Below the Surface: Taking a Deeper Dive into What Diversity Really Means and Why It Matters

What comes to mind when you hear the word diversity? Do you think about race? Gender? Financial status? Truthfully, all of these concepts are a part of diversity and more. There is also diversity in experience, thought, and perceptions. Teaching students about the spectrum of ways diversity shows up in the classroom and in life will help cultivate a classroom environment where differences are expected and even celebrated.

Elementary Lesson


Prepare the classroom as an open space so that students can move freely around the room. Pose questions one by one to the group using these questions (or create your own that are similar) and have students who can answer “yes” to each question move to the middle of the room and link arms. After each question and the opportunity for everyone to see who is linking arms for that specific question, have the students return freely to the open space: 

  1. Who has ever lived in another state?
  2. Who has ever been to another country? 
  3. Who has more than two brothers or sisters? 
  4. Who speaks a language other than English at home?
  5.  Who can say “hello” using sign language? 
  6. Who has ever done volunteer work? 
  7. Who likes to swim? 
  8. Who takes part in a cultural dance or music program in our community? 

Continue asking questions such as these until all students have had multiple chances to show how they are connected to each other. 

Discuss as a class: 

  1. Did you find out anything that surprised you? 
  2. Which of these things do you share with your best friends? 
  3. In what ways are you different from your best friends? 
  4. Can you still be friends with someone who has different likes and dislikes than you? 

Explain to students that we are all truly different and that our differences are what makes us unique and interesting. These differences are defined as diversity. 

Finally, divide the class into three or four groups. Challenge each group to prepare a short story drama about several people meeting for the first time, and how they learn about each other and become friends. (Note: You may wish to provide students with puppets to portray their drama to help them take on different personal characteristics.)

Secondary Lesson


Write the following four statements on the board or into a PowerPoint:  

  • I have never had to hide a part of my beliefs.
  • I feel comfortable everywhere I go.
  • People can relate to where I am from.
  • The things I need are very different from what other people need. 

Read each statement out loud, asking students to raise their hand if they can relate to the statement or if they agree with it. 

Next, ask students as a whole class to share out, “what are some reasons why some students agree with these statements and others disagree?” 

This is an opportunity to engage students to think deeply and critically. Encourage students to go beyond obvious answers such as, “people feel differently” or “it’s just their opinion.” 

For example, what types of experiences might cause a student to feel as if they have to hide parts of their beliefs? Ask students to explain why one student might think their needs are vastly different from their peers.

Finally, give students 10 minutes to complete the Getting to Know Me worksheet that provides them an opportunity to identify ideas and beliefs specific to them. Have students break up into small groups of four to share the answers on their worksheets with each other and discuss why it is important to them to have their beliefs and values heard. Then have a group discussion for the whole class to debrief on the activity. It's suggested to hang up the Getting to Know Me worksheets around the classroom for classroom connections.

Teacher Tips

Diversity in the classroom helps students develop social awareness which helps them appreciate different perspectives and draw stronger conclusions. Challenging students to consider different perspectives can also teach them how to interact with their peers on a social level, and equip them with skills they’ll use for the rest of their life.