Strategy Share: Celebrating World Cultures in the Elementary Classroom

Our Strategy Share series features innovative ideas, projects, and approaches from our community of educators. This post was written by educator Julie Yeros.

Hi! I’m Julie Yeros, an elementary educator and creator of Globe Trottin’ Kids—a global learning website for students and educators. While my home base is in the beautiful state of Colorado, I have family scattered across three continents.

Last spring, I wrote a blog post about how to celebrate world cultures over the summer. Now, with a new school year upon us, it’s important to create a classroom that inspires children to become invested in their world. Integrating global learning experiences throughout the year and across the curriculum allows students to explore their world and understand their place in it.

Here are some ideas for celebrating world cultures in your classroom this year:

Keep an eye on the calendar.

Introduce children to a variety of cultures through holidays, festivals and current events taking place around the world. Share the history and traditions associated with the celebrations and be mindful to avoid stereotypical representations. Allow time for discussion and questions, and encourage further investigation for the class, small groups, or individuals to conduct and share.  

Choose several events to feature throughout the year, and plan activities for deeper exploration. Gather a variety of resources (books, videos, art, music, clothing, etc.), schedule guest presenters (parents, staff members, cultural groups, etc.), and invite other classrooms to join in the fun, so students can share what they learn.

Here are some suggestions to get you started:

Second graders were treated to folktales and an informational Q and A with a guest reader and her son live in India on World Read Aloud Day.

Explore places near and far with traditional or virtual a field trip.

Did you know October is National Field Trip Month? Integrate experiential learning (real or virtual) into your curriculum now and throughout the year.

  • Plan a local field trip to learn more about your community. Meet with elected officials, businesses, and community leaders. Visit a museum, library, or senior citizen center to learn about the history and culture in your own backyard.
  • Take a virtual field trip to investigate a famous landmark in a country across the globe or to observe an underwater ecosystem that is under threat. Get inspired with a variety of National Geographic’s Google Earth resources.
  • Join a live video event or expedition with National Geographic Explorer Classroom. Each month a new theme is featured and supporting resources for educators are provided. The full archive is also available on YouTube.  

Develop a geographic perspective.

Provide consistent opportunities for students to learn, practice and apply geography skills. Understanding cardinal and ordinal directions, locating continents and oceans, and navigating a map using a compass rose, map key and scale are essential to learning about our planet.

  • A globe or world map in the classroom makes a great reference tool for locating the setting of a story, identifying where historical events took place, or calculating the distance between cities.
  • National Geographic’s mapping resources make it easy to create and view interactive maps. You can easily customize one-page maps and assemble large-scale maps. There’s even Giant Maps, large enough for your students to walk on, that your school can order!
  • Puzzles, interactive games and activities make engaging workstations for practicing and reinforcing spatial reasoning skills.

Join me in setting our young students on the path to being informed, caring, and responsible global citizens by using these easy ways to bring world cultures into your classroom this school year.

Julie Yeros is an elementary educator from Denver, Colorado. She is founder of Globe Trottin’ Kids and a National Geographic Certified Educator.

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