Teaching students about similarities and differences


After years of offering a cultural arts program that focused primarily on the performing arts, a couple of Braelinn Elementary parents recognized the need to include cultural competency activities so that students could gain a better understanding of various cultures represented at the school and in the community.

Parents Dr. Ching Ching Yap and Ring Jiang were instrumental in revamping the cultural arts program in 2014 and turning it into the Cultural Arts Jubilee that is aimed at promoting healthy intercultural communication among students, and planting the seeds for them to be successful in the global society.  With the help of parent volunteers, they developed age-appropriate activities to encourage student discussions about issues such as micro-aggression, stereotyping, and cultural differences.

The 2016 Cultural Arts Jubilee featured Flamenco dancing, a steel drum and percussion performance, and a dance performance by Full Radius, a group of professional dances with and without wheelchairs.

Grade-level activities included reading the book, “I’m Like You, You’re Like Me,” in kindergarten and first grade, and helping the students create a class tree to celebrate their common and diverse interests. Second and third grade students learned basic Flamenco movements and rhythms while experiencing teamwork and nonverbal interactions.

Fourth- and fifth-grade students completed Venn diagrams to identify common and unique interests among their peer groups. They were also introduced to the concept of the “cultural iceberg” to help them better conceptualize the visible and invisible features of culture, as well as participated in a discussion of cultural competencies such as stereotyping, ethnocentrism and biases.