Fostering Respect for Cultural Diversity - DuPage Children's Museum

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Fostering Respect for Cultural Diversity

January 29, 2016

Communities all over the country clearly reflect the demographic changes in the U.S. population which is resulting in an increase in the diversity of families cultural backgrounds. The push to focus on increasing the quality of early childhood programs has come with much effort to create environments that are safe, welcoming, and respectful of children and families of all abilities and backgrounds. Providing children with an informed, international perspective isn’t simply an important educational opportunity which will set them up for success in the long run, but a way to provide greater understanding and empathy for others. Fostering respect for cultural diversity is everyone’s responsibility and is a job we take seriously here at DCM.

Same and Different

Young children are driven by an innate need to understand how the world operates. Noticing and being interested in differences is one manifestation of this drive to learn. These differences can pertain to objects and surroundings but also to people. In fact, earlier on than most people realize, children become aware of and intrigued by the difference in the way people look and behave. Research conducted by Phyllis A. Katz, while working as a professor at the University of Colorado, found babies as young as six-months of age would stare at photographs of adults who were of a different color than their parents for significantly longer periods of time. There was clear evidence that children notice all types of differences, in race, ability, and many others. To re-iterate, when a young child makes comments or asks questions about such things, it is their way of attempting to make sense of their observation and thereby make sense of their world. As a result, cultural diversity is a particularly important concept to grasp during childhood. Understanding that people are not all the same will enable your children to embrace and value the things that make each person or group of people different. Learning about other cultures helps children understand and feel engaged in the world. They become interested in how other people live, their cultural norms and values, different religions and languages. I think it helps them see the beauty of different cultures and appreciate the differences and similarities in how we and others live.

Children of Hangzhou

Here at DCM we recently opened a new traveling exhibit, Children of Hangzhou: Connecting with China.* This exhibition is designed to engage children and families in learning about one of the oldest civilizations – and now among the most modern – in the world through some of its young people. Children of Hangzhou is devoted to expanding knowledge, understanding and appreciation of contemporary China through life in Hangzhou. In distinctively Chinese settings, visitors will “meet” children with different interests and in different environments and learn what makes them tick. The exhibit will dispel stereotypes and demystify China.

Use your visit of Children of Hangzhou as an opportunity to expand your and your child’s knowledge about different cultures. You could go to a cultural festival, read books (both fiction and non-fiction) set in or about different countries, go online and do a fun research project and make a passport to document the countries you have “traveled” to, or find a pen pal. Maybe you could visit an ethnic restaurant or market or cook a new ethnic food at home. Check out Families of the World There are so many possibilities.

Share your experiences with us! We would love to hear from you. Post a comment below, on Facebook, or Twitter.

*Children of Hangzhou was created by Boston Children’s Museum and is part of the Freeman Foundation Asian Culture Exhibit Series, funded by The Freeman Foundation and administered by Association of Children’s Museums.