The Many Shades of Our World

K, 1, 2

Should skin color matter? In this lesson, students discover that our skin color comes in many shades. Students analyze the importance of physical characteristics and characteristics of character. They discover that although our skin color and other attributes make us unique, we are alike in many important ways as well. We all have the same basic needs of love, belonging and being treated fairly.

Lesson Rating 
PrintThree Forty-Five-Minute Class Periods

The learner will:

  • recognize that our skin colors come in many unique shades.
  • compare and contrast the ways that people are different and alike.
  • discuss how our differences enrich our world.
  • explain how Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream can become a reality in our classroom, family and community through commitment to the common good.
  • read-aloud copy of the book, All the Colors of the Earth by Sheila Hamanaka
  • paper plate and paint brush, one per student
  • paper or plastic cup of water, one per student
  • multicultural tempura paints (The Washable Crayola Multicultural Set works well and can be ordered online.)
  • paint cups for each group filled with the multicultural paints (number the cups and label with color name)
  • plastic spoons for each paint cup
  • soufflé cups (ketchup cups for fast-food restaurants)
  • paper, pencils and other art materials
  • mirrors
Home Connection 

Have students bring home their writing for final editing and writing on a final-copy paper.

  • Kirk, David. Little Miss Spider at Sunny Patch School. Scholastic, 2000. ISBN: 0439087279
  • Hamanaka, Sheila. All the Colors of the Earth. William Morrow and Company, 1994. ISBN: o688170625


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Gather the children in a reading circle. Read aloud the book "All the Colors of the Earth." Stop and discuss the concepts as you read. When finished reading the book, tell the children that although you are all in the same classroom, no two skin colors exactly match, just like the picture of the group of children on the last page of the book. Each person is unique and wonderful. Tell them that we will explore what shade of skin each has.

    Teacher Note: Depending on the level and maturity of the students the teacher may want to supply 5 representative skin shades rather than having the students blend the colors.

  2. Demonstrate through trial and error how to blend two or three paint colors on a paper plate to attempt to match your own skin color. (Number each paint color so it is easy to keep notes about which colors you mix to get your own unique color.) When you have mixed your skin color pretty closely, compare this paint to the skin of other students. The students will see that each person’s color is unique.

  3. Explain that even though people may be described as a certain color (such as black, brown, or white) there are many different shades of each color. 

  4. Divide the children into small groups and provide each group with the labeled cups of skin-colored paints. Have the children spoon out small dabs of the different colored paints on their plates. They mix them two or three at a time to create the colors that closely match their own skin color. Be sure to have the children record each color they used to make up their own skin color. It might be helpful to have a parent volunteer or teacher’s aide at each group to help the children mix paint and record the colors as they are mixing.

  5. Once the children find their exact skin color match, they should each make a larger sample of their skin-colored paint (enough to fill a soufflé cup).

  6. Pass out paper for students to create a self-portrait using the pre-mixed skin color paint and other art materials (for hair and facial features). When finished, have the child write, "I am (skin colors)." For example, "I am cream, peach and mauve." Hang or set out the finished product to dry overnight.

  7. Day Two:

    Distribute the finished, dried, self-portraits back to the children. Have them form a circle on the carpet. Have children go around and quickly show their self portraits and state their unique skin color to the class.

  8. Lead a discussion comparing students’ similarities and differences. "Look at how many beautiful, rich shades of color we have in our room; we create a rainbow of kids with all of the shades of us. We are all unique in many ways. There are ways we look that make us different." Make a list of attributes the students name (eye color, skin color, height, gender, ethnicity, etc.).

  9. There are also ways we act and spend our time that make us different. Brainstorm things that make us unique, such as foods we like, practices from our different backgrounds, interests, abilities, and families. Add to the list the unique qualities they name (good at sports, likes to read, comes from China, has four brothers, etc.).

  10. Point out that we are also alike in many ways. Brainstorm things that make us the same, such as character, feelings, hopes, basic needs, etc. Make a second list of the qualities they name (want to belong, feel sad, need food, need friends, want a fair chance, like to be warm, etc.).

  11. Have a meaningful discussion about how to treat each other. 

    Ask the students to look at the two lists and decide which words describe what is important about our friends. Should we focus on the things that make us different or the things that make us the same? Are they both important? What should determine how we treat each other? What does it mean to treat each other fairly?

  12. Say, "Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream that all people would be treated equally and fairly, regardless of skin color." Ask, "What do you think Dr. King would say about the activity we just did?" How does our activity help the common good of the classroom?" (Comments should include that Dr. King would have liked to see that kids of different backgrounds work together equally, and that we appreciate the differences we have, instead of separting into groups of like-minded people.)

  13. Day Three

    Have students write a short poem or description to attach to the self-portrait, explaining how diversity is a positive influence in our world. See the assessment section for a grading rubric.

    Create a hallway display with the self-portraits titled, The Many Shades of Our World.


Writing Rubric

3 Points: The child clearly organized and expressed the idea in one or more sentences that diversity has a positive influence on society. The sentences should express through examples why diversity enriches our lives in many ways.

2 Points: The child writes that it is important to have diversity, but the ideas are not organized well or do not support the concept.

1 Point: The child gives examples of diversity, but does not express a point of view or make a statement.

0 Points: The child does not complete the assignment or does not conclude that diversity has a positive impact on our world.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark E.3 Describe a benefit of group cooperation.
    2. Standard PCS 02. Diverse Cultures
      1. Benchmark E.2 Discuss the importance of respect for others.
      2. Benchmark E.4 Demonstrate listening skills.
    3. Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
      1. Benchmark E.3 Discuss the importance of personal virtue, good character, and ethical behavior in a democracy.
    4. Standard PCS 07. Skills of Civic Engagement
      1. Benchmark E.2 Discuss an issue affecting the common good in the classroom or school and demonstrate respect and courtesy for differing opinions.