Research finds that diverse environments are greatly beneficial to students for many reasons. Experiencing diversity allows us to expand our worldview by seeing, hearing, and working alongside people from different backgrounds. Everyone we meet has a different story. Therefore, the more people, cultures, lifestyles and differences we encounter, the more enriched our own lives become. Diversity encourages creativity and innovative thinking as well. Because a diverse learning environment promotes others’ perspectives, students become better thinkers and problem solvers simply by collaborating with people from various backgrounds.
With schools currently out of session, young learners may not be confronted with diverse experiences. However, there are activities and resources for parents to utilize that encourage children to explore the world outside of themselves. Here are a few ideas of how to incorporate diversity into your summer learning activities.
Originally created by the National Education Association to encourage literacy while celebrating the legacy of renowned storyteller Dr. Seuss, Read Across America has morphed into a year-long celebration of enriching young peoples’ lives through literature. The initiative encourages readers to dive into books that introduce characters from all over the country, which enables children to explore American culture in its many forms.
There are countless lists of recommended books for any reading level available online, but parents may want to curate their own list to ensure that children are discovering unfamiliar cultures, underrepresented communities, and unsung heroes across the United States.
2. Online Exhibits
COVID-19 has certainly thrown a wrench into many summer plans and activities. Museums, however, have done a wonderful job of creating digital exhibits and online experiences for learners of all ages. One great way to learn about other cultures is by exploring their origins.
Teens can explore the vast history of WWII and Jewish culture by “touring” the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
The National Museum of Natural History allows explorers to tour every exhibit, room by room.
The National Women’s History Museum provides online exhibitions, as well as oral histories of notable women throughout history.
The National Museum of African American History and Culture provides interactive guides and resources for visitors to digitally explore the countless artifacts, historical moments, personal histories, and much, much more.
The National Museum of the American Indian also allows visitors to take a look at the true story of Pocahontas, view tribal wear and hundreds of artifacts, listen to firsthand accounts of the Native American experience, and explore plenty of other historical moments before the United States was established.
3. Celebrate the Arts
Exploring and celebrating diverse cultures means experiencing other communities on many different levels — from art, music, dance, to food and more! An easy way to introduce children to other parts of the world is by bringing their traditions into your home. Consider using one night per week to “taste your way” through an unfamiliar part of the world.
As a family, you can research traditional ingredients and methods of cooking, learn about the type of clothing children typically wear to school or at home, read up on the various utensils and table settings, and listen to traditional or popular music. Another idea is to have children select a country on a world map and have them be the experts of that country. The best way to test your knowledge of something is by teaching someone else! Help them with the initial exploration by providing guiding questions such as:
What do children from this area or community do for school lunch?
What is a typical “birthday treat” in this city or community?
What type of music is played at a family celebration?
What produce is native to this area? How do they prepare it?
What similarities/differences do you notice between your favorite American foods and their customary cuisine?
During this time when physical travel is limited, make it a point to experience the world with your children through reading, research, and new recipes!