Children learn about diversity through play, including music, clothing, foods, games, celebrations, and dramatic play. This approach also supports the ecological systems theory (mentioned in an earlier preschool diversity post known as the Broffenbrenner Ecological System) in terms of culture and its effects on children by beginning with the home lives of the children. Engaging in activities that represent the home cultures, all of the children are able to “…learn new concepts, explore new attitudes, and develop new skills” as well as “…learn more about each other’s families and diverse backgrounds” (Levin, 2000).
For the curriculum to be developmentally appropriate, it must be individually and culturally appropriate to each child. Therefore, the children, their families, society, and teachers provide important sources for an anti-bias, multicultural curriculum (Bredekamp & Rosegrant, 1992). Further, learning about diversity must be integrated into all aspects of the early learning program.
Integration of multicultural activities should be inclusive of all parts of the day and all parts of the classroom:
- Instruments & music from around the world (Creative Diversity by Hatch has the best selection I’ve ever seen)
- Books, books and more books from around the globe
- Dramatic Play clothing & accessories from around the world (again, Creative Diversity is a great resource)
- Art materials to help kids learn inclusion and acceptance
- Photographs, posters, displays that highlight a variety of people and cultures (Guess where you can find these…Creative Diversity, that’s where!)
In addition to meeting the educational needs of individual children with unique attributes and backgrounds, educators are also responsible for providing every child with an anti-bias, multicultural education. Children develop biases through messages they hear and see in society. An anti-bias curriculum offers goals to enable every child to construct a confident identity; to develop comfortable, empathetic and just interaction with diversity; and to develop skills for standing up for one’s self in the face of injustice (Derman-Sparks, 1989).
I am hopeful that the integration of the excellent resources and materials focused on teaching kids about diversity, as well as your public and/or school libraries will enable you to continue the inclusion of diversity and multiculturalism into the lives of the young children you are lucky enough to teach.
Bredekamp, S. & Rosegrant, T. (Eds.). (1992). Reaching potentials: Appropriate curriculum and assessment for young children. Volume 1. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.
Bronfenbrenner, U. Developmental research, public policy, and the ecology of childhood. Child Development, 1974, 45, 1-5.
Derman-Sparks, L., et al. (1989). Anti-bias curriculum: Tools for empowering young children. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.
Kendall, F. (1983). Diversity in the classroom. New York: Teachers College Press.