Differences Days

It's all about empathy

What are Differences Days all about? Ask the fourth graders in Jocelyn Lividini’s class. They had an opportunity to create positive messages for the program. Here’s a sampling of what they came up with:

Unique Week! Differences don't keep us apart. Together Forever Week. We are all in it together. 

They have it absolutely right. Differences Days help students consider the challenges that they and others face, move beyond labels and get to know all of their classmates. The KLSD elementary school tradition was originally created twenty-one years ago by the Special Education PTO (SEPTO) with input from Katonah-Lewisboro special services staff. Parent volunteers have run it annually ever since. 

a buffet of conversation starters and activities for all elementary grades

This year, because of the constraints of social distancing, the one-day, in-person program for second and fifth graders was recreated. SEPTO parents Emma Cabaness and Gia Miller took the lead. Instead of students rotating around stations set up in the school gym exploring physical differences, learning differences and visual and auditory differences, the team shifted the program to classrooms. They created conversation starters and activities for all elementary grades which could be used over the last two weeks of May. They also included neurodiversity and a strong emphasis on friendship.

“We all have differences,” said Cabaness and Miller. “While some of us may have bigger or more obvious differences than others, all children want to have friends and be included."

"Differences Days are an educational opportunity for staff and students," said Bridget Becker, Assistant Director of Elementary Special Services. "They are a reminder that everyone is unique. The activities and topics of empathy and acceptance align with our Social Emotional Learning competencies. The celebration of differences allows students to be more open to new opportunities for friendships and honors each individual for who they are."

High school students start conversation about acceptance

Meadow Pond Elementary School launched Differences Days on Meadow Pond Report, the school’s morning show. Fifth graders Caitlyn and James introduced members of John Jay High School’s A World of Difference club. “They are here to speak to us about diversity and accepting people for who they are,” said James.   

“Our differences are what make us unique,” said Jaimie Siegel, a sophomore. She and the other high school students touched on differences in cultural heritage and reminded the elementary students of the many things we all have in common. “Let’s share our similarities and celebrate our differences."

Meadow Pond Elementary

Katonah Elementary

An interview starts the conversation on physical differences

Fourth graders in Deidre Parkhurst’s class took an up-close look at physical differences. They watched a video in which their classmate, Eli, interviewed Stephen “Stevo” Lawler, a two-time Paralympic champion skier who is in a wheelchair.

The students' attention was locked onto the screen as their classmate explained that the Paralympics are Olympics for athletes with disabilities.

“I bet you’re wondering why Stevo is in a wheelchair and how he can ski,” said Eli. “Let’s find out.” MORE

A class considers range of neurodiversity

“What in your life makes you anxious?” Jocelyn Lividini asked her fourth graders. The students’ thoughtful and honest answers could have come from people of any age.

Being late. Finding something out at the last minute. Bad weather. Seeing videos of bad things happening to other people. Not being good enough. Comparing myself.  Missing out. Taking a COVID test.

Lividini used Differences Days' tools to lead an empowering conversation about neurodiversity, how students can look after their mental health and the long way small kindnesses can go. MORE

Increase Miller Elementary