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Lesson to Celebrate Diversity: The Unity Necklace

EducationWorld is pleased to feature this K-6 language arts and communication lesson offered by Cynthia Wand and adapted from School Volunteer Handbook: A Simple Guide for K-6 Teachers and Parents, by Yael Calhoun and Elizabeth Q. Finlinson (Lila Press, 2011).

The lesson plan, shared with the permission of the authors, is a great example of a short activity with simple instructions that appeals to a diverse group of parent interests and teacher needs. The activity is an ideal one for implementation by classroom volunteers.

See other School Volunteer Handbook activities:
A Lesson in Character: Connect With Yourself
Be the Boss: A Lesson Plan On Managing Feelings
Just Add Water: Science Experiments With H2O

About the authors

Yael Calhoun, MA, MS, RYT, is an author and educator who has taught preschool through college. She also has worked as an environmental planner and has written over a dozen books. Currently, she is a cofounder and the Executive Director of GreenTREE Yoga, a nonprofit committed to bringing the benefits of yoga to diverse populations.

Elizabeth Q. Finlinson, LCSW, is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and has worked as a school therapist, volunteer coordinator, and as a private practitioner specializing in children and families. She teaches character education and physical education and is an active school volunteer.


Language Arts (communication), Social Studies (diversity), Health/Character Development


Brief Description

Students use the activity of building a necklace to learn more about each other and explore diversity.


Students will...

  • Incorporate activities of self-expression, acceptance, and creativity in order to explore how individuals with differences contribute to building a stronger unit.
  • Demonstrate that individual differences can work together to form a positive whole.
  • Celebrate the diversity among class members.

Time: 45 minutes

Materials Needed

  • Bowl of different styles of beads to string on a necklace
  • Piece of jute or material (boondoggle) for stringing the beads
  • Small envelope for each student with a small piece of paper in it


  1. Put a small piece of paper in each envelope.
  2. Collect a variety of beads. Send a note home, ask the teacher, or go to a craft store. You may be able to get a donation since a school is a non-profit, but plan for the donation process to take a few weeks.
  3. Make sure the beads fit on the necklace material.
  4. (Optional) Choose a book to read following the lesson (see resources at end).

Lesson Plan

Part 1:  Making the Unity Necklace (10 minutes)

  1. Individual choice. Everyone will choose a bead that he or she likes. Ask students to think about the reason they chose their bead.
  2. Envelopes. Pass out the envelopes and have each student put his bead in his envelope and write his name on the inside flap. Do not seal the envelope, just tuck the flap.
  3. Redistribute. Collect the envelopes and then give each student someone else’s. To keep the interest level high for the following discussion, ask students not to look inside yet.

Part 2:  Discussion Points (35 minutes)

  1. Individual differences: Each of us picked a different bead. We each have different thoughts about what our favorite color might be, what might taste good, or to what music we like to listen. What do you think about that?

    So as we look around at each other, we can see difference among us in hair color, eye color, body size. In what other ways are we different?

    Do you think it would be better if we were all the same? Would that make a better group? Think about a family. Let‘s say that everyone in the family is very good at playing with the younger kids. But no one is good at cooking. How about if everyone is very good at eating dinner, but no one is good at going to the store to buy food?
  2. List: Let’s list on the board some differences about people. For example, some of us are quite helpful, or friendly, or cheerful, or brave.
  3. Challenge: Now here is a challenge for you. Each of you will get an envelope with someone's name on it. Don’t let anyone see whose envelope you have. Take out the piece of paper and write one strength or positive thing you have noticed about that person. Give some examples: A person can be polite, helpful, good at music, or a strong athlete. And yes, sometimes it’s a little difficult to find that positive thing about someone — but take the challenge and try!
  4. Collect the envelopes. Sit in a circle. Open each envelope and read the name and the comment. If it’s not kind, please do not share it. The person who wrote the unkind comment will get the message that it was not appropriate.
  5. Necklace: As you read each one, the student will put his bead on the necklace. Ask a student who needs to be involved (maybe someone with attention issues) to hold the necklace for the class.
  6. Reactions: Why do you think we made this necklace? You‘ve created this teaching opportunity – don’t lose it to a lecture on diversity. Listen to the student ideas. Guide as needed, but let them find the points. Hang the necklace in a central spot.

Keep It Going

Read and discuss one of the following books.

Younger Grades:

  • Henry and Amy by Michael Stephen King
  • I'm Like You, You're Like Me by Cindy Gainer
  • It's Okay to be Different by Todd Parr
  • Leo the Late Bloomer by Robert Kraus
  • Swimmy by Leo Lionni
  • One Green Apple by Eve Bunting (Muslim culture)
  • Mrs. Katz and Tush by Patricia Polacco
  • Molly’s Pilgrim by Barbara Cohen
  • Hooray for Diffendoofer Day by Dr. Seuss
  • Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun or Having the Courage to Be Who You Are, by Maria Dismondy
  • One by Kathryn Otoshi
  • A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon

Older Grades:

  • Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin
  • Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan


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