EducationWorld is pleased to present this article contributed by Greta Brewster, a non-profit consultant and writer for Teacherportal.com.
Tensions were rising at the high school in South Portland, Maine. A number of international refugee students had entered the school—Maine’s large refugee population comes from Somalia, Iraq, Congo, Rwanda and Sudan—and administrators could see conflicts mushrooming between neighborhood students and their newly immigrated classmates.
Seeking to address the situation before fighting erupted, administrators brought in facilitators from an organization dedicated to preventing hate violence. The facilitators assembled a group of students from all backgrounds and, through a process, had refugee students share their stories.
The results were striking. Neighborhood students were awed by the life-threatening situations to which the refugees had been exposed. The immigrant students’ stories engendered a new respect and appreciation from classmates.
Online resources for integrating multiculturalism into classroom instruction
In this age of globalization, the student population is increasingly diverse. Census data indicates that 43 percent of K-12 students belong to a minority population, and 11.2 million school-age children speak a language other than English at home.
As educators, we can help prepare students for the challenges and opportunities inherent in our multicultural society. Fortunately, abundant Web-based resources exist to stimulate young people’s interest in, and understanding of, other races, ethnicities and cultures.
As the South Portland example illustrates, stories offer a powerful way to generate empathy and facilitate cross-cultural understanding. If in-person personal stories aren’t an option at your school, literature options abound. Try starting with the following.
Arts and crafts
Making African masks, aboriginal Australian didgeridoos and Japanese fans are only a few of the hundreds of engaging multicultural arts and crafts educators can try with children in the classroom.
Virtual global communities
The Web offers many opportunities for communication between students who live all over the world.
ePals, a global social network, enables learners to communicate with other students in more than 200 countries around the world. Teachers can moderate email communications, and there’s even built-in language translation. The site also offers lessons and a variety of interactive features.
GlobalSchoolNet.org offers a number of innovative programs. “Doors to Diplomacy” is a competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of State that has middle- and high-school students produce web-based projects about the importance of international affairs and diplomacy. The site’s International Cyberfair lets youth create virtual exhibits showcasing their communities. Online Expeditions enables students to follow real-time expeditions around the world, giving them glimpses into other places and cultures.
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