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Diversity, Cultural Competence, and the Holidays

Celebrating the holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas are not just about adding a cute book and activity that might hit a few countries. Many countries such as the United States are culturally and linguistically diverse and as we work to find ways to be inclusive, we must often times take a giant step back in order to see the big picture. 


Holidays do not look the same for every one of our students. I might eat turkey on Thanksgiving while other families might not. The holidays provide us a unique opportunity to learn more about each other while being culturally inclusive. This allows our students to share a bit about themselves, as well as form new relationships or friendships with students that might be similar or different them they are. By finding new connections we can see each other in a different light.

What is cultural competence? 
It is our ability to interact and communicate effectively with people of different cultures and to learn to understand in a positive way of our own world views as well as the views of others

How can we be culturally competent educators?
1. Ask questions (how do you celebrate this time of year?)
2. find out how your students celebrate or don't celebrate traditions (find ways to ask students and parents)
3. find alternatives to holiday celebrations such as giving, kindness, and friendship
4. Get families involved (let them share a family heirloom, activity, or recipe for example)
5. Share community events with families
6. Read great picture books that represent traditions or themes that you are focusing on
7. Find ways to incorporate cultural identity by finding new ways to have students share


Why learn about traditions?

Learning about traditions as well as other holidays celebrated by classmates broaden students’ awareness and understanding of the world around them. We are all similar and different in many ways. Learning about traditions that others have such as holidays around the world allows us to celebrate those similarities and differences together and can shed a new light on what makes us unique and special!

For me, I can teach science and STEM together as we learn about seasons and weather along with the different countries that celebrate differently and how they might have similar traditions that we can relate to. 

How do I add science to cultural diversity lessons? Not all countries have four seasons. Not all holidays are celebrated in wintertime. Not all places in the world look the same. Teaching geography is a great way to connect our learning about others and other places.  Learning about holidays around the world is the perfect opportunity to learn this concept as well.

Culturally Competent Ideas For November

In November, it is Native American Heritage Month. Find time to educate your students on the traditions, customs, music, dance, food, and stories of the native tribes in your state(providence) as well as the tribes in your country. 

A great site for teachers needing resources and ideas is found here: Native American Heritage Month Resources

Teach the different points of view of the Wampanoug tribe and the pilgrims. How do you think both groups felt? What are the historical facts that allow for everyone's history to be represented. It is imperative to educate ourselves as educators and present the first Thanksgiving as it truly was. Here is a site that might help you with that: Everyone's History Matters: The Wampanoag Indian Thanksgiving Story Deserves To Be Known


STEM Connections

Find ways to tie in hands-on engineering projects that connect STEM to your social studies lessons. Here are three ways to add historical information with teaching character traits such as kindness, resilience, compassion, and being helpful. Sometimes doing the right thing doesn't always turn out the way you intended. This is a great way to work in character building!



Idea 1:  Teaching Lessons on Kindness: The Wampanoag Tribe helping the Pilgrims and the historical side. Older students might be able to even go deeper as they look at point of view: was it a good idea looking back at history that Samoset and Squanto helped the Pilgrims? 

The STEM connection for us is to create a basket out of materials such as: bulletin board paper and masking tape that will carry vegetables from one area to another. 

Idea 2: Teach about Traditions through the building of a table out of materials such as Kiva planks, toilet paper tubes, cardboard, cubes, or to make it a bit tougher, just paper and masking tape again. However, students must add weight to the table, so it must be a strong table. Once the tables are finished, students can add pictures of their favorite celebration food. This allows great discussion on when they eat that food, what holidays they might or might not celebrate and a discussion on what makes us all unique and special!

Idea 3: A Boats That Float STEM Lesson is a great way to bring up the topic of adversity and overcoming obstacles. Throughout history, groups of people have had to struggle with hurdles and difficulties. Right now is a perfect time to allow for discussion on how we all need strategies to overcome something difficult in our lives. 

Idea 4: Have students research the type of transportation that the Wampanoags used to travel. Have them create what they learned using supplies at home or given by the teacher. I would use tongue depressors, straws, masking tape, aluminum foil as a start. 



Grab your STEM Cultural Competence Thanksgiving Pack HERE Today! Looking for more resources to help you be more culturally responsive? Sign up to grab your free resource guide!

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