Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Teaching Traditions and Customs

Celebrations and traditions play a huge part in defining individuals as a culture. Those special moments or rituals let others know what we as a collective group value and consider important to honor and hold on to. I find customs and traditions not only fascinating to learn about as I travel but fun to talk about with others when visiting different countries. Just this past week we again celebrated Veteran's Day in our school with an impressive all-school assembly put on by the Military History Club. This year we were honored to have WWII and Vietnam veterans talk to us about their experiences. Their speeches were moving to say the least. 

I really enjoy celebrating Veterans' Day within the school community. It brings a tear to my eye seeing older generations pass along their experiences and wisdom to a gym full of 2000+ students. You could hear a pin drop in there as they were all respectfully and attentively listening. Their stories, along with others we pass on to others continue to help everyone better understand what makes us who we are. Obviously, cultures are defined by food and music and dance, but our traditions, both solemn and festive define who we are as well. 

How can you celebrate traditions and customs in your classroom?

  • Invite guest speakers into your classroom. Have them share a little about themselves with the students. Have some questions done ahead of time to guide the conversation around themes you are exploring in class. This makes the visit relevant and complements what the students are exploring.
  • K-8 teachers build units around traditions and customs all the time, and I have a lot of fond memories of bright bulletin boards and craft projects. Or feel free to break out those Popsicle sticks and do a craft project with the students. No matter the age, kids love glue, crayons and paint.
  • Take time to celebrate those again in the 9-12 levels by creating some group discussion or debates around some of the origins and backgrounds of the celebration. The Library of Congress has a great site with customs and traditions searchable by state called Local Legacies
  • A Skype session might be possible with someone who can share their experience or knowledge about the custom or tradition. If you want to have some fun with it, you can make it a Mystery Skype session! In face Microsoft and Skype are have a #skypeathon this early December 2015 Read about it here.

There is value in creating opportunities for students to explore traditions more in a school setting. Not only do students learn more about their cultural makeup which they will pass on to future generations but they also gain a better understanding of how they fit into the larger global community.