Meet Riley, Peregrine student and activist for UNICEF
Collecting for UNICEF on Halloween was not enough for Riley, age 7. She wanted to do more. So when Riley heard that Peregrine School was having an Arts Festival where artists could sell their work, she made a plan. In her spare time, Riley glued, sewed, and cut 28 felt bookmarks, then created her own table where she sold them for UNICEF, making $80 for the cause.
Riley’s project is unique, yet it fits two important goals which Peregrine School sets for its students: agency and responsibility. Rather than encouraging students to be passive learners, Peregrine School helps students to clarify their passions and talents—encouraging them to take action. These passion-fueled projects often take a philanthropic direction. Through class projects and modeling, teachers encourage our students to take responsibility, at first for themselves, and eventually for the earth.
Peregrine’s teachers are also encouraged to act on their passions. On International Peace Day (September 21), Teacher Jessica Ryan organized elementary students to make peace flags—which now grace our front lobby—and pinwheels which danced in the breeze in front of our school.
Joaquin Rojas, a professional tribal drummer, singer, and now preschool teacher states: “I first came to Peregrine School to do a drum ceremony. I was surprised that my [Chumash] culture seemed to fit right in. This is a place where we could teach the true history of California. This is one reason I decided to teach here, because I can act out my culture through my work.”
Multiculturalism as a part of world citizenship
In a time when divisiveness and hate crimes are in the news, we feel that if children participate in celebrating diversity, it lays a foundation for tolerance as they grow older. At Peregrine School, diversity is intrinsic to both our teaching staff and our student body. This month both sites celebrated an Indigenous Thanksgiving with Native American dancing and singing performed by our teachers Joaquin and Benito Rojas, assisted by various adult and child dancers. In October, most classes celebrated the Day of the Dead, a Mexican holiday, and earlier this month Teachers Kanmani and Ambu brought Diwali, an Indian holiday of lights, to our students.
Sometimes in today’s world, having a strong cultural identity can become associated with nationalism or tribalism, and to a division between groups. It is our hope that by celebrating various cultures with people who identify deeply with them, yet are open to the ideas of others, we can show that being diverse is a positive and exciting thing.
Candice Foster describes her preschool classroom as follows: “There’s not a normal here. All the different cultural experiences our students are exposed to seem interesting and stimulating to them. Later on, when they learn history from books, they will have something to build on.”