Culture Cats:

Exploring Countries and Cultures

Amanda Kovacs, Wilder Elementary, Springfield

Culture Cats:

Introduction

Culture Cats is an after-school club that promotes learning and exploring other countries and cultures. We are called Culture Cats because our school has many English Learners (ELs) that make up our student body and our mascot is a wildcat. We use books, guest speakers, games, crafts, and snacks to understand different cultures around the world. Students have a “passport” they use to write down any notes they want to remember. Using those notes and their interests, students create a mural of cultures by picking a country to represent and decorating a tile to show the culture. We put all the tiles together to create the mural and displayed it in our school to help other students learn more about those cultures. Our goal is to create a positive and inviting environment for students who have various cultural backgrounds. We want our school to be a safe place for ELs to feel valued and heard.          

Wilder Elementary has a large population of ELs from all over the world. These ELs bring many valuable things with them like their language, food, and culture. Feeling accepted is something every student wants, especially ELs. As educators, it is our job to make sure students feel safe and welcomed at school. In the classroom we do not always have time to dive deep into other languages and places, so the idea of Culture Cats was born. Culture Cats is a club dedicated to learning more about other cultures and how we can be welcoming to students new to our community. Through books, guest speakers on Zoom or in person, crafts, games, and snacks, club members are learning about new countries and cultures. 

Step-by-Step Plan

First, over the summer we decided what countries we wanted to focus on throughout the year. We looked at the places our ELs were from first, as well as other countries students might be familiar with. 

After we decided on some countries and languages we wanted to focus on, we ordered books, craft supplies, tiles, blank books, and flag banners to get our club started.

When school started, we went around to the third, fourth, and fifth grade classes to promote the club. We shared what we would be doing and handed out permission slips. Shortly after we started our club. We held it on Thursdays after school for a little over an hour. Each week showcased a different country. Some sessions were dedicated to crafts or games. We invited families from our school community to share their experiences. During one of the sessions, we invited our ELs share about their culture and language.

Halfway through the year, we invited students to create their culture tiles. Once the tiles were complete, we learned about a few more places and ended our sessions with a party.  

Timeline

See the step-by-step plan above.

What did it look like?

Budget

Materials: 


 

What did it look like?

Sustainability

We have many requests to continue Culture Cats next year. This project will continue in the future because the mural will stay up in our school. Students can even add to the mural. Rocks that were painted with different flags will continue to stay in our courtyard at school. All the multicultural books will be in my classroom library and other classrooms are able to use them.

Reflections

Starting Culture Cats was one of the highlights of my school year. I was inspired by my students’ enthusiasm to stay after school to learn about new countries and cultures. Students came in eager to know the theme of each session and I heard them discussing the club at other times during the week. Through this experience, I learned a lot too. 

There were a few difficulties that I had to overcome. Sadly, I had to turn students away because so many were interested in participating in the club. Another obstacle was lack of meeting space in the school because other afterschool clubs were offered at the same time. Therefore, we hosted Culture Cats in my classroom which limited our space. We started with 29 students at the beginning of the year and about 25 students attended consistently. Finally, we struggled finding guest presenters. At the start of the school year, I reached out to organizations in my city and didn’t get much response. I think next time I need to follow up more. However, we worked with several families willing to share at the club, which turned out to be great.

Overall, I would highly encourage any teacher to start a culture club at their school. When the club ended many students expressed how sad they were and how they hoped Culture Cats would continue next year. Reflecting on this project has showed me that Culture Cats had a positive impact this year and I’m sure it will continue to do so.

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