The United States is considered the "melting pot" of cultures. Immigrants from different countries, with different religions and of different races all live together in communities across the nation. Most classrooms have a variety of religious, racial and cultural heritages. Students need to recognize and appreciate the value of each culture so they can be socially responsible citizens.
Genealogy, or research about family history, is an interesting subject for most children. Many students are excited to hear about the adventures of their ancestors. They are proud of their ancestors' accomplishments. Have each student create a family tree, tracing back three or four generations. Let students share their family trees and a little about their ancestors with the class.
Allow students to go on a virtual tour of a country an ancestor lived in. They can explore the culture and famous places and identify famous people from their country. Allow students to prepare a travel report and share it with the class. Encourage students to use their imagination as they describe what they would see, eat and do and the people they would meet.
Share the concept of a passport with your students. Help students make their own fictitious passport out of paper. Have each student fill out a passport for a distant relative. Be sure students include where the family member would be traveling from and why she would come to America. Extend the lesson by asking the students what was the most important thing they learned about their heritage and why they are proud they are now Americans.
Food and celebrations are defining characteristics of cultures. Have each child bring in a dish that is unique to his cultural background. Students can also share traditions that are part of celebrations in their families' cultures. How does that culture recognize birthdays or celebrate Christmas? Do they have holidays unique to the culture? Have students sample the dishes and participate in some of the traditional activities.
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