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Celebrate Diversity Awareness

Janelle Cox

 

As a teacher, you should always educate students to respect differences among people in the world by providing them with activities that promote racial and cultural awareness. The activities and classroom games outlined below promote tolerance and understanding, and can help familiarize students with different religious and ethnic traditions.

Activities that Promote Racial and Cultural Awareness

Elementary Students

In the early years, children begin to develop social skills, ask questions, and enjoy exploring other cultures. Around age 7 or 8, children begin to understand racial consistency and are aware of racism. They are able to empathize as well as have feelings of shame. They can also feel pride for their heritage and understand that people can be a part of many different groups.

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Here a few activities/classroom games to help encourage elementary-age children to accept and celebrate their differences.

Fingerprint Differences

An easy way to show young children that all people are alike and different is to have them compare and contrast their fingerprints. Have each student press their fingers onto an ink pad and stamp them on an index card. Then have students take a magnifying glass and discuss how their fingerprints are alike and different. Point out how everyone has the same lines on their fingers, but that each fingerprint is unique and on one has the same fingerprint.

Names from Around the World

Help children feel positive about their cultural identity by encouraging students to talk about their cultures and traditions. Encourage students to discuss with their families the traditions that only they do in their culture, and what name they call their grandparents. Then, as a class, have students compare and contrast how each students' culture is similar and different. Ask each student to come to the front board and write down the name they call their grandparents. Create a chart that displays each grandparents’ name and where it originated from. Then ask students to watch and see who uses the same name as they do. Students will be fascinated to discover how alike and different they are.

Sample grandparent names:

  • Situ (grandmother), Gidu (grandfather) = Lebanese
  • Oma (grandmother),  Opa (grandfather) = German/Dutch
  • Nonna (grandmother), Poppi (grandfather) = Italian
  • Busia (grandmother), Dzia (grandfather) = Polish
  • Abuela (grandmother), Abuelo (grandfather) = Spanish

Middle School Students

Middle school-aged children are at a greater risk for being bullied because of their race or heritage. You can help children discover that people from different cultures hold similar values and beliefs as they do.

Use the following activity to help middle-school students accept and respect differences among all types of people.

Tolerance of Differences

For this activity, have students sit or stand as you say each statement. Students who "love" your statement must stand up, and students who "dislike" your statement must remain sitting (tip: Have someone record all of your findings on the front board). Read each of the statements below and allow time for students to look around at their classmates after each statement is presented.

Statement/Concepts:

  • Sports
  • Hip-hop music
  • Pizza
  • Rock ‘n’ roll
  • Musicals
  • Action movies

After you have announced each item, come together as a class and ask students if there was a time during the activity that they felt differently about the concept stated, and why. Have students pair up and discuss how they can still be friends regardless of how they answered the questions. Discuss as a class how some things unite us together and other things divide us.

High School Students

A growing number of neighborhoods in the United States contain mixed races and cultures. It's important for today's youth to be able to interact and work with people of all cultures and race. High school students need to be able to accept and have an understanding of all people regardless of their diverse backgrounds.

Here is an activity that will help high school age students explore prejudice and discrimination.

Prejudice and Discrimination

This activity will help students become aware that everyone has experienced some type of discrimination. To begin, divide students into small groups. Tell students their goal is to go around the table and each talk about the following statements.

  1. Discuss a time when you experienced prejudice or discrimination.
  2. Discuss a time when you discriminated someone in your life.
  3. Discuss a time you witnessed someone being discriminated against and helped them.
  4. Discuss a time you witnessed someone being discriminated against and did nothing to help them.

Once group discussions are over, come together as a class and share stories. Make a point to go first to show students that you too have experienced prejudice and discrimination in your life.

Do you have any activities that you would like to share that promote diversity awareness? We would love to hear your ideas in the comment section below.

Janelle Cox is an education writer who draws on her 15 years of professional experience in the education system. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com, where she provides educational information and lesson plans for teachers around the globe.