The term “affinity group” refers to people who share a common identity, such as gender or race, or a common experience. Participants choose to join an affinity group because they recognize that their shared identity or experience has an effect on the way they understand the world around them. Affinity groups provide a space for reflection, conversation and support from adults who share similarities in experience and identity. The purpose of affinity groups is to create a space where there is positive identity exploration and development in hope to forming a thriving learning and inclusive community. Participation in affinity groups is completely voluntary.
Affinity groups meet a particular identity development need in our community, allowing for opportunities for students to create a better understanding of how their own identity, especially one that is not shared by many of their peers, impacts their experiences. By becoming firmly rooted in their own identity, students are in a better position to comprehend the way others move through the world and their experiences. Affinity groups are not meant to replace conversations amongst diverse groups and individuals, rather they exist as another experience within an inclusive and equitable community. Research shows that affinity group spaces are a critical piece for the healthy development of any community or organization.
Meadowbrook Students of Color (MSOC) is the affinity group we have in our community beginning in junior kindergarten and ending in eighth grade, which began in 2011. MSOC is open to students who identify as African-American/Black, Asian, Hispanic/ Latino, Biracial/Multiracial, and Native American. While MSOC is an affinity space for students who identify as students of color, our AWARE curriculum allows all students to reflect on their racial identities.
Junior kindergarten to second grade MSOC is held once a month after school while third grade to fifth grade MSOC happens during lunch once a month and sixth grade to eighth grade MSOC also happens during lunch on a bi-weekly basis. In each gathering and in an age appropriate way, identity development is explored through books, videos, conversation and activities. Some past examples are:
JK - 2nd grade: A read aloud of “Mango, Abuela and Me”, a story about how Mia’s abuela leaves her sunny house with parrots and palm trees to live with Mia and her parents in the United States. One night while reading a book together, Mia discovers that her abuela is not able to read the words in the book because they are in English. Soon after Mia begins to teach her abuela English and Mia learns some Spanish too along the way. This story led us to a great conversation about our own families! We heard from several friends that they, too ,speak other languages at home beside English such as Gujarati, Korean and Italian!
3rd -5th grade:Each student received a small box with pieces of cut paper where they wrote down a piece of their identity that others wouldn’t know about them by just seeing them such as “big sister, soccer player, only child, vegetarian, etc”. As a result, students realized that they hold gifts that they can share with others around them.
6th - 8th grade: The group discussed the topic of cultural appropriation in reference to the choice of Halloween costumes by utilizing examples of the “We’re a Culture Not a Costume” campaign created by Ohio University.