By Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer & Chief Marketing Officer, Curriki
Did you know that April is Celebrate Diversity Month? It was started in 2004 to recognize and honor the diversity surrounding us all. Organizers hope that by celebrating differences and similarities during this month, people will gain a deeper understanding of each other.
Today, teachers have a bigger responsibility than ever to celebrate diversity in the classroom and help every single student feel accepted. This month presents a unique opportunity to teach students of all ages how to be respectful to all kinds of people throughout the year.
You’ll find religious holidays that reflect the beliefs of a huge range of people in April:
- April 5: Ram Navami is a Hindu festival commemorating the birth of Lord Rama, a popular deity in Hinduism.
- April 9: Palm Sunday, a holiday recognized by Christians to commemorate the entry of Jesus in Jerusalem, launches Holy Week leading up to Easter, marking the resurrection of Jesus, on April 16.
- April 11 – 18: Passover is an eight-day festival commemorating the Jews’ deliverance out of slavery in Egypt.
- April 14: Vaisakhi (also spelled Baisakhi) celebrates the founding of the Sikh community as the Khalsa (community of the initiated) and the birth of the Khalsa.April 22 – 23: Lailat-al-Miraj is a Muslim holiday that commemorates the Prophet Muhammad’s nighttime journey from Mecca to the “Farthest Mosque” in Jerusalem where he ascended to heaven, was purified, and given the instruction for Muslims to pray five times daily.
- April 21-May 2: Members of the Bahai Faith celebrate the Festival of Ridvan, which commemorates the 12 days when Baha’u’llah, the prophet-founder, resided in a garden called Ridv.n (Paradise) and publicly proclaimed His mission as God’s messenger for this age.
(Source: Diversity Best Practices.)
Education to the Core offers 6 ways to celebrate diversity in the classroom. They include:
- Build Trust
- Involve students
- Have a feast
- Involve parents
- Bring in books
- Global pen pals
Education Week, in a wonderful article by Marcia Powell, shares four big ideas for celebrating diversity.
- Big Idea 1: Rethink your assumption that differences don’t matter.
- Big Idea 2: Tap into the power of stories and storytelling with your students.
- Big Idea 3: Set clear expectations for respect.
- Big Idea 4: Admit that students need a village of stakeholders.
Powell says, “Ideally, the active struggle to celebrate and honor diversity has created not only a richer and more successful classroom, but a more tolerant school that models civil behavior for our communities.”
ASCD, a global community dedicated to excellence in learning, teaching, and leading, says that teachers can celebrate students’ cultural strengths by integrating multicultural lessons into the curriculum. The article says it’s not just about tolerating differences – it’s about including everyone, so that all students feel they are in a safe space to learn and grow.
“Building students’ cultural knowledge involves more than just planning a one-off cultural day, although those types of activities can be extremely useful and fun. It is important to integrate lessons and activities that convey a range of multicultural perspectives,” explains writer Willona M. Sloan in an article entitled Celebrating Students’ Diverse Strengths.
Sloan says it’s also important to recognize the family values students bring into the classroom from their home life. Here are some ideas she offers for integrating cultural lessons into the classroom every day:
In language arts classes, integrate new readings by authors from different countries.
- Develop math problems using examples that represent diverse names and situations. (e.g., A train in a word problem could leave from Mumbai instead of New York.)
- Teach lessons about scientists from different nations to enlighten students about scientific discoveries and innovations around the world.
- Plan cultural demonstrations that build meaningfully on lessons in social studies, language arts, music and geography.
- Label classroom items in a variety of languages.
- Hang artwork that represents diversity.
Curriki’s Diversity Resources
Curriki has a wide variety of curricula to help you teach diversity in your classroom or homeschool.
- Start with yourself. For teachers to improve their own cultural competence, Reflections from Teachers of Culturally Diverse Students teaches teachers empathy and cultural conference, making the initial observation that approximately 40 percent of children in U.S. public schools are from culturally diverse backgrounds, while only 22 percent of preschool teachers are culturally diverse – and this was 15 years ago. It says, “A cultural mismatch between teachers and the children they teach can result in uncomfortable classroom experiences for some children and teachers. Unlike many children who arrive at preschool and elementary classrooms and find familiar environments and teachers who speak their same language (English), many culturally and linguistically diverse students may feel like they are moving ‘from one world to another’ as they go from home to school.” Use this lesson to learn how to make your classroom comfortable for everyone – including you.
- Diversity includes more than 54 slides in a PowerPoint presentation discussing what diversity is and why it is important.
- Diversity Activities for Youth and Adults and More Diversity Activities for Youth and Adults are two collections of hands-on activities to help learners of all ages discover how people from different backgrounds and cultures hold similar values and beliefs.
- Mathematics Activities from Diverse Cultures incorporates diversity into your math lessons.
- Celebrating Cultural Diversity: Science Learning for All–An Introduction talks about three elements necessary for a truly multicultural science-learning environment: the sense that all students can learn and do science; the view that each student has a worthwhile place in the science classroom; and an appreciation for the contributions of all cultures to our scientific knowledge.
There are many more; just search for Cultural Diversity on the Curriki website. Feel free to upload your lessons as well!
I think the biggest takeaway from Celebrate Diversity Month is that we need to be honoring diversity in our classrooms year-round to respect and enhance the learning of all of our students.
Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer & Chief Marketing Officer, leads and manages all of Curriki’s content development, user experience, and academic direction. Learn more at Curriki.org.