America is often described as a “nation of immigrants”. Not only do we have cultures from all over the world, we create our own. Children grow up learning the customs of their heritage as well as the cultural practices prevalent in America today. In some parts of the country, the multicultural classroom is synonymous with the American classroom. The result tends to be a culturally rich environment within which children can engage in and learn from the cultures of others. “The holidays” tend to be a great time to encourage this exchange of ideas and practices. Not only does this exchange teach cultural sensitivity and curiosity, it is a fun activity with which to wind down the calendar year.
Here are a few ideas for introducing culturally relevant activities into the classroom:
- Ask kids to tell the class a story of how their parents or even their grandparents spent the holidays. Alternatively, they could tell a story associated with a particular cultural holiday—a folk tale or myth. The stories may surprise you and are bound to both teach and entertain.
- Have the children create calendars for the following year with various holidays and cultural events listed on them. Don’t pass up the opportunity to create an ongoing process of cultural learning.
- Introduce new, culturally diverse classroom reading choices. Ask student’s to contribute ideas for reading material associated with their heritage.
- Throw a last day of school “holiday party” and ask parents to contribute food and drink traditional to their heritage. Ask them to join in and explain to kids what they’re eating and how to eat it.
Be welcoming and supportive of children’s contributions and encourage questions from other children. Make sure to be inclusive of all customs and cultures and that each is given equal resonance. But most of all, throw caution to the wind and have fun with it! Cultures are meant to be appreciated and enjoyed and the best way to teach that is to show it. Happy holidays!