Group 3 – specific subject – tool for history, civic education, language and biology teachers
pupils from 14 to 18, size of a normal class
- To understand why people have different skin colours
20 minutes (or less, can be used as an introduction)
- One glass of white milk
- A spoon
- A package of powdered chocolate drink mix
STEP-BY-STEP DESCRIPTION OF THE ACTIVITY
State that one way people differ is in their skin colours. Ask if anyone knows why people have different skin colours.
Pour a glass of milk and hold it up for the class to see. Ask if anyone in the room has skin as white as the milk in the glass. (The answer should be, “No,” unless there is an albino in the class.)
Inform students that this is because all of us have something in our skin called “melanin,” which is a black substance.
Hold up the package of chocolate powder. Ask students to pretend the chocolate is melanin. Make the following statements as you add chocolate to the glass:
- White people have a small amount of melanin in their skin. (Put a little chocolate in the glass and stir.)
- Brown people, such as those from India, have more melanin in their skin. (Put more chocolate in the glass and stir.)
- Darker people, such as many African Americans, have even more melanin in their skin. (Put more chocolate in and stir.)
Ask students why we have different amounts of melanin in our skin. Inform then that melanin is like a curtain in our skin—it protects our skin from the sun’s rays. We need some sun to help our bodies make and use vitamins, but too much sun will burn our skin. What colour we are depends on our ancestry. White people originated in western European parts of the world, where it was colder; that area did not have much bright sunlight. So, people in that area developed skin with less melanin to take advantage of the smaller amount of available sunlight.
People who lived, let’s say, in India, where it is hot and had a lot of sunlight, developed skin with more melanin to protect them from too much sun. And people who lived in Africa, where it is very hot, developed skin with even more melanin to protect them from the sun’s hot rays.
Ask students which skin colour burns faster in the summer sun. The answer is that people with lighter skin burn more and faster than people with darker skin.
- Does the colour of people’s skin make them good or bad, more intelligent or less intelligent, pretty or ugly?
- What does the colour of a person’s skin tell you about the person?