Multiculturalism is more than learning about people from different countries. Lessons on respect for diversity and celebration of individuality help kids learn important skills to navigate their world. Activities highlighting multiculturalism include factual information and avoiding stereotypes or bias.
Bake Flatbread the Ancient Way
During the part of history known as Protohistory, certain cultures in Northern Europe hadn't yet begun to write about their cultural practices. In this time people baked flatbreads on hot stones in open fires using common grains and not much else. For this activity, you can use a hot pizza stone in a low oven, a real stone heated inside an open fire or a countertop griddle to bake up your own ancient bread.
What You Need
- 1/2 cup steel cut oats
- 1/2 cup dark rye flour
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1/4 cup water
- Food processor or mortar and pestle
- Flat work surface
- Heating source
- Use the food processor or mortar and pestle to coarsely grind the oats, flour and a sprinkle of salt together.
- Cut in the butter then stir in water to form the dough.
- Get your hot surface ready.
- Make four equal balls from the dough.
- Squish the dough from each ball into a flat circle on your floured workspace. Make them as thin as possible without ripping.
- Place one flatbread on your hot surface and flip after just a couple minutes when it starts to curl at the edges.
- Cook on the other side for a few minutes then remove from the hot surface. If using an open fire, you can set each flatbread near the fire to toast up a little more.
If you're feeling adventurous try making your own yogurt or butter to serve with the flatbreads. Substitute in any two ancient grains you prefer to make a different flavor multigrain bread.
Become a Wigman
As one of few remaining native tribes around the world, the Huli Clan in Papua New Guinea works hard to maintain their traditional lifestyle. Understanding how and why tribal communities thrive helps kids see the importance of family traditions. One amazing ritual practiced by men in the tribe involves making a ceremonial wig out of their own hair. As boys become men they undergo specialized training that includes growing and styling their hair in such a way it comes to look more like a hat or crown on their head. When the hair is long enough and well-shaped it is cut off close to the man's scalp. Men then use feathers and other natural products to decorate the wig which they wear during tribal ceremonies.
While you aren't likely looking for a years-long activity, there is a simple way to recreate this look using craft supplies. You can use wet felting techniques to create a more realistic looking wig or use strips of yarn to get a similar look.
What You Need
- Brown wool roving
- Dish Soap
- Large bowls or dual-sided sink
- Bright feathers
- Small foam wreath forms
- Push pins
- Each child needs a wreath form to start. If it is too small to fit on their head, they can shave away some foam from the inside of the ring to make a bigger space for their head. It should sit atop their head, not pushed too far down over the forehead.
- Pull off layers of roving a little at a time. Form this roving into a ball. Repeat the process wrapping the pieces of roving in different directions around the ball. Each child will need several large balls to cover their wreath form.
- Fill one bowl with hot, soapy water and the other with cold water.
- Dip the roving balls in the soapy water. Take one at a time out of the water, squeeze it out and start shaping it over the wreath form so you can't see the foam. Repeat until the entire form is covered with an equal layer of wet roving. Hold each patch of roving in place with push pins if needed.
- Dip the entire covered wreath form in the cold water and leave out to dry on a towel.
- After 24-48 hours the wool should be dry.
- Using pictures of the Huli Wigmen as inspiration, decorate the wreath with feathers in patterns by sticking the pointed ends into the wreath form.
- Kids with long hair can create a ponytail on top of their head with their real hair then place their "wig" on their head for a more authentic look.
Nomad for a Day
For modern nomads like the Nenet reindeer herders of Siberia, sleds help them transport belongings as they move from place to place. Get a feel for the hard work and complexity these people endure by pulling your belongings around with a sled. Can you manage a whole day or more?
What You Need
- Long, plastic snow sled with string to pull it
- Strong tape
- Roll a few pieces of tape around themselves with the sticky side facing out. Place them in a line on top of the skateboard.
- Stick the sled on top of the tape.
- Fill the sled with things you use every day like clothing, toiletries, bowls and snacks.
- Pull your sled around behind you for an entire day.
Fore Edge Painting
Considered a lost or hidden art form by some, fore edge painting involves hiding a picture along the very edge of the long sides of a book's pages so you can only see the full illustration when the book pages are spread at an angle. An artist from Venice named Cesare created the original concept in the 16th century to make books look even more beautiful. Learn this secret art form to wow your friends and jazz up old books.
What You Need
- An old book with several hundred pages
- Fine point permanent markers
- A clamp
- Glue, paintbrush and gold leaf optional
- Wipe down the edges of the pages while the book is closed with a dry cloth.
- With the book set on a flat surface in front of you face the long edge of the book's pages toward you. Pushing on the cover, move the cover and pages toward the binding until so the long edge of the pages are fanned out. Clamp the book in place.
- Use the markers to lightly draw your design from top to bottom on the page edges. Allow time to dry.
- Unclamp the book and push the cover/pages back to a normal closed position. Clamp the book to help it return to this standard shape.
- If you want to go one step further, you can try gilding the edges. Mix glue with water until you get a runny consistency. Gently paint the glue mixture on the edges of the pages. Cover with gold leaf and lightly press against the page edges. Allow time to dry. Pull off the gold leaf and you're left with a gold edge.
When the book is closed, you'll see either the gold or just some hints of color. When the book edges are fanned out, you'll be able to see your illustration.
Dance Like No One Else
Throughout many cultures, dance was a form of communication as much as expression and art. As groups adapted to modern life across time, some of these traditional dance forms were lost or are in danger of becoming lost. Explore the history of rare dance styles as a means to understand the importance of cultural traditions and help keep unique ones alive. The Chhau dance style from India is one dying form that includes depictions of mythological heroes in heroic dances. This style features martial art-like movements to tell a story. Use this activity when studying mythology as an original way to learn these stories. To start, watch this ten-minute educational video showcasing Chhau movements and how they are created.
What You Need
- Open space
- Costumes and makeup optional
- Choose a mythological hero from any culture such as Hercules, Thor or Vishnu.
- Select one specific story about this hero that depicts one incidence where he/she triumphed.
- Rewrite this story using as few words and sentences as possible, almost like you've gone back in time and speak like a caveman.
- Using movements from the video as inspiration. Choreograph a dance that shows each part of the story using slow body movements.
- Create a costume and makeup style for your character if you want.
- Perform the dance and see if others can guess who or what your story is about.
Magic plays a part in many cultures around the world and fascinates children. Old Norse Vikings used runes, or symbols, to tell fortunes, leave important messages in places they traveled and bring luck or protection. The way to invite luck into your life was to carve a rune on rock or wood showing what you needed in your life. If you've got older kids who can be trusted with sharp tools, have them whittle the runes into thick sticks instead of using clay.
What You Need
- Scraping tools
- List of Norse runes
- Choose up to three runes you wish for in your life.
- Shape the clay into a small, handheld totem or oblong structure.
- Carve each rune into the clay in a straight line going down one side of the clay.
- Allow the project to dry.
- Carry your runes with you for good luck.
Make a Crwth
You've seen and heard a lot of instruments, but have you ever heard of a Welsh crwth? This stringed instrument is reminiscent of a violin but looks unlike most other instruments. The unique, dull sound makes it different from other types of music. Ancient instruments like this aren't commonly used anymore so by learning about it you help keep it relevant in today's world.
What You Need
- Lid from a copy paper box
- Tissue box or another small box
- Long straws
- Fishing line
- Strong tape
- Picture of a crwth
- Scissors or box cutter
- Set the lid on a flat surface the same way you would place it on the box.
- Look at a picture of a crwth and draw the openings on your lid. You should end up with two rectangle shapes drawn near one end and two small circles drawn near the other end.
- Cut out these shapes from the lid.
- About one or two inches below each circle, poke a hole small enough for the straw to fit in snugly.
- Stick one end of a straw through the left hole and tape in place from the underside. Stick the other end of the straw down through the right hole and tape in place.
- Repeat steps four and five about one to two inches above your rectangle cutouts, but center the straw on the lid.
- Cut the top panel off the tissue box so it has one full open side.
- Place the tissue box under the lid so it sits directly under the two circles. You should be able to see through the circles down into the tissue box. Tape the tissue box in place.
- Cut five equal lengths of fishing line as long as the box lid. Tie one end of each piece to the top straw and one end to the bottom straw to make the strings.
- Make a bow by tying one end of a piece of fishing line to one end of a new straw and tape in place. Pull the line tight and tie it to the other end of the straw then tape in place.
Unlike other stringed instruments, with the crwth you want to play all the strings at once using the bow. See what kinds of sounds you can make with your new instrument.
Dare to Diversify
Activities, games and discussions about differences in cultural traditions and practices help kids understand multiple perspectives and learn life skills essential for living and working in this world. Multicultural activities should move beyond the obvious and stereotypical to include lesser known practices. Incorporate these lessons into your classroom plans or home activities to diversify your child's mind.