At school each day, we have opportunities for our students, families, and teachers to learn from each other about our differences, which creates experiences involving diversity amongst us. Children model what they see and learn, so we need to be a model, as well as provide experiences of acknowledging and embracing differences.
A young learner learns best through simple and concrete concepts and examples. We introduce the letters and sounds in the alphabet. We introduce math concepts of counting, patterning, and sorting. We introduce social and emotional skills of sharing, taking turns, and being kind to our friends. These basic concepts can also be applied when teaching our students about differences and diversity. We can provide opportunities for our students to investigate what is unfamiliar and support basic differences in gender, religion, culture, and language. Planning a unit on cultures around the world introduces our students to geographic locations around the globe, different kinds of foods, different climates, different ways to dress, different religions and holidays, and more. A unit on different community service helpers and occupations provides an opportunity for our students to learn about society. We bring parents in who were born in Russia, Mexico, and Europe to talk about traditions and language in their country. Our Early Childhood program and classrooms provide learning experiences that integrate the differences and cultures of all children.
Preschool-aged children are also developing their sense of belonging, so it is important to create a school environment that is accepting of differences. Through play, discussions, activities, lessons, and examples, children can consider and try different ways of solving problems, different ways of completing a task, and different possibilities of behaviors. This not only encourages them to be creative and critical thinkers, but by trying different ways, they can explore being different. Our classrooms are filled with books, dolls, posters, and lessons that provide diverse, multicultural experiences. Most importantly, we strive to teach and foster empathy in our early childhood students with the goal of the respect and acceptance of each other’s differences. Being empathetic and getting along with others, while embracing similarities and differences, is an integral aspect of our program, that aligns with our approach to social and emotional development which focuses on doing the right thing by showing compassion for others.