There are many wonderful things you can say about the small town where I live. It's rich in history, still pretty safe, has good schools, the people are very friendly, the list goes on. One thing you cannot say is that this town is culturally diverse. In fact, it's more like culturally devoid. I grew up in a suburb of Los Angeles, a huge melting pot, so I was surrounded by different cultures. My son, however, is not being provided this experience. At the tender age of five, his mind is like a huge sponge and absorbs everything around him. So I decided if he is not getting a glimpse of cultural diversity in his surroundings, I would need to provide that for him.
That is how we came up with Culture Night at our house. It is centered around dinner time, and the meal is what guides our learning. Last night was taco night, so we learned about Mexico. I got out an old but trusty children's world encyclopedia, put on some Latin music, and let the learning begin. We look at maps so he understands where this particular area is located. We talk about the people, the food, the language, the music, and something he really loves, the games children of that culture play. The whole experience has turned into something he truly looks forward to. I have to admit there is a bit of work involved, so Culture Night takes place about every other week, but I want it to be a fulfilling experience for him, not something he gets bored with. The time in between helps him to look forward to it and helps me to get better prepared.
Even if you do live in a culturally diverse area, this is still a fun activity for your family. Besides being educational, it also promotes sensitivity to other cultures. Our next night will be about India, and I think my biggest challenge will be cooking something my picky eater will eat (I'd welcome any suggestions you may have!). Below are some great web resources I use to help me plan these learning experiences. Check them out, and try this with your family. You'll be surprised at how fun it is for everyone. Viva La Culture!