Five ways to bring the world into our homes and classrooms
As International Education Week approaches with Thanksgiving just behind it, we are incredibly grateful that our own children, who range in age from 3 to 36, never had to question if they'd be able to have a high-quality educational experience, a question many families and communities face within the United States and internationally.
In the spirit of gratitude, we offer five ways to get people of all ages thinking about the world around them. You can share these ideas in your carpools, your PTAs, at your dinner tables, and book clubs, and dare to see how big your family's world can grow.
Ask your children to check their clothes labels to see where their clothing was made. Together, look up the country on a globe and encourage them to read about the place, especially about how children their age live, what their homes are like, where they go to school, and what games they play. Check out fashionrevolution.org and Planet Money's T-Shirt Project on NPR to better understand the global nature of what we wear.
Collaborate with parents and teachers at your children's school to incorporate information about global citizenship into the curriculum. Instead of presenting the world as a distinct unit, use every subject as an opportunity to explore difference and celebrate diversity.
Reading lessons can include stories from around the world (check out worldstories.org.uk). Instead of learning to add apples and oranges, children can learn math by adding one cherimoya to three lulos to see what fruit salad in Colombia is like. If you have an ethnic market nearby, your children can even make their own fruit salad to "taste" their math solutions. Helpful resources include the Association for Childhood Education International (acei.org); iEARN (iearn.org), a global program that connects students around the world; and Raising Race Conscious Children (raceconscious.org).
While driving your children to school or activities, stream tunes from a different country each week. From the theme song from Rio to podcasts that explore communities around the world, there are plenty of easy-to- find recordings that can help your children develop an ear for new sounds. Check out allthemoms.com and kidworldcitizen.org for information on books, art, food, and celebrations around the globe and Putumayo.com, where you can download World Music Hour, which has selections for children from every place imaginable.
Looking to engage your older children at the dinner table? Ask them where in the world they'd like to travel and why, where their favorite music comes from, the cultural background of their favorite athlete, and how they'd make their school more international. Looking for a project? Design placemats for each family member's favorite country with the outline of the map, the flag, and interesting facts. Use cloth markers on a cloth placemat; if you use a paper placemat, laminate it. Check out incultureparent.com, a great resource for raising multicultural kids, for more ideas.
And for those evenings when it's just you and your friends, host an intercultural book club. Get inspired at goodreads.com, which provides lists of books from different cultures. Alternatively, watch a film instead. You can find lists of multicultural films online. Some of our favorites? Meet the Patels, Babette's Feast and Eat Drink Man Woman.
With just a little effort, thinking internationally will grow beyond an annual celebration and become part of your daily lifestyle. It's not difficult for our children to learn to value diversity, to realize we are all part of a larger global whole, to recognize the richness of multiple viewpoints and experiences, and to be thankful for the gift of difference in our world.
Sora Friedman and Karla Giuliano Sarr are co-chairs of SIT Graduate Institute's International Education master's degree program.
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.