School events that celebrate diversity and fun!

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Rosemary Gorman Morley, Language and Intercultural Trainer and Director of the Language of Service, provides great ideas on how your school can host events that are fun, educational, and encourage an appreciation of diverse cultures.

Multicultural Ireland

The days when Ireland had one culture, one color and two languages (Irish and English) are long gone. The new vibrant multicultural Ireland is a cosmopolitan place where more than 200 languages are spoken and people of at least 188 nationalities now live. The following statistics may be surprising to some: Of a population of approximately 4,170,000, a little over 400,000 are non-Irish, or as they are nowadays sometimes referred to, “New-Irish”.  Recent figures include: EU: 275,775; rest of Europe: 24,425; Asia: 46,952, Africa: 35, 326; Americas: 21,124; Australasia: 5789; Other: 10,342.

A school that embraces cultural diversity

At St. Cronan’s Boys National School in Bray, County Wicklow, this cultural diversity is embraced and celebrated. Many intercultural events have been initiated to extend the hand of friendship to the multicultural Moms and Dads in the school community. The objective has been to help the parents of the international students to feel welcome and a part of the St. Cronan’s family. It was recognized that often a lack of English language skills can be one of the reasons why some parents may feel a little hesitant to engage and exchange, to mix and get involved.

Intercultural Coffee Morning and Food Evening – from Mongolian dumplings to Irish treacle bread!

In response to this, the school started with an Intercultural Coffee Morning. Based on its great success, questionnaires were sent to all who attended for more ideas for future events. The Intercultural Food Evening was a result of this feedback.

Everyone brought a dish to share from his/her native country, and after one of the Chinese Moms gave a little presentation on how she made her spare ribs, other parents took turns sharing their recipes. There was a huge variety of dishes from Mongolian dumplings to Irish treacle bread! Indian and Chinese families exchanged tips on how they prepared their rice and an Italian Dad shared his pasta making secrets!

Even St. Patrick’s Day becomes an intercultural celebration at St. Cronan’s

The St. Patrick’s Day Intercultural Celebration began with a beautiful display of traditional Irish Step Dancing performed by a local Irish Dancing School. Parents from 12 different countries then learned to dance to the “Walls of Limerick”, which is a famous traditional dance requiring two sets of partners. This was followed again by a feast of homemade international cuisine.

Filipino Independence Celebration

The Filipino Independence Day Celebration was coordinated by one of the Filipino Moms on behalf of the Filipino community at the school, and featured many wonderful dishes, and a karaoke machine!

Intercultural Evening of Food and Fun celebrates 15 countries represented by the student body

The most recent event was the Intercultural Evening of Food and Fun. The school’s festivities have grown in size with this event including 90 participants from 15 different countries: India, Romania, Poland, Pakistan, Morocco, Belgium, New Zealand, China, Andorra, England, Italy, Scotland, Philippines, the United States of America and Ireland.

- the night began with a mouth-watering feast of international dishes

They were displayed on tables decorated with respective country flags. As with past events, everyone brought native specialities to share. Name badges with country flags were presented to parents upon arrival which helped with the mixing and mingling. After enjoying the food and chat, students from the local Irish Dancing School delighted all present with another impressive display in the school hall. Within minutes, all the multicultural Moms and Dads were joining in and learning the steps to the Walls of Limerick or practising what they had been taught at the St. Patrick’s Day event.

- Chinese New Year

One of the Chinese Dads gave a wonderful presentation about the cultural traditions associated with the Chinese New Year. Everyone listened with fascination as he explained the preparation and festivities associated with the “Year of the Tiger.”

- breaking the ice

After this, several activities were coordinated in order to get to know one another a little better. It began with greeting and introducing each other according to the various cultural traditions, followed by a “Human Bingo” game, where everyone had to go around the room and meet people by asking questions, such as, “Do you speak more than 3 languages?”, “Can you play the piano?”, “Have you climbed the local mountain, Bray Head?”.

- an Irish mom and Chinese dad find 67 things in common in just 5 minutes!

The last activity was called, “We Are More Alike Than We Are Different…”. In this game, native English speakers were paired up with non-native speakers. The teams had 5 minutes to brainstorm as many things as they could think of that they had in common, from eye color and favourite foods to hobbies, interests and travel experiences. The winning team (an Irish Mom and a Chinese Dad) had 67 answers!

European Union’s Comenius Project

St. Cronan’s Boys National School also participates in one of the European Union’s Lifelong Learning Programmes called Comenius where schools form partnerships with other schools in the EU. St. Cronan’s is linked to a school in Manchester, England and another in Nigran in Northern Spain.

The programme encourages the teachers and students to learn about each other’s cultures and fosters awareness by facilitating teacher exchanges, videoconferencing opportunities for the students and the creation of a Rolling Story and Traveling Bag which are developed and shared among the schoolchildren and their families. Additionally, the kids have cooperated in the creation of a calendar and a musical CD.

Future plans to celebrate diversity:

Finally, in order to continue the momentum in finding new ways to celebrate cultural diversity, St. Cronan’s plans to continue to organize intercultural social events for parents, but this year may bring two more initiaves to life:

Develop a Cultural Pack that will be used as part of the school curriculum at all levels

The Pack will include language, flags, games, songs and national days and traditional dress information from the countries represented by the student body. Parents of the international students will be asked to participate in this project.

Coordinate a World Culture Day

Parents would be given passports which are stamped by the students as they travel around the school hall visiting different countries researched during the year and presented by the various classrooms.

A huge thank you to Rosemary Gorman Morley for writing this post and sharing these wonderful ideas.

I hope that some of you will be able to get similar activities started at your own schools.  Thanks also to the St. Cronan’s Boys National School for celebrating diversity in such a wonderful way and allowing us to publish your photos and share your events and ideas.

If you would like to contribute a guest post on a country, culture, world issue or tips on teaching about these things, please contact us!

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Posted on: October 12, 2010 | Categories: Blog, Countries, Education, Fun Facts - Cultures and Countries, ideas for educators, Ireland, Traditions



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