My Family comes From...
"Culture is a powerful force that shapes our lives. Culture is who we are on the inside. It is the set of values, beliefs, and behaviors shared by a group of people. Culture gives us roots. Cultural traditions give our lives meaning, stability, and security. Culture is dynamic and alive, and it changes slowly over time. Culture is transmitted through families from one generation to the next" (York, Pg. 60).
"My Family comes From..." is an activity for children ages 3 and up. It focuses on the identification of one's own culture, identification of other children's home cultures, recognizes the concept of homelands, and explores the similarities and differences in family structures and home languages. I chose this activity because during the preschool years, children form many ideas about the world that will stay with them for their entire lives. For this reason, it is very important to teach from a multicultural perspective. Teaching diversity means helping children understand that people come in all types of shapes, sizes, colors, and family structures and it is these difference that makes each one of us special for who we are. Not only does this activity help highlight each child's individual identity, it also helps build acceptance for the diversity they come across throughout their lifetime in school and within their community.
According to the Roots & Wings textbook on page 188, this anti-bias activity is appropriate for preschool aged children because it allows children to actively explore their own cultural backgrounds, as well as others, by interacting with a variety of people. This activity does not teach the children about facts on a particular country or historical concepts, but allows them to explore the cultural identities of themselves and the children they interact with on a daily basis. They are exposed to similarities and differences and also learn about the daily lives of people they know. They can learn the concepts of culture and family structures, as well as understand the importance of equality and respect.
"My Family comes From..." contains a variety of themes including Families, My People, Changes, and Communication. This activity includes many of the concepts that are listed from the handout, "Multicultural Concepts Young Children Can Understand". It teaches children that everyone is worthy. Allowing each child to explore their own cultural identity and share their cultural background in a book for others to see, provides them a feeling of self-worth and pride in who they are. This in turn allows them to accept diversity in others. This activity also shows children that families live in different ways. Learning about differences in family's daily activities, eating habits, language, and cultural customs allows children to expand their understanding of the many lifestyles and customs that are present in today's society and also gives them the understanding that these differences are acceptable and encouraged. The "My Family comes From..." activity also provides the concept that culture comes from parents and families. Children can begin to compare and contrast their traditional family values with those of the other children and begin to understand why they do things the way they do and learn where these customs and traditions originated from. Learning about the foundation in which ones family originates helps in the development of a child's self awareness and understanding of diversity at much larger scale.
"Culturally relevant activities strengthen children's connections to their family and home culture." (York, Pg. 191)
The "My Family comes From..." activity addresses many of the goals for an anti-bias curriculum. "Multicultural education provides children with a message that it is all right to be different, differences are good, and people deserve to choose how they want to live" (York, Pg. 134). In turn, this activity integrates the goal to learn to recognize, appreciate, and respect the uniqueness, beauty, value and contribution of each child. This activity also incorporates a human relations approach, which focuses on teaching children how to make and maintain good relationships with children of different ethnic groups. It helps in addressing the goal of fostering self awareness, positive self-esteem, communication skills, and social skills (York, Pg. 132). This activity also associates with a single-group studies approach. This method is based on the belief that knowing oneself is the beginning of understanding and accepting others (York, Pg. 133). The "My Family Comes From..." activity institutes the goal of global awareness and learning and appreciating other diversity within cultures.
How to incorporate the "My Family Comes From..." Activity to your classroom
- Colored construction paper (12 by 18 inches)
- hole punch
- felt tip pen
- photographs of children's families
For this activity you will help children make a book to record his/her family history and culture. Ask family members to send in pictures of the child, parents, grandparents and extended family members to include in the book. The book can also include information such as which family members came to the United States, what country they came from, languages spoken at home, simple words or greetings in their family's home language, favorite foods, and customs practiced at home. Each page could also include drawings and responses to the following questions:
- Who are your people?
- What's the name of your ethnic group?
- Which ancestors came to America?
- When did they come here?
- Where did they come from?
- What languages does your family speak?
- What are your favorite foods?
- Which foods do you eat most often?
- What are some cultural customs practiced in your family?
- How do you feel about your culture?
- What do you like best about your culture?
Variations of this activity include collecting information about families by asking parents to fill out a family questionnaire or even invite family members, such as grandparents, to the classroom. Ask them to bring in an item from their home culture, tell a story, or teach the children how to prepare a traditional cultural dish. I have also discovered a few books you can read to the children that focus on cultural diversity.
"Char Siu Bao Boy"
Written By Sandra S. Yamate & Illustrated By Carolina Yao
"Char Siu Bao Boy" is an Asian American classic that looks at peer pressure to conform versus cultural pride and teaches children that it is OK to embrace their own culture that might be perceived as different by others.
"One Green Apple"
Written by Eve Bunting & Illustrated by Ted Lewin
"One Green Apple" tells the story of a young girl who just immigrated to America from an Arab country and how she discovers that her differences are what makes her special. In 2006, "One Green Apple" won the inaugural Arab American Book Award for books written for Children/ Young Adults.
Although I am professionally not a teacher, I am a mother and see myself as my children's personal educator. It is crucial to begin multicultural and anti-bias education at a young age and incorporate diverse and cultural relevant activities into their daily lives. Culturally relevant activities strengthen children's connections to their family and home cultures, while diversity activities help foster each child's positive, empathetic interaction with diversity among people. Once a child is comfortable with their own cultural identity, they are able to understand and accept differences in others and thrive as an anti-bias individual.