Culturally Aware Comets:

Experiencing Different Cultures through Books, Food, and Games

LaShonda Paulsell, Mark Twain Elementary, Springfield, MO

Culturally Aware Comets:

Introduction

Mark Twain Elementary has a diverse population of students and staff, many of whom come from different backgrounds. Our school's diversity needed to be celebrated and recognized. Many students come from low-income families. These students have yet to have the opportunity to travel or gain experiences from other places. Most students that I have had in the past are so interested in learning about people who come from different places around the world. I wanted to allow all students to learn about different cultures in an engaging way.

Families and students walk into a welcome table with passports, stickers, and resources for language activities. After getting their passport, they have their picture taken and are ready to travel to different continents to experience various cultures. Each room has books in multiple languages, a read-aloud, a craft to do, at least one game to play, and a sample of food to try.

Step-by-Step Plan

  • Gather information about the students’ backgrounds and home languages.
  • Collect information to determine books, crafts, food, and games to incorporate in the event.
  • Make a list of supplies, books, games, and decorations that will be needed.
  • Order supplies.
  • Decide when to host the event.
  • Make flyers and advertise. 
  • Recruit volunteers. 
  • Call local businesses for food sample donations. 
  • Contact local Latino organizations about dance performances. 
  • Organize supplies into baskets for each continent. 
  • Record students reading the books.
  • Create posters for each room, including directions for games and crafts.
  • Create passports in different languages.
  • Decorate each room with a craft, game, books, and food sample. 
  • Host and reflect on the event.

  

Timeline

November

Send home flyers in different languages with a link to a Google Form with questions about the cultures represented at Mark Twain Elementary.

December

Review answers on the Google Form and find books, crafts, and games representing different cultures.

January

Order Supplies. Talk with the administration about the date and time of the event.

February

Supplies delivered to the building. Begin recruiting volunteers for the event.

March

Begin organizing supplies into different continents. Record readers reading the books ordered. Each volunteer receives a custom sticker. Make posters for craft and game directions in different languages. Make continent signs for each room. Work on the PowerPoints for each room. Contact restaurants and stores for food sample donations. 

April

Print and send home flyers with students about culture night and advertise the event on the school's website. Send reminders to volunteers and assign jobs. Print passports in different languages.

May

Make examples of the crafts. Continue to organize supplies for each continent. Finalize PowerPoint edits. Hang international flags and set up seven rooms, one for each continent. Hold the event.

Budget

Amazon Books
● Rainbow Weaver
● The Most Beautiful Place in the World
● Vamonos: Antigua
● This is Colombia
● For You Are a Kenyan Child
● The Cat From Hunger Mountain
● The Cricket Warrior
● Dooley Bear Adventures Belize
● Latkes, Latkes, Good to Eat
● Que Puedes Hacer Con Una Paleta
● Sing, Don’t Cry
● Rene Has Two Last Names
● Somos como las nubes
● Pedro the Puerto Rican Parrot
● De aqui como el coqui
● Biblioburro
● Dancing Hands
● Tuki and Moka
● Owen & Mzee
● My First Day
● When Lola Visits
● Osnat and Her Dove
● A Welcome in Axum
● Yan’s Hajj: The Journey of a Lifetime
● Chirri & Chirra, The Rainy Day
● Wombat Divine
● Ten Animals in Antarctica
● Antarctica
● Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors
● A New Kind of Wild
● Tiny Travelers Puerto Rico Treasure Quest
● Nelly’s Box
Amazon Games:
● Loteria
● Trompo 5 pack (x2)
● Antarctica Toob (x2)
● Mancala (x4)
● Chess (x1)
● Bulk Playing Cards Set
Amazon International World String Flags
Amazon Craft Items:
● Origami Paper Kit
● Cardboard Tubes (x2)
● Colored Tissue Paper
● Yarn
● Plastic Easter Eggs (x3)
● 6-inch white cake board rounds (x4)
● Plastic Straws (x2)
● Feathers
● Rhinestone Stickers
● Paper Plates
● Plastic Teaspoons (1,000 pk)
● Cardboard sheets (x2)
● Cupcake Liners
● Crayola Model Magic- White (75 ct) (x2)
● Bamboo Skewers (x2)
● Resin Buttons
● 30 Rolls of Washi Tape
● 1-gallon Moisturizing Conditioner (x2)
● Baking Soda 15 lbs
● Gorilla Hot Glue Sticks
● Laminating Pouches
● Shape Stickers
VistaPrint- Sheet Stickers in English
VistaPrint- Sheet Stickers in Spanish
VistaPrint- Sheet Stickers in Mongolian
VistaPrint- Sheet Stickers in Arabic
Language Lizard Who Are We? Ukrainian- English https://outlook.office.com/mail/safelink.html?url=https://www.languagelizard.com/Who-Are-We-Children-s-Book-About-Diversity-p/harmonywhoukr.htm&corid=879cef59-b1db-a789-d176-6d8df9e13864

Language Lizard We Can All Be Friends Mongolian- English
https://www.languagelizard.com/We-Can-All-Be-Friends-Multicultural-Book-p/harmonyfriendsmon.htm

What did it look like?

Sustainability

On the event day, I hung the international flags in the hallway. Most students were in class, and saw them for the first time as they walked to lunch. The excitement and curiosity about the new decor were enjoyable to witness. Many students were quickly able to name the flags of countries they knew. The principal at my building also asked for the flags to stay up. Many staff members commented on how lovely the flags looked. 

My school plans to have a culture night each year. The books, games, extra craft supplies, and stickers can be used for future culture nights. My school is lucky enough to have a place in the building to store the games and supplies. The laminated posters and directions will store nicely for years to come. 

After talking with my librarian, I can also add the books to the school library so that they can be checked out and enjoyed by all students. This will also be a place where other teachers can get books to use during lessons. 

Reflections

There were many takeaways from this event. It was a fun night filled with families reading, enjoying each other's company as they played games and made crafts together, and experiencing foods they had never tried. The event ended with dances from a local nonprofit Latino group.

This event was enormous. I knew it would be a lot of work, and as I started planning, I quickly realized that I needed a lot of time to focus on this to make this a successful event. 

One difficulty I encountered was not giving myself enough time between ordering supplies and the event date. I should have had supplies ordered at least two months before the event. They were ordered less than two weeks before, and I was worried that I would not have all the supplies and books I needed for the event. Some items did not arrive in time for the event. When a box was delivered, I would check the contents and organize the supplies into the right group. By doing this, I could see what I had and still needed. This helped me ensure I had everything for the crafts and games I had planned. If a supply did not arrive on time, I revised my plan, so it was not needed.

Another difficulty I had was that volunteers were hard to get. Having the event towards the end of the year and during such a busy time for all was something I would change next time. I intended to host the event in March or April so that more people would be able to help. Unfortunately, one room did not have a volunteer. To keep the room open, I stayed there most of the time to ensure things were going smoothly.

After setting up the rooms on the event day, I quickly realized that I did not have as many books for Australia and Antarctica for families to look at. Next time, I will spend more time gathering information about the cultures on those continents. I also ran out of baking soda for the snow dough families made in the Antarctica room. Families could enjoy the food sample instead, but many wanted to make the snow dough and left that room disappointed. Next time, I will ensure I have more than enough baking soda for Antarctica. 

I have a few recommendations if you are interested in doing an event similar to this. Give yourself plenty of time to plan, and make sure to order your supplies well in advance. Plan the event for earlier in the school year during a less busy time for others so that you can get enough volunteers. 

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