Our world is shrinking… or at least it seems that way. People all over the world are connecting in more ways than ever before. In the United States, our racial makeup becomes more diverse by the day, with immigrants arriving from Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, and elsewhere to seek out a new life and new adventures. Where public schools were once primarily populated by caucasian American Christians, they are now filled with kids of all races and religions.
It’s a Small World After All
Some like that our country is becoming a more diverse place to live, with many different people to meet, restaurants to eat at, and traditions to learn. Others might seem a bit frightened and wish they could go back to the way things used to be. But no matter what you personally think about the increasing diversity of the United States, the trend toward a more multicultural America is going to continue.
This is why it is important to teach our children about diversity and about people of other cultures. This will help them grow up to become adults who understand and appreciate different types of people. Learning about other countries and cultures has several important benefits for kids:
- Kids who learn about other countries and their cultures will begin to understand and relate to them, removing the fear of uncertainty that people often have about “others”
- Learning about how other people live their daily lives will show kids that the vast majority of people in the world, regardless of culture or religion, are basically good people
- Learning about other cultures is interesting and engaging, and can lead to a desire to travel and explore the world
- In the future, knowing the ins and outs of other cultures will be even more important than it is today, and teaching kids about diversity will help them to succeed in the business world of tomorrow
- Learning about other cultures can lead to an interest in learning foreign languages, something that offers many positive benefits to kids including increased abilities in mathematics and music
5 Ways to Welcome Diversity in Your Classroom
Here are some ways to go about bringing diversity into the classroom:
1. Teach about other cultures, traditions, holidays, and religions. This can be done as part of a social studies class, geography class, foreign language class, or on its own. Recognize and share the holidays of others in addition to “traditional holidays.” Compare and contrast life abroad to life here at home — there will likely be many more similarities than differences.
2. Learn from the students in your class. If you teach in a typical American classroom, you are likely to have students with many different backgrounds. You can have these children teach the rest of the class a bit about where they are from and how they and their families live their daily lives. You can even have kids who were born and raised in North America share their own stories with the class to help new immigrants understand a bit about how people live life here.
3. Welcome guest speakers. The parents of your students or local representatives of international clubs and organizations in your town would likely be glad to visit your classroom to discuss life in the countries where they are from. Many international organizations exist solely to spread awareness of different cultures and religions so as to increase understanding and cooperation.
4. Read books and watch movies from other cultures. Students can learn a lot about life in other countries by doing this. My son and I recently watched The Wind Rises, a Japanese animated movie about a kindly airplane designer who worked during the 1930s and 1940s. It was eye-opening to see and understand how ordinary people lived in Japan, a country that was at that time at war with the United States.
5. Immerse your students in a different culture. This is perhaps the hardest teaching method to accomplish, but it is probably the most effective. Through immersion, kids can almost feel like they are “becoming” the new culture. You could take a field trip to Chinatown, or to a museum to learn about the history of different cultures. You could visit a French café, an Indian market, or local heritage center. Older students can go on trips abroad, organized by their schools. Here in Orlando, Florida we often visit the World Showcase at Epcot.
Our family lived in France and Spain for three years, where our own children experienced two very different cultures. Over the course of three years they also became fluent in French. This was an incredible opportunity for us and for them.
I hope these tips on how to diversify your classroom have been helpful! If you’re interested in using any of our Country Study products or Religion Study products to teach diversity in your classroom, you can find them here: Country Study Products and Religion Study Products.
Yvonne Crawford has taught at both the elementary and high school levels. She homeschooled her own children for seven years and taught high school English and SAT/ACT prep courses. She’s also taught English as a Second Language for several years at schools in France, Hungary, and Slovakia. Follow Yvonne on her TpT store, on her blog Mixminder, and on Facebook and Twitter.