My daughters go to an amazing school. Not only have the teachers and school administrators been willing to learn about my oldest daughter, Jaimie’s, special needs, and worked with me on accommodating her, they’ve also worked hard raising awareness for Jaimie’s needs through communication and understanding. Their focus on creating respect for differences among us is what made me know that my children were in the perfect hands.
Jaimie’s school has a great mixture of children of varying needs, cultures and religions. The teachers realize that if we talk openly about what makes each of us ‘different’ or individual, a mutual respect is created among the students. This is an amazing thing for so many reasons but mostly because it can dramatically reduce bullying.
We as parents try instilling these values at home but it’s amazing when schools are on the same page. Using Jaimie’s recent study of the Inuit people, I’ll show you how schools can teach child about other cultures and religions in ways that are fun, interactive and easy-to-understand:
(Note: Jaimie is in Grade Two so you may have to adjust some of these activities to suit younger learners.)
Begin with reading. Almost all kids love being read to. And when the teachers at Jaimie’s school begin talking about a new culture or religion, they start with reading a book about it at ‘Circle Time’. This gives the opportunity for kids to ask questions while the teacher is reading or for the teacher to spark an interest.
Include the new subject in general classroom routine. Shortly after reading a story about Inuit people, Jaimie was given Inuit words in her spelling lists (eg: Inuit, Nunavut, canoe, etc.) as well as for subjects for writing assignments.
Include books for ‘free time’ reading. When the kids are finished work early, they usually get to read or do extra writing. Jaimie’s teacher included extra books about the Inuit people and their way of life on their classroom bookshelves. This gives kids an opportunity to explore new ideas in their own time and by their own choice.
Field trips. A fantastic way to learn about another culture is by going to a museum or some other artifact institute. Jaimie’s class was fortunate enough to have people native to Inuit-dressed in their authentic clothes-come to their classroom with actual tools, clothing, games and other items. They spoke about life up North, showed them different forms of art (which Jaimie loved!), taught them some words in Inuit and shared what a ‘typical’ day would be up there. The kids got to ask questions, interact with the presenters, touch and play with the items and learn hands on what it was really like.
In class projects. The kids got to make pictures of Inukshuk statues, listen to and dance to Inuit music (including artists from Inuit, including Susan Aglukark) and wear the clothing. Jaimie’s favorite subject is art so this was loads of fun for her.
Further discussion. The kids brought homework home such as Word Finds, Crosswords, extra information sheets, home reading, etc. so that there could be a connection between what they’re learning at school and home. This sparks conversation at home, which helps to further increase awareness, tolerance and understanding of others.
My daughter’s school has worked very hard in advocating for learning about each other’s differences through education. I think they’re doing a phenomenal job teaching about various cultures in ways that are fun and exciting to children. I know that my Jaimie, who understands first-hand what it’s like to feel different, has appreciated the efforts made by her school in making her feel accepted, loved and appreciated for who she is, not disrespected for what she isn’t. And I also know the other students in her school appreciate it too.