Developing a Multicultural Curriculum
by Carolyn Brush, Judie Haynes
Read about River Edge, N.J. teacher Carolyn Brush and her successful multicultural curriculum. This program combines teaching students about world cultures with the talents of the diverse student population.
A second grade "Around the World" curriculum
It has long been a goal of multiculturalists such as James Banks to integrate the study of the cultures of the world into the mainstream curriculum of our schools.
This article is about one program which was particularly successful. This multicultural "Around the World" curriculum expanded the 2nd grade Social Studies curriculum of communities and continents to include world communities and people. It is taught across disciplines so that the "Around the World" theme extends into language arts, science and math. Decorative arts and expressive arts are included as well. Thinking skills are developed through the comparative study of various cultures.
Classroom diversity is starting point
What makes this practice innovative is that it teaches not only the regular second grade Social Studies Curriculum, but adds the distinctive cultures of the students who are studying it. The curriculum changes from year to year depending on the make up of the class. When themes such as houses, clothing, holidays, folk tales, music, games and dances around the world are developed, the teacher can choose different communities to study each year so that the backgrounds of the children in their classes will be reflected. All the themes are not covered every year. For example, teachers might decide to study games around the world and include a demonstration of games from the cultures of the students in the class. Another year they may want to capitalize on the skills and interests of the class parents decide to include a unit on decorative or expressive arts.
Taking advantage of natural resources
Families with diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds have stories and experiences that are unique. These experiences are used to help all children in the classroom begin to understand other cultures. This knowledge of the cultures of their classmates helps students to learn to respect diverse cultures. Teachers are taking advantage of the natural resources that are in the classroom.
Help students develop pride
High student achievement is fostered by this program. Students from diverse backgrounds develop pride in their heritage. When they see their home cultures and languages being studied in the mainstream classroom, they feel that their culture has been validated. This helps to develop positive self esteem in culturally and linguistically diverse children. All students in the class develop pride in their origins and are encouraged to study and share them. They gain a greater understanding of world cultures and world geography.
Benefits for ESL students
The second grade classroom that pioneered this program was located next to the ESL classroom. ESL students always stopped to see what was on the walls. They became excited whenever they saw something from their country or even their continent. And they felt really good that their language and their culture were being studied in an American classroom. These walls impacted on not only the ESL students who came to class, but on any student from another cultural background who walked down the hall.
Easy program replication
This program is easily replicated at any grade level where a link can be made to the social studies program. If a particular class doesn?t have a diverse background, those students can study their diverse heritages. Students can also study the cultures which are represented in the surrounding communities.
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