Grades 3-5
Social Studies

So Many Skin Tones!

Students explore the diversity of skin tones around the world, and reflect on (and challenge) their perceptions about skin color.

Activity Partner
Total time estimate:
15-20 minutes
Activity Objectives
  • Students will watch a video about the diversity in skin tones around the world, and how people from different ethnic backgrounds can share the same skin tone  
  • Through this activity, students will challenge perceptions around labels and meanings that they associate with skin color

This activity supports the development of the following
social-emotional skills: self-awareness, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.


Engage students in a conversation about race and ethnicity. You might say: "Race refers to a group of people who might share physical characteristics, such as their skin color, facial features, and hair type. Ethnicity refers to the culture, customs, and traditions that are shared by a group of people, such as language, religion, nationality, and heritage. In short, we inherit our race, and learn our ethnicity." 

Then, lead a discussion about the diversity of skin color by watching the 4-minute video below with your students. Consider using this language from "All the Colors We Are" by Katie Kissinger to introduce skin color to students: “When we think about someone’s race, we may associate it with the color of their skin. Our skin tone comes from our family and how close we live to the equator, as well as melanin, which is ‘tiny grains of coloring’ in our skin. If we have darker skin, we have a lot of melanin. If we have lighter skin, we have less melanin. When we spend time in the sun, this can activate our melanin, making our skin darker.”


After watching the video, engage students in a discussion by asking the following questions: 

  • What labels and meanings do people associate with skin color? Why?
  • Did you notice that people can have different ethnic backgrounds, but still share the same skin tone? Was this surprising to you? What does this mean in terms of how we associate skin color with race?
    (Rewind to 1:29 to see an image of people that share the same skin tone color - Pantone 58-7 C)
  • In the video, skin tone is described as the color of “a pancake,” “chocolate,” “the inside of a banana,” “leaves of trees,” and more. Did you see anyone in the video with a skin color similar to your own? How did this make you feel?
  • What is the biological basis of skin color? How is skin color an adaptation that reflects the geography and temperature of where we live and where our ancestors are from? 
    (Note: students may need to conduct research to learn more about this topic)
  • How do you feel when you discuss race and ethnicity with others? How can we make everyone feel valued and respected for who they are, and celebrate everyone's unique identity?

This activity was created in partnership with Project 2043 and the Greater Good Science Center.

Did you finish this activity? We'd love your input.