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Potato Image from Public Domain, CC:0
The Potato Activity SA39
Adaptation of original “Potato Activity” by
To help children understand how people naturally belong to groups based on something they have in common, to recognize the uniqueness of each individual in a group, and to recognize that prejudging people can cause us to miss out on meeting and getting to know wonderful and interesting people.
Time required: 20-30 minutes
A table, a brown paper bag, one potato for each student in the class and one potato for the teacher.
Select one potato for your demonstration and have a story in mind to describe your potato to the class. Hold up your potato in front of the class and say something like
“I have here a potato. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never thought that much about potatoes. I’ve always taken them for granted. To me, potatoes are all pretty much alike. Sometimes I wonder if potatoes aren’t a lot like people.”
Pass around the bag of potatoes and ask each student to take one potato.Tell each student to “examine your potatoes, get to know its bumps, scars, and defects, and make friends with it for about a minute or so in silence. Give it a name, a family, and even some favourite passtimes. Get to know your potato well enough to be able to introduce your ‘friend’ to the group.”
After a few minutes, tell students that you’d like to start by introducing your “friend” to them. Share a story about your potato and how it got its bumps. Then tell the students that the class would like to meet their friends. Ask who will introduce their friend first – or, ask students to pair off a couple of different times, and introduce their potato friend to each other.
When enough students have introduced their “friends” to the class, take the bag around to each person. Ask them to please put their “friends” back into the bag.
Ask the class, “Would you agree with the statement ‘All potatoes are the same’? Why or why not?”
Then mix up the potatoes and roll them out onto a table. Ask everyone to come up and try to pick out their potato “friend”.
After everyone has their potatoes and you have your own “friend” back, say something like,
“Well, perhaps potatoes are a little like people. Sometimes, we lump people of a group all together. When we think, ‘They’re all alike,’ we are really saying that we haven’t taken the time or didn’t think it important enough to get to know an individual person. When we do, we find out every one is different and special in some way, just like our potato friends.”
Ask students to think about groups at school or in the community that we tend to lump together. If they have trouble thinking of groups, you may want to prompt them with some of the following groups:
- kids who live in rural area, city, suburb, etc.
- kids who live in a house, apartment, etc.
- kids in band, sports, chess club, etc.
- kids of a certain religion
- kids from a certain racial or ethnic group
- girls, boys, tall, short, etc.
Use groups that are relevant and meaningful for the school/community you are addressing.
Discuss the following questions:
1. When we lump everyone from the same group together because of something they have in common, and assume they all have the same characteristics, what are we doing? What is this called?
2. Do you know a lot of people from the groups we tend to lump together? Do they all fit the stereotype?
3. Why are stereotypes dangerous? What can we lose when we assume all of the people in a group are the very same?
4. How can we act differently when we see someone who belongs to a group, or we meet someone new who belongs to a group about which we know very little?
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