Learning to appreciate diversity
Last week marked the mid-session of the Core Child Program. For the last six weeks, children in the early childhood program have been learning about various concepts associated with the theme of Community- everything from Me and My Family, to My Neighborhood, My City, and finally My World. Given the highly interconnected nature of the world that we currently live in, societies can no longer flourish while remaining isolated. As such, it is important that children begin to understand from a very early age that they are citizens of a global community- and that the world is a diverse place, so in order to be a good member of the community they must be respectful of similarities and differences between cultures. Through doing so, the goal of this week is to impart on children the belief in themselves that they are all capable of making a positive change on the world, so long as they carry with them a sense of respect.
In past sessions this has been a challenging week for the Core Child Teachers. With most of the Core Child Teachers being products of the Palestinian education system which formerly did little to teach children about diversity in the world, and also with few of the teachers having ever left Palestine, most were not confident in their ability to speak with authority to children about the outside world. As such, a major professional development focus of the last year has been working with the teachers to build their information and develop their confidence. As a result, this week's lessons were a tremendous success.
Core Child Teacher Ahmed shared some of his experiences regarding his own growth over the past year, explaining how this served to impact children's enjoyment of the subject. Ahmed explained that in the past, children tend to find the week of My World as boring- as a result, he was never quite sure how successfully he was able to root the concepts with his class. Through his own experiences in the classroom, along with guidance from the Psychosocial Program Manager, Suhad, Ahmed concluded that young children best connect with a subject when they are able to physically engage with it; simply talking, or watching videos is not enough to deeply root a new idea for young children. As such, this session, Ahmed wanted to introduce the idea of My World through traditional food and dress found around the world. Spending many hours outside of class, he prepared costumes and paper mache food platters resembling international cuisine. The result was success.
Children in Ahmed's class were able to fully participate in the subject- both 'experiencing' different cultures through dressing up themselves, but also by seeing their peers dressed as people from far-away places. The week was full of smiles and laughter as children looked at each other in costume. For children of 4 and 5, often their first reaction upon seeing something different/ previously unknown to themselves is to laugh. While such a reaction is normal amongst young children, this reaction must change to respect and acceptance as they mature. By introducing children to 'the other' at such an early age, TYO hopes to instill in children the idea that no matter our differences we are all human and as such, must treat diversity with respect and tolerance.
- Ahmed Al Khateeb, Core Child Teacher and Jessica Dargiel, Deputy Director