January 15, 2012

Celebrating Diversity

Celebrating Diversity

I am absolutely fascinated by the cultural diversity of my class. I have 15 nationalities represented in my class of 21 students: American, Japanese, Swedish, British, Australian, French, Tanzanian, Israeli, Finnish, Brazilian, Indian, German, Dutch, Nicaraguan and Polish.

I wrote to the parents that I was interested in celebrating their cultural holidays as a way to share and learn about our cultures. The Indian parents expressed an interest in celebrating Diwali, the Festival of Lights. I was thrilled.

My students are really curious about each other’s cultures. I believe these projects help students and parents to value and appreciate each other’s cultures in a meaningful and authentic way.

The Indian parents and I talked about Diwali to the students. We made candleholders with tissue paper pasted on glass jars. We placed them all on a big table in a circle, turned off the lights and lit the candles. We held each other’s hands and wished a life full of happiness and light. The atmosphere was magic. The picture does do justice to the feeling of the moment because of the flash.

I understand that in your class you might not have such a rich diversity as I do as I teach in an international school. But, you can always create a stage for celebrating diversity. You can ask a friend from a different culture to come to your classroom and share a special holiday with your students. Or you can visit a museum and focus on one culture, or link up with another teacher from another country. There are many ways to allow your students access to diversity without having it present in your class. However, if the experience is linked to real people it adds a whole new dimension to it.

Candleholder Project

Paste pre-cut pieces of colored tissue paper on the outside of small glass jars.
Students were free to choose their colors.
I usually model the process and show the final product so students can see what is going to happen. 
Individual differences on the completed project are much valued and appreciated.