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Celebrating diversity in the classroom during the holiday season

The classroom of today is generally a mix of vibrant cultures, communities, languages, and practices. It is a diverse environment to which everyone brings their unique backgrounds and perspectives.

That diversity can also extend to how we celebrate the holidays. This time of year can be a great starting point for providing students an opportunity to learn about their classmates who might celebrate this time of year in a way that's different from what they're used to and how all can enjoy and honor those traditions.

Lessons in diversity

How should we teach and celebrate diversity in the classroom during the holidays? What should educators do to make sure they're inclusive of the various cultures and communities, and what should a celebration look like? Here are a few tips on how to make the holidays a time for students to learn and embrace the cultures around them.

diverse studentsThe holidays can be a great time to celebrate the diversity that exists in your classroom.

Acknowledge the differences
It may seem like a nice observation that treats everyone equally, but making a conscious effort to see everyone as the same and be "colorblind" may not level the playing field as well as you might think. EdWeek stated that in trying to ignore the differences that are connected to nationality, ethnicity, or gender, you may be dismissing a key part of a child's personality and heritage. For some children, their holiday celebrations may be one of the few times they express their religious or cultural customs - their "story." In addition, being "colorblind" to racial, cultural, or gender differences may only be an attempt at avoiding uncomfortable situations or discussions, according to Psychology Today. Being "colorblind," author Monnica Williams, Ph.D. stated, is to deny a person's racial and cultural experiences and ignores their unique life perspective.

Encourage visual/audio storytelling
ColorinColorado said telling the story of children's heritage through visuals and audio not only lets them develop their oratory skills but also shows items that are a key part of their cultural identity. Whether it's a special flag, a unique piece of clothing, or even a recording of special music, letting them display or present these items as a part of a holiday celebration can bring the culture to life and let the children share their family history in a personal way.

Cultural food festival
A celebration that includes some of the signature dishes of a child's culture can be an event that gets everyone actively involved. Children not only get to share something special with their classmates but other students are exposed to foods they might not otherwise encounter (remember to take into account possible food allergies). In addition, families can become involved in actual cooking of the cultural treat as well and the school can even consider making the event open to family members. For pre-K and kindergarten students who may not be ready to help cook a dish, they can simply talk about their favorite foods and learn more about where the dishes originated.

Incorporate books
To help students understand cultures that may not be represented in class, the teacher can incorporate books that highlight various cultures or offer a different community perspective. These books can be discussed alongside those that focus on a more "mainstream" view of the world to find out what things are being left out about the role of various ethnic groups or cultures.

Show the common themes
Finally, in addition to discussing the differences, also discuss the similarities between the holiday celebrations. Seeing the broader but similar themes like family, tradition, and reverence can demonstrated that despite the differences, the various nationalities and cultures are more alike than they might realize.

An inclusive classroom that celebrates the diversity of the holiday season can increase awareness and acceptance. However, remember that celebrating diversity should be embedded into your program all throughout the year and not just during the holidays. Discover how you can incorporate lessons of diversity into your school's holiday curriculum, by enrolling in ProSolutions Training's online course on Diversity and Differences: An Anti-Biased Approach to Teaching Diversity." Contact us to find out more.