By Angela Padrón
When you hear the word “culture,” what comes to mind? Perhaps you think of the language, religion, or social habits of a particular group of people. Or maybe you think of the cuisine, the music, and the arts the certain groups of people make and use. Or maybe it’s the social interactions, behaviors, or ways of thinking that people in a region share. In all of those cases, you would be correct.
One of the greatest characteristics of the United States is that it is a nation of immigrants where all religions and cultures are welcomed and accepted. The country’s population consists of cultures from around the world, especially in highly populated, urban areas where historically immigrant communities have settled.
So why is teaching about culture so important? When students learn to appreciate other cultures, they learn about acceptance and tolerance of diversity. In other words, they learn to appreciate the similarities and differences that exist between themselves and others, and how to co-exist in a society in which people who may think and behave differently can get along.
There are several ways teachers can expose their students to culture and diversity, such as:
- Have students look at a map of the United States and research the latest Census data to determine which ethnic groups make up populations throughout the country.
- Have students research the different cultures represented in their town, county, and state.
- Assign each student a different world culture to create a poster and presentation.
- Hold a multi-cultural celebration in which each student brings food from a particular country. Teachers can incorporate math into this lesson by reviewing fractions and measurements in a recipe.
- Create different art projects, such as making musical instruments, masks, paintings, wall hangings, necklaces, or other items related to different cultural groups.
- Choose a different language to highlight each week and teach students words, greetings, and phrases from that language.
- Play music from different cultures and show videos or demonstrate dances that are associated with the music. Then have students try to copy the dance moves or write a list of adjectives to describe how the music makes them feel.
- Discuss ways people in different cultures greet each other, as well as actions that are not customary. For example, in some cultures, you can only shake with certain hands, or in others, it is customary to kiss someone on both cheeks when greeting them.
No matter which activities you choose, it’s important to remember that culture doesn’t have to be taught just during cultural awareness months. Culture is something that all children should be exposed to on a regular basis. By doing so, you will not only be exposing your students to fascinating information, but you will be showing them how to appreciate the diverse world in which they live.