Roots and Wings by Stacey York is an amazingly resourceful and inspiring book for your home and your classroom. The author give tangible guidance on bring culture into early childhood programs including themes and lessons across a variety of areas. I highly recommend the book.
How to Bring Culture into the Classroom
Place a four or five colors (choose from colors like white, red, orange, yellow, brown or black) out for the kids to explore. Encourage them to mix the colors to create new colors. Encourage them to try to create a color that matches their skin.
Ask children to touch their hair and to look at their hair in the mirror. Ask them to describe it. Then show pictures of how people from around the world use hair to express themselves and their culture. This Sesame Street clip: I Love Hair is an excellent conversation starter. If you can, gather wigs, scarves, rubber bands, hair clips, turbans and other items to create different hairstyles.
Simply look at images from around the world and ask questions. Take time to either print out images and prepare cards or simply call your child over to your computer. I found this great Pinterest board called “People/Faces from Around the World” that is a good resource. This site's around the world project is also very interesting. If you google “houses around the world” or “food around the world” you will find good images for the exercise. This book Children Just Like Me: A Unique Celebration of Children Around the World is excellent too.
What is Different?
Gather images of African American children, Hispanic children, Euro American children and Asian American children. Start with images that exemplify the most obvious differences, then move onto the more subtle differences. Kids may want to sort into similar and alike. Encourage them to do so. I have found Melissa & Doug's Create-A-Face Pad to be a great basic learning tool in discussing skin color differences.
My MEIPN instructor demonstrated a fabulous lesson to introduce the concept of family to children. All you need is a basket preferably with a cover or deep enough so you can reach into it and various “people”. I purchased Pretend & Play Families. The figures are detailed and fairly “real” looking. I purchased Black, Asian, Hispanic and People with Differing Abilities. Start by asking the children what makes a family. Then introduce various types of families using these figures: “This is Joe. He is married to Bill. They have a daughter, Melissa. They are a family.” or “This is Rosa. She lives with her grandmother, Helena. They are a family.” The possibilities are endless.
Mothers & Babies
This activity introduces similar features and similar cultural heritages. You need images of mothers & images of babies from around the world within various cultures, an image of a cat and her kittens, card stock and a glue stick. Prepare the cards and invite the child to match mother and baby. Ask what is different about the mothers' faces, then ask why the child chose that mother to go with that particular child. Then show the image of the cat and her kittens. Explain how she is still their mother even though they might look different from her.
Crack the Egg
I saw this diversity activity on Kids Activities Blog and fell in love with it. Take a white and brown egg. Ask the children what they notice is the difference between the eggs. When they answer the color, crack the egg open and show the children how the eggs are the same on the inside even though they look different on the outside.
Bread Tasting Party
This one might be my favorite. Go to the grocery and gather various “breads from around the world” such as naan, corn bread, tortillas, matzo, pita, scones, etc. Introduce the name of the bread and from which culture it originates. Then invite the children to taste it. Talk about the traditions of those cultures. Maybe even make your own bread together. I love this learning activity because it brings in the senses and is truly hands on. If you don't have access to the breads, then seek out images from a library book or the internet.
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