Bringing Culture to the Classroom

Are you planning to make an appearance in your child’s classroom this year? Use these cues from fellow parents who brought their child's birth culture to life.

Many parents choose to introduce adoption to their child’s peers within the context of a lesson on their child’s country or birth culture. Whether your presentation complements a school project your child was assigned, or celebrates a holiday or special event, kids are always fascinated to learn how other people around the world look, what they wear, and how they live.

A New Year’s Party

“I’ve been holding a Cambodian New Year party for my daughter’s day care and school classes since she was two. Sina is six now, and she looks forward to the party every year — I think it helps her feel proud of her heritage. We also host a party at our house, and we attend a celebration at a local wat (a Buddhist temple).

The school party changes a bit every year, but usually we read a book (last year we read Silent Lotus, by Jeanne M. Lee), do a craft, watch a video of a Cambodian dance (and practice a few of the steps), eat some Cambodian foods, and throw water on each other for good luck. The kids love trying the different foods and throwing the water.

I keep it simple. I tell the kids that we’re celebrating Cambodian New Year because Sina was born in Cambodia before she was adopted. I don’t give a formal adoption presentation, but I answer any questions the kids have about Cambodia or adoption.”
Jane, Michigan

Eastern-European Easter

“One day, my eight-year-old son, Alex, casually told his classmates that he was adopted from Ukraine, and that he had spent the first year of his life in an orphanage. He was deluged with questions. It was hard for Alex to respond to all of them, because he has PDD (pervasive developmental disorder). I asked his teacher if I could teach the class a Ukrainian craft. I thought I could also use my hour in the classroom to introduce appropriate adoption terminology.

I started by showing the class a map of Ukraine. (I used It’s a Big Big World Atlas, an oversized book with colorful maps.) Then each of the children got to color in a page with outlines of the Ukrainian flag and the American flag.

I then told the kids a little bit about life in Ukraine — the kind of games children play, and how they celebrate Christmas and Easter. I showed them some lacquered boxes, nesting dolls, and pysanky eggs we brought back from our adoption trip.

We moved on to ‘painting’ Ukrainian eggs. I supplied the kids with wooden eggs, which I’d purchased at a crafts store, and washable, fine-point markers. I gave each table one of the eggs I’d brought in, as an example, as well as a page I’d printed from a website which explains many of the traditional symbols.

Many parents told me that their children came home very excited about what they had learned that day! All in all, I’d say it was a success. The kids enjoyed it, and Alex now has many more friends who understand adoption.”
Rhonda, Oklahoma

Putting Our Son on the Map

“When it was my son, Dylan’s, special week in kindergarten, I accompanied him to school with a classroom-sized world map (from a teacher supply store) and box of star stickers. As I told the class about our adoption journey, Dylan put a gold star on all of the places he’d been — Belarus, where he is from; Warsaw, where we completed our embassy paperwork; London, where we had a layover; Chicago, where we landed; and our hometown, Nashville. We included a couple of recent vacations, as well — to Mammoth Cave, in Kentucky, and to Oklahoma, where my parents live.

We then invited Dylan’s classmates to place a silver star on a special place they had been. They had a great time. I left the map with the teacher, and she displayed it in her classroom.

This presentation worked well for several reasons. Dylan is a bit shy, so he liked being the center of attention, without having to perform. I didn’t specifically highlight adoption (we want Dylan to tell his own story), but this talk introduced the idea that he was a world traveler who’d already had some pretty special experiences. And, let’s face it, almost anything that involves stickers is going to be a hit in kindergarten!”
Cara, Nashville

Chinese Crafts and Tales

“My husband and I gave a presentation on Chinese New Year for our daughter’s preschool class. The teacher introduced us, and explained that there was an important holiday being celebrated by their classmate, Lilian.

We began by teaching the children how to say ‘Happy New Year!’ in Chinese (Gung Hay Fat Choy!). Then, each of the kids got to take turns coloring in pictures of a dragon dance, and making a dragon puppet (pasting eyes, antennae, tongue, and scales onto a paper bag).
After everyone was done, it was time for snacks. We brought in mandarin oranges, almond cookies, and fortune cookies. Everyone loved them.

Then my husband told the story of Chinese New Year and explained its symbolism (fireworks, dumplings, the color red). To finish off the presentation, Lilian passed out red envelopes filled with Chinese chocolate coins.”
Heidi and Sam, Woodinville, Washington


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