Passports: Crossing Cultural Borders
In this activity, students in grades 2-12 will identify where they (or their families) come from on a map. Based on the countries where they and their classmates are from, they will create a list of places to "visit" and receive a passport (Download passport template)to help them record where they have been and what they have learned.
Students will earn stamps to fill their passports. To do so, they may participate in or set up activities, read books, write a story, play games, listen and respond to music, view and create art, watch video presentations, visit community resources, interview community and family members, conduct first person and/or media-based research, taste food, visit places and more.
The greater the number of activities the students participate in related to a certain country, the more points they will earn on their passports. The goal is to motivate students to want to earn points, learn more about all the countries, and put the cultures around them into sharp and pleasurable focus.
Students who fill in all the passport areas in one country may become ambassadors -- sharing what they know with others. Newcomers can be Special Ambassadors -- sharing language, experiences, photos, games or special knowledge with others who are "visiting."
Note: The activities described here can be implemented as a short-term project -- something as simple as sharing books, videos, games and food within a classroom -- or they can become the basis for a year-long, school-wide effort. Either way, we hope that you will find ways to bring activities and learning strategies promoting cultural competence into the classroom every day. These ideas and strategies can be the theme that runs through all learning, brings community members and families into the school, and brings students into the community to explore cultures different from their own. The dimensions of this project are up to you; we encourage you to collaborate with your colleagues to share activities and resources and therefore broaden the horizons of all the travelers who are working to add stamps to their passports.
- Use a world map to locate their point of origin.
- Learn the names and locations of the continents.
- Assign different countries to the continents in which they are located.
- Discuss the languages spoken in different countries.
- Discover self-defined points of cultural origin.
- List all of the countries, states and unique communities represented on the map.
- Understand that every country and many communities within the United States have their own culture.
- Understand that everyone comes from somewhere.
- Understand that culture is a part of what makes us who we are.
- Brainstorm ways to learn more about the different cultures represented in the classroom.
Activity #1: Point of Origin
For this activity, you will need a world map, multicolored pushpins (small with round heads), and an atlas and smaller detailed maps. Begin by putting up a large world map in the classroom.
Tip: Introduce individual continents using small detailed maps that show country names.
Have students identify the continents and countries on the map. Then, ask students to show their "point of origin" by putting a pin into the country, city or state they have identified as their origin.
Model: Share your own cultural heritage. Help students understand that even people who look like members of the majority may have a multicultural background. For example, "I am going to put three pins in the map. I was born in New York City, but my father was born in Warsaw in Poland. My mother was born in the United States, but her parents were from Russia, so I will put a pin there too."
Note: To ensure that students can identify their points of origin, send a note* home to family members to:
- Describe the project and its purpose.
- Encourage family conversation about background (perhaps include a small map and ask parents to write the names of their countries, cities and/or villages on the appropriate continent).
- Invite parents and other family members to participate in the Passports project by sharing their stories, family, history, language, holiday traditions, foods, crafts or other skills.
* You may want to consider translating this note into other languages (many schools provide translation services).
Once every student, as well as the teacher and other class members, have located their points of origin on the map, make a list of all the places that are represented. This list will be the "route" that students will travel using their "passports."
Discuss: What would you like to know about the places on this list? Break students into small groups and ask them to list information they already know about each place (I know that people speak Spanish in Mexico, etc.).
Note: This is a great way to encourage newcomers and students with diverse backgrounds to share their knowledge.
When the knowledge list is complete, have students generate a list of questions to which they would like to explore the answers. (What language is spoken here? What is the weather like? What do people eat for breakfast? How do families celebrate a birth, wedding, death? etc.)
Ask:Where can you find answers to your questions? Have students brainstorm a list of resources. The goal of this list is to allow students to understand that information about each of the countries and cultures on their list can be found in MANY places. Also, this list will build awareness of the many and varied resources available in the library, the classroom and community. Encourage students to consider the human resources who might answer their questions.
Note: Newcomers to the United States will have the opportunity to ask questions about their new country and learn from local experts. They in turn can be resident experts on their own countries.
Activity #2: Your Passport to the World
Give each student a passport. (Download Passport Template) Explain that the goal of this passport is to "visit every place that is pinpointed on the map" and earn AT LEAST one stamp in each country.
To earn a stamp for a particular country, students may choose to read a book, hear music, taste food, watch a video, play a game, etc. Also, you may want to offer students the option of participating in some of the activities referenced in the resources section. These resources include lesson plans, hands-on activities, project ideas, extensive book lists, Web sites, virtual museums, community resources, and of course, videos and related materials from OPB and PBS. (Note: You may choose to simply integrate these materials and ideas into your classroom as a way to enhance day-to-day lessons or you may want to focus entire units on cultural awareness.)
Students can fill in details, (e.g., title of book, film viewed, place visited, food tasted, game played) and write a few words or a sentence about what they learned.
In addition to the classroom activities, students may ask family and friends to help them earn passport stamps by bringing their own stories, food and traditions to the classroom, helping with field trips, or making cultural competence an important part of their family activities by participating in cultural outings such as visits to restaurants, Chinese gardens, concerts, neighborhood festivals, etc.
Students who earn six stamps for one country may become Cultural Ambassadors. Cultural Ambassadors can then share the knowledge they have acquired with other students and help them earn their stamps. (Download Ambassador Ribbon Template)
Note: Younger students or those who are learning English may tell or show what they have learned.
Activities Across the Curriculum
From math to language arts, the following section suggests a variety of ways you can integrate culturally competent learning activities into your classroom.
Literature and Language Arts
Stories and folktales serve as useful tools in the culturally competent classroom. Telling stories and reading out loud can build listening skills, entertain, teach lessons and explain why things are the way they are. Similar stories from different cultures demonstrate how people are alike around the world -- their concerns, their joys, etc. Actively involve students in reading books, folktales and stories. Provide access to books in different languages; books about different countries, histories, celebrations, etc.; books with pictures, art and photographs; variations on familiar stories from around the world and recipe books. Where possible, provide opportunities for students to hear familiar stories read in more than one language. Also see book suggestion sites and sites like Circle of Stories.
Language and Vocabulary
Provide opportunities for students to hear and see different words in different languages. Translate (or ask parents or students to translate) words for familiar objects around the room. Create stickers or signs to put on the door, window, books, teacher, etc. Research and present sayings and riddles from different countries. Can you discover different ways to convey similar messages?
Ask students to read and research, organize, write, illustrate and present their own work on different peoples. Write stories or descriptions from the point of view of a newcomer to this country or of someone from another culture or background. Write biographies of people from different countries. Write a story or create a presentation about your hero. Encourage students to interview family members and discover their backgrounds, how they or other family members came to America, or learn about family rituals and special events.
Introduce heroes from every culture, people from different cultures who have made major contributions to our country, and people from different countries who have contributed to the world. Explore immigration: Why did YOUR family come to the United States? Is there a connection between world events and your family history?
Provide opportunities for students to experience all forms of self-expression and emotion. Incorporate songs in many languages, music and dance, movement and rhythm as ways to learn language, tell stories, share feelings and learn about other cultures. Invite musicians, dancers and artists from different cultures to visit your school, offer workshops, and participate in fairs, celebrations and special events. Where possible, through field trips or family outings, encourage students to become familiar with opportunities in the community to hear music, see performances, participate in fairs and celebrations, and view and make art.
Observe flags and stamps, learn songs (great way to learn new words and words in a new language), dances and national anthems. Learn about artists from different cultures, their work and their backgrounds. See a play or put one on in your classroom. (See Music and Art sections of the Web Resources page.)
Observe the creativity and techniques of outstanding artists from all groups. Provide hands-on opportunities to explore different media, invite artists to the classroom and invite parents to share crafts and skills. Consider what you can learn about a place by analyzing the colors and materials used in traditional art. Consider the uses of the art you explore ? is it for everyday use, ceremonies or just beauty?
Consider the ways that festivals and holidays bring families and communities together. Sample and learn about ethnic foods to help students understand not only the food customs of peoples, but also the products of various regions and the methods of food preparation. Play games from various cultures. (See the Games of the Web Resources page.)
Learn the location of different countries and continents. Consider how climate and location affect food, clothes, music, transportation and celebrations.
Introduce games and problems, puzzles, and arts and crafts.