Experiencing different cultures
Learning life lessons
By Julie Matuszewski; photos courtesy of DCS Montessori
Wer gu yaram; or rather, cheers to good health. This is a common phrase used in Wolof, a Niger-Congo language spoken mainly in the Republic of Senegal. As part of DCS Montessori’s Human Differences month, students were treated to a special African cultural assembly. Designed to highlight differences between American and African culture, visiting African dancers and drummers performed and spoke English, French and Wolof for students during the assembly.
Each month, the school calendar reflects activities to enrich social and emotional development, looking closely at what it means to be a Cougar – compassion, ownership, unity, generosity, achievement, respect and success. As part of Human Differences month, classroom activities and discussion included topics around race, gender and learning differences all aimed at strengthening student understanding of the negative impacts of judging other people on the basis of human differences.
Lower elementary teachers Paul Brannberg and Leana Kerr mixed things up with guest speakers and cooking classes to illustrate the themes of the month.
Margaret Brawley with Medicines for Humanity, a global organization working to reduce child mortality in impoverished communities around the world, visited Brannberg’s class and openly shared her experiences of more than 12 years living in Africa. Her presentation left students with an appreciation for the different ways people do things. For example, teachers in Africa often paint on the sides of the outer school walls to illustrate their daily lessons. While our schools utilize whiteboards and computers. In addition, students were able to see photos of African animals and learn more about the Maasai people.
Kerr’s class learned about and compared American, African and Albanian cultures through cooking traditional dishes. The lessons provided a cross-curricular approach that included math, language, sensory processing and practical life skills. Students rolled up their sleeves and made Albanian spinach and feta pies.