is in them. Then staple them to the tree where that child’s hand print is.
7. Continue to do this until all the pictures are up.
8. After the tree is finished it can be used to begin or aide in discussions about families. Be sure to refer to it often and base activities around the class family tree. You can also read books about families to relate back to the class family tree; these are two books you could use:
The Family Book
By, Todd Parr
Fathers, Mothers, Sisters, Brothers
By Mary Ann Hoberman
This activity I made up myself. I created it by combining my love for classroom decorations, and supporting/displaying each child’s family. I chose this because it is a fun and creative activity that can be the focal point of the classroom, and it will also generate many class discussions about families. There can be many variations of this activity; for example, the children can do individual trees and present them on the walls, the staff can make the tree without handprints, the staff can add their pictures to the tree, the tree can change with the seasons, new pictures can be added, etc...
This activity is age appropriate for children ages 3-8 because they aren’t being taught “facts about a certain culture (York. pg 187), they are seeing all the different cultures within the families of children around them. They are also exploring and experiencing making the tree with their whole bodies and senses. (York. pg 188) By seeing touching a creating the tree with components of themselves they have a deeper connection to the tree as well; they know that they are a part of the tree. The only hard part with this activity is the amount of time it takes; it can be very difficult to keep younger children engaged in the painting of the tree portion because they are waiting their turn or have already finished. The process in making the tree can be adapted to fit with any schools schedule or time frame though.
The theme that this anti biased activity falls under the family category, but it also can be related to I’m me and I’m special and our community because it is giving each child a chance to show their unique family and it’s also connecting all the other children with diverse families in the community. This activity also promotes a strong relationship among staff and families. The handout “Anti Biased Education for Young Children and Ourselves” states that “…collaboration has the benefit of providing more effective anti-bias education for the children and a richer, more complex, and more effective experience for the adults.” So by involving the parents in this class family tree they can be involved in the classroom setting; which builds that strong relationship needed to support anti biased education. This is also an activity that can be used and referred to often so it is giving children many opportunities to better understand the ideas behind the class family tree. With anti biased education it is important that children are given multiple ways and experiences to better understand the concepts you are presenting.
This activity meets most of the 4 goals in some way. The main goal it meets is goal 1, which is; each child will demonstrate self-awareness, confidence, family pride, and positive social identities. The children are not only able to experience family pride by having their family photos displayed on the tree, but they are also developing a positive group identity with their classmates. Goal 2, which is, each child will express comfort and joy with human diversity; accurate language for human differences, and deep, caring human connections. Once again the presentation of the children’s families each as part of the family tree helps them to make those deep, caring connections with their classmates. The staff can also have discussions about all the differences the children see in families and help them to develop accurate language to describe those differences. Goal 3 states, each child will increasingly recognize unfairness, have language to describe unfairness, and understand that unfairness hurts. This is a more difficult goal to meet with this activity; however, depending on the things said by the children about different families, the staff can use the importance of all families being equal and why all the families are on the tree as a way to help them better understand unfairness and how to approach it. The last goal is goal 4 and it says, each child will demonstrate empowerment and the skills to act, with others or alone, against prejudice and/ or discriminatory actions. This can be done with the same actions from the staff as I mention in goal 3; if any discriminatory things are said or done about the family tree, the staff can discuss why it’s not ok and redirect these actions.
All in all the class family tree provides a creative way to display each child’s family and home culture within the classroom, while also providing discussions and foundations for other activities that can be built off of it. The staff will be able to make strong relationships with each family and make the families involved in the anti biased education presented. Plus the children will love turning their handprints into a giant tree!