Starting with Self
How can anyone understand another culture or religion without first understanding their own? This quarter, students in my Social Studies classes are learning about people from Europe, Asia, and Oceania throughout our Holy C.O.W. (Cultures Of the World) unit. Before we could start building knowledge of other religions and cultures, students explored their own. They drew art pieces demonstrating aspects of their own culture, which we are sending to students in Ukraine, China, and other schools around the world (thanks, in part, to the good people at OneWorld Classrooms).
We used a systems thinking tool, the iceberg theory, to explore the ways that culture is often invisible at first glance. For example, Declan drew his family enjoying a roller coaster, and he wrote, “One of the main themes in my piece is that life is too short not to live it to it’s fullest. We don’t take vacations so that we may lounge on beaches and do nothing for hours on end. We like to get up early and excited to live every day like it is our last when we go on vacations.”
Sarah drew a basketball game, and she explained, “When we are playing we feel a part of a team which is fun because we are working together toward the same result. Although different players may have different attitudes we all play for the love of the game.”
Students didn’t only show positive aspects of American culture. Parker wanted to communicate our culture’s obsession with junk food. He wrote, “Americans value fast, cheap, and easy food because they are so busy that they do not think about whether their food is healthy or not.” Ellie wrote, “You can tell that our family likes to hang out together… What you probably don’t see is that we can have bad tempers if you get us up to that point.”
Some students identified with cultures that are not American. Lauren wrote about the Italian tradition of feasting on seven fishes for Christmas Eve, and Dalena drew people praying to Buddha like her Cambodian family. Teshi used photography to show different aspects of her Kenyan American identity. Our culture is however we define it! Connor wrote, “I am ⅓ Irish, ⅓ Scottish, and ½ American” and even though that’s more than 100%, who is anyone to question that?
As we got deeper into the unit, we began exploring religion around the world, starting with what is sacred to each of us. Students brought in many items that were highly valued and worthy of holding up. We explored how different people value all sorts of different things, and we saw how it was always clear when someone was sharing from the heart. Some students even wanted to share their sacred items with the world:
Having explored our own cultures, values, and traditions, we are now more open to learning about the diversity of traditions that others bring to the table. And so, readers, please join us and share! What’s unique about your culture? What’s sacred to you? We want to hear your stories, see your artwork, or embrace any kind of media showing what matters most to you.
Note: Want to learn more about this unit? Visit our Sacred to Me, Sacred to You website or click below to explore each student’s artwork and writing about their culture.
Jordan ~ Jordan ~ Tess ~ Kaleigh ~ Julia ~ Diego ~ Anita ~ Adam ~ Ellie ~ Eli ~ Jessica ~ Parker ~ Connor ~ Daniel ~ Owen ~ Matt ~ Drew ~ Rhiannon ~ Athena ~ Sam ~ Jaden ~ Matt ~ Georgia ~ Rena ~ Sophia ~ Manny ~ Savannah ~ Ashlyn ~ Josh ~ Astrid ~ Mia ~ Sean ~ Declan ~ Jason ~ Sam ~ Josh ~ Hudson ~ Liv ~ Jarred ~ Gachau ~ Adam ~ Jack ~ Ellie ~ Sarah ~ Patrick ~ Dante ~ Isabela ~ Lauren ~ Dalena ~ Teshi ~ Pyper