Creating Diverse Learning Environments

Image result for diverse classroomCreating a physical learning environment which conveys a strong positive message to the children and families in your class that they are welcome, accepted, and essential is crucial to partnering with families and ensuring that children feel safe and comfortable. Besides the critical elements of connecting with families and building positive relationships with the children and families in your class, it is equally vital to ensure that the environment created in the classroom contains visuals and materials that reflect an anti-bias ambiance which is consistent with the cultures of the families in your class.

According to Derman-Sparks & Edwards (2010), children begin to reflect the stereotypes and attitudes (negative and positive) of social discourse regarding various cultural groups. Preschool children whose classroom environment does not reflect their home environment can start to feel invisible, which can lead to cultural discontinuance. Cultural discontinuance can manifest in a variety of ways in children, from children not wanting to speak their home language to children abandoning their culture in order to adopt the dominant culture’s ways of living and being.

Arranging an effective anti-bias environment with strong cultural consistency that reflects the children and families in my class would involve ensuring that the cultures of the families and children are visible and celebrated in various parts of my classroom. Creating a family tree with pictures of all the families in my classroom would ensure that all the different families and children are represented and visible. Creating a home-like feeling of artifacts from the homes of the children could help them transition from home to school. Adriana Castillo had sort of a calm transitional room where children could sit, relax, lie down, and even play. The room had soft lighting, music, big pillows, soft surfaces for naps, and favorite books (Laureate Education, 2011). I thought this concept to be a great idea and would like to take it a step further with asking parents to donate soft artifacts like blankets and cultural books that they have at home to make it more culturally consistent.

In addition to reflecting cultural artifacts, family pictures as well as photos that reflect the cultures in the classroom, I would also add photographs and books that reflect other cultural groups in the community (e.g., people with disabilities, ages, genders, races, religions, diverse family structures, and economic groups). Derman-Sparks & Ewards (2010) suggests that children should be able to learn about diversity beyond their own culture and identity.  However, I would be careful not to post or have images of tokenism. Tokenism can occur when for example a teacher purchases one black doll and places them among numerous white dolls or when a teacher does a study or unit on a specific culture or group of people then never presents or refers to them again almost as if these cultural groups are not the norm of the classroom community. Briefly studying a cultural group conveys to children from that culture that they are not considered the norm in the classroom or community and that their culture is not important enough to ever mention again.

Moreover, I would also infuse books, music, dolls, dramatic play props, that reflect the diversity of the community and the classroom families. Most importantly, I would ensure that children are corrected when they reflect learned stereotypes by educating and helping them identify stereotypes using persona dolls. Persona dolls should reflect the diversity and culture of the children in the classroom, but most importantly persona dolls should communicate the different social problems and stereotypes, prejudice and “isms” that children in the classroom reflect. Teaching anti-bias and social justice will help children see how “isms” and stereotypes affect and hurt other people and promote acceptance of cultural differences (Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2010).

In conclusion, selecting learning materials in the classroom that help promote anti-bias education will always be an on-going process because it will have to reflect the new groups of families and children that enter your class from year to year. Asking parents to donate artifacts, or present them during units of study can build trust and positive community in your class.

References:

Derman-Sparks, L., & Olsen, Edwards, J. (2010). Anti-bias education for young children and ourselves. Washington, D.C.: National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).

Laureate Education, Inc. (2011). Strategies for working with diverse children: Building on children’s strengths. Baltimore, MD: Author

Creating a physical learning environment which conveys a strong positive message to the children and families in your class that they are welcome, accepted, and important is crucial to partnering with families and ensuring that children feel safe and comfortable. Besides the important elements of connecting with families and building positive relationships with the children and families in your class, it is equally vital to ensure that the environment created in the classroom contains visuals and materials that reflect an anti-bias ambiance which is consistent with the cultures of the families in your classroom.

According to Derman-Sparks & Edwards (2010), children begin to reflect the stereotypes and attitudes (negative and positive) of social discourse regarding various cultural groups. In addition, preschool children whose classroom environment does not reflect their home environment can start to feel invisible which can lead to cultural discontinuance. Cultural discontinuance can manifest in a variety of ways in children, from children not wanting to speak their home language to children abandoning their culture in order to adopt the dominant culture’s ways of living and being.

Related imageArranging an effective anti-bias environment with strong cultural consistency that reflects the children and families in my class would involve ensuring that the cultures of the families and children are various parts of my classroom. Creating a family tree with pictures of all the families in my classroom would ensure that all the different families and children are represented and visible. Creating a home-like feeling of artifacts from the homes of the children could help them transition from home to school. Adriana Castillo had sort of a calm transitional room where children could sit, relax, lie down and even play. The room had soft lighting, music, big pillows, soft surfaces for naps, and favorite books (Laureate Education, 2011). I thought this concept to be a great idea and would like to take it a step further with asking parents to donate soft artifacts like blankets and cultural books that they have at home to make it more culturally consistent.

Related imageIn addition to reflecting cultural artifacts, family pictures as well as pictures that reflect the cultures in the classroom, I would also add pictures and books that reflect other cultural groups in the community (e.g., people with disabilities, ages, genders, races, religions, diverse family structures, and economic groups). Derman-Sparks & Ewards (2010) suggests that children should be able to learn about diversity beyond their own culture and identity.  However, I would be careful to not post or have images of tokenism. Tokenism can occur when for example a teacher purchases one black doll and places them among numerous white dolls or when a teacher does a study or unit on a culture or people then never presents or refers to them again almost as if these cultural groups are not the norm of the classroom community. This conveys to children from that culture that they are not considered the norm in the classroom or community.

Moreover, I would also infuse books, music, dolls, dramatic play props, that reflect the diversity of the community and the classroom families. Most importantly, I would ensure that children are corrected when they reflect learned stereotypes by educating and helping them identify stereotypes using persona dolls. Persona dolls should reflect the diversity and culture of the children in the classroom but most importantly persona dolls should communicate the different social problems and stereotypes, prejudice and “isms” that children in the classroom reflect. This will help children see how isms and stereotypes affect and hurt other people and teach acceptance of differences and cultural awareness (Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2010).

In conclusion, selecting learning materials in the classroom that help promote anti-bias education will always be an on-going process because it will have to reflect the new groups of families and children that enter your class from year to year. Asking parents to donate artifacts, or present them during units of study can build trust and positive community in your class.

References:

Derman-Sparks, L., & Olsen Edwards, J. (2010). Anti-bias education for young children and ourselves. Washington, D.C.: National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).

Laureate Education, Inc. (2011). Strategies for working with diverse children: Building on children’s strengths. Baltimore, MD: Author

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s