Despite the great diversity of the San Francisco Bay Area, we still face the challenges of segregation and prejudice, as well as inter-group tension and violence. In 1954, the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education initiated the process of widespread desegregation of American schools. Fifty-five years later, a 2009 report of The Civil Rights Project at UCLA revealed that schools are more segregated than they have been in over four decades, and that school segregation is growing. Our children continue to grow up surrounded by stereotypes, often with little or no exposure to those different from themselves. This dangerous situation breeds ignorance and fear, feeding prejudice and hatred, which in turn fuel violence and further segregation. The Mosaic Project works to break this cycle.
Many schools offer programs that attempt to address issues of difference, but these often do so in a theoretical way within a relatively homogenous environment. Most experiential programs that bring together students from diverse backgrounds wait until youth are in middle or high school when negative attitudes can already be entrenched.
The Mosaic Project, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, strategically unites students of diverse backgrounds in our unique human-relations Outdoor School. We reach young people before they leave the shelter of elementary school for the larger, more complex environment of middle school. We assist them in developing the self-confidence and tools to succeed as they encounter more people and more diversity in this new environment and throughout their lives.
The Pyramids of Hate & Peace
[Pyramid of Hate graphic] [Pyramid of Peace graphic]
The Mosaic Project works to dismantle this pyramid of hate starting at its foundation and chipping away at each supporting level, including violence. Our work aims to transform the pyramid of hate into the pyramid of peace.
Research in Contact Theory supports our strategy, stating that under the right conditions, contact between members of different groups can reduce conflicts and prejudices; however, simply placing a diverse group of students together is not enough to break down stereotypes and prejudice. Students also need to be together for prolonged periods of time; be treated as equals; share common goals and have opportunities for cooperation, collaboration and positive, noncompetitive interactions with one another; and feel like their intermingling is supported by mentors and authority figures. In addition, issues of prejudice have to be directly addressed.
Research suggests that the more of these factors in place, the more likely people are to overcome their biases (Fiske, 2008; Van Laar, 2005). Effective communication and collaborative conflict resolution strategies also support healthy integration across communities of difference (Maznevski & DiStefano, 1996). The Mosaic Project’s Outdoor School has every one of these factors in place.