Sunday, December 9, 2012

International Mindedness in the Holiday Season

Sendai, Japan in the winter

I began thinking about this post topic today while reading the section about perception in Engaging Minds. I was particularly moved when the authors talked about how a participant in the research study brought to attention Christian symbols in the school. (p. 53) They talked about how we can sometimes dismiss these claims as not getting into the spirit. But it is really?

The winter holidays here in Japan look a lot like they do in the U.S. There are decorations all around, people are out and about shopping, and there are lights put up all over the place. Every year our school does some caroling with traditional and non-traditional songs. They are even sung in different languages. It can make one feel as if everyone is on the same wave length about what it all means.

My class is currently in the middle of learning about Fairy Tales, and for part of this unit I want the kids to practice acting and performing. So, before the unit started I decided to use some cardboard tubes to make a forest.

I had some 3D shapes hanging in my room from the last inquiry about geometry, and wondering what to do with them, the trees, the holidays and the shapes came together - I decided to make one of the trees into the shape of an evergreen and hang the shapes from it.

I made it, taped it to the wall, and hung the decorations one evening after all the students had gone home so the next morning they came in and were excited. This brought up all sorts of connections they had to the holidays - about what they do in the holidays, the decorations they have in their houses, and their own trees.

This is when I looked at one boy right in front of me. This boy is a from a devout Muslim family. So devout in fact, that a few weeks prior had to cancel school lunch for a day because it contained pork. (That's when I learned why he usually brings a lunch from home.) He is also a textbook TCK (Third Culture Kid) with parents from different countries and the family living in a third.

Realizing he probably does not have a tree at home, I asked him what his family does around this time. Do they have any decorations?

He said they have a wreath.

That was perfect I thought. It was a way we could use the hands we had made in our unit on culture. The kids traced their hands on paper the color of the flags where they are from. We used the hands to make a wreath that we are hanging in the front of the room.

  • This brought up a good observation from the same boy referred to above about how all the colors of the hands we made have the colors red, white, and blue even though the students took colors from many different flags. (It also gave me an idea to do a graph of the colors in the worlds flags since we are studying graphing in Math now.

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