McLean's Brain

Celebrate Diversity!

It's a Small World After All

I grew up in a small town near Ottawa, Ontario. Needless to say, cultural diversity was more of a stick than a branch or tree. When I moved to Hamilton, I was finally exposed to a more diverse population. This was certainly evident in the school system.

During a professional development day, we watched this video clip from the book If the World Were a Village, by David J Smith and Shelagh Armstrong. Though at the time it was intended to be used for Mathematics, It certainly put things in perspective.

Ch. 0: If The World Were A Village
When teaching reading, we are supposed to activate prior knowledge so that students can create connections and make sense of what they are reading. If we provide text that does not do this, we are going to have learners who are disengaged. We must also create new knowledge for students who may not know or understand the customs and beliefs of others. Finally, we need to teach the historical impact that others have made on this planet, such as contributions of First Nations peoples in Canada. It is important that our school libraries and classrooms have diverse literacy resources that are representative of all cultures. Talk to your colleagues and people in your community, and share resources. The Internet is a great place to start, but the personal touch when it comes to cultures makes a huge difference.

Creating a diverse and inclusive classroom environment means that everyone feels valued and a part of something bigger than what they are. When students and staff feel like they belong, they are willing to take more risks. This type of environment will always lead to learning. Check out this Inclusive Classroom Checklist for additional ideas!

Global Focus

Not only is it important to celebrate our differences, but we must also focus on things we share. This is why teaching environmentalism is hugely important. There are a limited amount of resources on our planet, and they need to be sustained. One of my favourite books for teaching enviromentalism is The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss. Though I prefer the book, here is the link to the original animated program.
The Lorax (original)
This past year also offered some amazing opportunities to celebrate diversity on a global scale. We used the 2014 Winter Olympics as a platform to learn about different cultures and compete in a variety of modified Olympic Winter Sports. Students chose a country, did some research and decorated their classroom door like their adopted country. Considering the 2015 Pan-American games will be held in Toronto (and Hamilton!) next year, we will have another authentic opportunity to learn about games and customs from other nations. Check out this OPHEA Site to plan your own activities. Get connected, have fun, and make a difference!
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