THE WIND-UP

Importance of learning about other cultures at a young age

Sophie Newland, Staff Writer

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Pass the Plate. The two minute episode series that aired on Disney Channel commercial breaks that I’m sure most of you are familiar with. It gave our childhood exposure to the wide range of food preparations and traditions from cultures of other countries that we may not have seen otherwise. From the use of fruits to grains to meats, this show brought a reliable, fun, and interesting way to teach kids about different societies’ traditional uses of food. But, unfortunately, the show was cancelled after 4 years in 2013. Kids cannot be trusted to do research on other cultures on their own, even with access to the internet. Without a TV show for children like Pass the Plate, how can they learn about different cultures? And why is it important?

“I think learning about different cultures is very important for kids because it broadens their minds,” Mrs. Sara Smith, world language teacher, said. “It shows [children] that there are other people in the world that live, look, act, think, and believe differently than they do.” Without an intercultural understanding, kids lose the ability to understand the differences in other countries cultures. In his Huffington Post blog, writer Matthew Lynch talks about the importance of learning about different ethnicities.

“Showing students everyday photographs of people of different ethnicities, shapes, sizes, and garb gives students the opportunity to see people that look very different from themselves and their family engaging in the same types of activities that they and their family participate in,” he said. He believes that if kids get more exposure to different groups of people, it will give them a context of the differences in how other people live their lives. “This activity can help humanize types of people that a student has never had an opportunity to interact with personally.. [things like this can] dispel any preconceived notions that students might possess about the relative competence and value of people from different cultures.”

There are plenty of ways for children to get intercultural understandings, one being children’s television. Disney has been known to be one of the most diverse and multicultural when it comes to their shows and movies, even on the different ethnicities and traditions of Americans. Movies like Moana, Pocahontas, and even The Lion King, show us the different out looks of customs based on the character’s native places and traditional beliefs. Another way for children to learn about different cultures is in books and magazines. Children’s books like “Whoever You Are” by Mem Fox or “Same, Same But Different” by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw or even a magazine like National Geographic Kids teach kids about the differences of how people live based on what country they live in or where they’re indigenous to. But, none of these are as brief, intriguing, and unavoidable as Pass the Plate.

One of the most efficient ways to expose kids to different cultures is either a teacher teaching them in school or parents bringing or providing context into their homes. Though the majority of teachers and parents are in the US are American-born and don’t have experiences from or follow traditions of other countries, bringing ideas into the classroom or at home is not a hard task. Teaching culture is about providing lessons where the unique living experiences of other people from different countries is taught to the students or children. You can do this with teaching about different Holidays, making all kinds of foods or dishes, talking about different religions and their belief meanings (especially the ones that some students may celebrate based on their family’s backgrounds), reading books together about children from different countries, or even teaching another language (which if the parent is also unfamiliar with another language, things like Rosetta Stone or Babbel can help teach both parent and child).

Though these options aren’t exactly like the short episodes of Pass the Plate, they are still a list of the many options to opening up the developmental status in engaging children into the beauty and importance of intercultural understanding. A show like Pass the Plate is ideal for kids in the sense of showing them different cultures because it provides them info they need in a short preview for small attention spans. They also get to see their favorite Disney celebs like Brenda Song or Peyton List and Karan Brar interact with other Disney actors and actresses from different countries. Children need the exposure of other cultures or else they won’t have a context for people around the world.

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Importance of learning about other cultures at a young age