Skills Building: Something Happened in our Town (3-5)

Unit 14 Book - Something Happened in our Town

Written by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins & Ann Hazzard and illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin

Pre- Reading Questions 

  1. What is racism? 
  2. Why is it important to talk about racism and racist systems of oppression?
  3. Have you ever seen someone be treated differently because of their skin color? Have you ever been treated differently because of your skin color? (Hint: if you have white students, challenge them to think of a time that they might have had an advantage because of their whiteness.)
  4. Has there been a crime caused by racism that you have seen on the news or heard about that is memorable to you? How did it make you feel?

Post- Reading Questions

  1. What does it mean to be racist? There are racist people and there are systems that are racist and designed to be oppressive to people of color. Can you think of any of these systems?
  2. What do you think it means to be anti-racist?
  3. What is “the pattern” that Emma and her mother discuss?
  4. What do you think Josh’s dad means when he says “I can use my anger to make things better?”
  5. How can you use your anger to make things better? 
  6. What do Josh and Emma do to help the new kid, Omad, at school? How can you make a difference to help change racist systems?

Creative Enrichment Activity: Our Masks of Difference


In the books, Something Happened in Our Town and A Kid’s Book About Racism, we read about racism, what racism is, and how it might show up in our lives. In this activity, we are going to make masks that represent ourselves and the things that we love about ourselves. At the end of this activity, we will talk more about racism, how we can work towards being anti-racist, and reflect on what we’ve learned. 


  • Mask templates printed on cardstock
  • Popsicle sticks
  • Markers/crayons
  • Tape
  • Scissors 
  • Stickers

Duration:   45 minutes (for staff: 5-minute pre-activity setup, 15-minute prep)

  • 5 minutes: Introduce the activity using the book
  • 15 minutes: Students decorate their masks, older students also cut-out their masks
  • 5 minutes: Clean up
  • 20 minutes: Reflect, share, and discuss racism


  1. Introduce the activity. 
  2. Each student receives a mask template. Staff should pre-cut masks for younger students or students who may have trouble cutting it themselves. Older students can cut the masks themselves.
  3. Decorate one side of the mask to represent the student in some way (their favorite colors, foods, family, sports, etc). The other side of the mask should be left blank. 
  4. Tape the popsicle stick to the blank side of the mask. 
  5. Clean up the materials. 
  6. Reflect, share, and discuss racism.

Reflection Questions

  • Share your mask with your neighbor. How are your masks similar and different? 
  • Have all students flip their mask so the blank side is facing out. 
    • How does it feel if we all look the same? 
    • Now flip the masks, how does it feel now that we all look different? 
    • What would it be like if we were all the same? 
    • You all worked hard on your masks, would you like it if no one noticed what makes you unique and said that you are all the same? How would that feel?

Privilege and Racism Activity

Do this part of the exercise with students in grades 2-5 only, allow PK – 1 students to observe and discuss, if possible, but do not have them participate. Before beginning this exercise, explain to the students that we are going to “role-play” or act and that you are impressed with how hard they worked on their masks and love all of them in their own unique way.


  • “Everyone who used blue in your mask stand-up!” Any color can be used but pick a color that not ever student used. Move that group of students to one side of the space. 
  • “Everyone who used pink on their mask stand-up!” Move that group of students to the other side of the space. 
  • Give each student who used the first color in their mask two stickers and tell them all how wonderful, smart, talented, etc they are. Praise them in an exaggerated way but do not look too closely at their masks.
  • Look very closely at each of the masks of the students who used the second color, give only one sticker to one student. Tell that student that they worked hard but do not praise them like you did the first group
  • Start a discussion (use prompts on the right)
  • Give all students two stickers and congratulate them for thinking hard and reflecting. 

Reflection Questions

  • How did it feel to be in the first group that got two stickers and lots of praise? 
  • How did it feel to be in the second group where only one person received one sticker? 
  • Is it fair that one group got two stickers and lots of praise for just using blue (or the color you chose) on their mask? 
  • Is it fair that only one person in the pink group (or the color you chose) got one sticker? 
  • How do you think this relates to racism? 
  • Explain that racism isn’t just a bad person saying mean words, racism is also systems and laws that are unfair, hard, and create obstacles to certain groups of people and allows other groups to succeed much more easily. It is our job as students learning about anti-racism, to pay attention and notice when and where these systems and unfair rules are taking place, and to stand up for the groups of people who are being treated unfairly. If we are in the group that is allowed to succeed more easily, it is ESPECIALLY important that we use our privilege and our success in these unfair systems to bring light to inequities and unfairness in the system.
Mask Activity1
Mask Activity2