Multicultural classroom activities for children are now becoming a necessity because of educational institutions having children from diverse cultural backgrounds under its tutelage. In a society where political correctness is a significant factor in showing respect and sensitivity to cultures other than one’s own, the participation of educational institutions is highly important in molding children to develop cultural sensitivity. As Gonzales-Mena and Pulido-Tobiasen pointed out, the formative learning of children begin prior to starting kindergarten and teaching children not to be prejudiced at an early stage and reinforcing these lessons will teach them to become appreciative rather than fearful of differences.
However, holding a child’s interest can be really tricky. It is very rare that you can hold a child’s attention for longer than five minutes. As such, it is important that learning institutions develop strategies in trying to teach cultural sensitivity to children. One of the most effective means is through multicultural games for children which can have them interact with one another in a more personal way. One such game is Bafa-Bafa which requires a minimum of 12 participants and a kit for the teacher. In the game, the children are first instructed what to do and then two cultures will be formed: the Alpha and the Beta culture. The former represents a culture that is grounded on relationship, bears an eminent context as well as a powerful in-group and out-group culture. Beta will represent a culture that is grounded on trading and is highly competitive in this arena. After a few moments of simulating the cultures assigned, some students will trade groups as observers and visitors. After which, the students are debriefed based on whatever stereotyping, misconceptions and misunderstandings they have formulated through the game.
Jane Elliott sought to reveal pre-conceived notions against other people’s cultures when she developed the game “Brown Eyes, Blue Eyes.” In this game the class is grouped according to their eye color: brown eyes and blue eyes. Then, each student is labeled with superiority or inferiority based on their eye color whereupon their racial discrimination tendencies are made to surface. For instance, the teacher can first make the “blue-eyes” group feel like they made the perfect wooden block castle and the “brown eyes” group feel like they really have no knack for constructing anything at all. The point of the game, as Elliott wanted to emphasize, is that racial discrimination is a behavior that is learned and not at all genetic in nature. If children perform such activities with the assistance of a teacher who evaluates what they do, there is a good chance that they will either unlearn previous biases or learn that such biases are irrational and unfounded.
Other multicultural practicum for children can be done via poetry or any type of literature. All a teacher needs is a collection of poems from different cultures. You can make the children act it out. It can be explained that through such literature, people have preserved their cultures. Furthermore, you can explain that these were originally passed down by generations through story-telling. Storytelling is one way of enjoying history especially when the one who relates the story does so in the most animated way.
A classroom with young kids coming from diverse backgrounds who learn best while playing should be viewed by educators as an opportunity to inculcate anti-discriminatory values. When children are enjoying multicultural workshops for kids, they will feel more comfortable being who they are among their peers and in the classroom.
Author Byline: Haliyma Barrow is a freelance journalist with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and a Master’s degree in Public Administration from New York University. Haliyma is a regular contributor of parenting articles covering useful parenting tips such as teaching kids to eat vegetables.