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Paul D. Coverdell World Wise Schools

Paul D. Coverdell World Wise Schools

Culture

Building Bridges for Young Learners

Region
Africa, Asia, Central America and Mexico, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, North Africa and the Middle East, Pacific Islands, South America, The Caribbean, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe
Grade
Grades 3-5, Grades K-2
Subjects
Cross-Cultural Understanding, Language Arts & Literature, Social Studies & Geography

This culminating lesson engages young children in exploring the macro concept of culture, including identifying visible and invisible features of culture, how interaction with the environment and others shapes one's culture, and how culture is shared and transformed over time.

Objective

Students will:

  • identify and describe the visible and invisible features of culture.
  • compare and contrast one's own culture with those of other children around the world.
  • locate the country of Namibia, comparing and contrasting its physical and cultural features to those of the United States.

 

Vocabulary
  • artifacts: materials that represent aspects of human culture
  • behaviors: observable actions
  • beliefs: ideas and viewpoints one perceives to be true
  • community: a group of people who share common interests, beliefs, and/or cultural background
  • culture: is a system of beliefs, values, and assumptions about life that guide behavior and are shared by a group of people. It includes customs, language, and material artifacts. These are transmitted from generation to generation, rarely with explicit instructions
  • traditions: beliefs or customs shared among generations  

Materials

  • Map, globe, or internet-based mapping site
  • Letter from Nangolo, a child from Namibia (pdf)
  • Peace Corps' children's book, Culture (Flash)
  • Worksheet 1: T-chart template (pdf)
  • Additional books and photographs of different cultures around the world.
  • Art supplies 

Procedures

Note to teacher: Prior to teaching this lesson, send home a letter to families asking each child to bring artifacts representing his or her own culture to class. In addition, gather age-appropriate children's books on various cultures and the country of Namibia specifically.

  1. Read aloud the letter from Nangolo, a young boy who lives in the African country of Namibia. Explain that he is a child who lives in another country in a part of the world that is far away.
  2. Display and locate Namibia on a map, globe, or digital resource. Ask children to make observations about the geographic characteristics of the region. The country is very dry but some crops are still grown and cattle and goats are raised.
  3. Discuss: Background connections to lesson on self-concept, family, school, and community:
    • Self: There are over a dozen cultural groups or tribes that live in Namibia. Namibians, including children, see themselves as members of these groups as well as citizens of Namibia.
    • Family: Children are raised by immediate as well as extended family members who may live together. These kin groups make communal decisions about finances, work, and family life.
    • School: The literacy rate is 85% and state funded schools are provided for ten years.
    • Community: Most villages share land and water rights and the greater good of the community is a strong factor in its daily operation. Young with education, travel throughout the country and are open to visiting others that may be unlike their own tribal heritage.
  4. Explain that we will learn more about Nangolo and children just like him, as well as share with Nangolo what is special about us, answering the following questions:
    • What makes my country and specific geographic region unique? And what impact does this have on our daily life?
    • What activities do children and adults like to do in our community? Work and play? How do we celebrate special events?
    • What is important to my country? To communities within my country?
    • How do we interact and share with each other in our community?
    • How would we describe ourselves as a people and a nation to someone else?
  5. Introduce the macro concept of culture. Explain that everything we have been learning about adults and children around the world relates to culture.
  6. Read aloud the Peace Corps' children's e-book, Culture
  7. During and following the reading, engage children in sharing their reactions and learning through questions such as:
    • How were children in the book similar to us? Different?
    • What did you see in the photos that described culture?
    • What are some of the ways people in the book celebrated their own culture?
    • How can culture be expressed?
    • What unique cultural practices did you learn about in the e-book?
  8. Display a t-chart labeled "Visible" and "Invisible" (link above).
  9. Explain that culture is difficult to define. In fact, many people do not agree on one definition of culture. We will use a t-chart to explore what human characteristics or features can been seen (visible) and those that cannot (invisible) as related to culture.
  10. Using ideas generated from the reading and class discussion, record examples of visible elements of culture and examples of invisible elements of culture. Emphasize again that some features of culture can be seen (visible) whereas others cannot (invisible). Ideas include:
    • Visible Cultural Elements: the arts (music, literature, etc.); cuisine; customs; family life; good production and consumption; language; laws and government; popular styles; religion; traditions
    • Invisible Cultural Elements: beliefs; norms; rules; social standards; values
  11. Lastly, create a shared class definition of culture. Have students to work in small groups to write one or two sentences or simple words describing culture. Afterwards, write each group's definition or list of words on the board. As a class, create an agreed-upon definition of culture using the words or sentences chosen by the students.
    Examples include:
    • the way a specific group people live, how they perceive situations, and their common behaviors
    • ways in which a group or society adapt to the environment
    • the set of traditions (such as food, dances, and music), knowledge, and beliefs shared and passed from generation to generation among a people
  12. Ask students to imagine they could leave cultural artifacts behind for future generations to interpret just as anthropologists do about past cultures. Explain that an artifact can be anything tangible, made or used by people.
  13. Give each student a bottle or empty memory box as well as needed art supplies. Have students to create and/or include existing artifacts that serve to capture his or her conception of his or her own culture without discussing with their peers.
  14. Upon completion, place students in small groups of 3-4 to examine their peers' artifacts. Ask students to become anthropologists by interpreting these artifacts, determining how such artifacts may provide insight into visible and invisible features of culture.
    Note to teacher: this can be adapted for very young learners by having them "show and tell" the artifacts they brought explaining what the artifact means to them, why they brought it, and how it represents their culture.
  15. Review what students have been learning about adults and children worldwide, including conceptions of self, family, school, community and the macro concept of culture.
  16. Reinforce the interconnectedness on Earth and how the celebration of diversity is a means of building peace and understanding. 

Frameworks & Standards

Enduring Understandings

  • Everyone has a culture. It shapes how we see the world, ourselves, and others. Some aspects of culture are visible and others, non-visible. An individual's actions can have an impact on him or herself, his or her family, community, and culture.
Essential Questions
  • What is culture?
  • What characterizes my culture? What are the traditions and celebrations of my culture?
  • How and why does where we live influence how we live?
  • No matter where we live, how are we all connected with each other and the world?
  • How is culture passed down over time? How do adults teach the young in my culture? In other cultures?
  • What does being a global citizen mean to me?
Standards

National Association for the Education of Young Children

  • 2.B.05 Areas of Development: Social-Emotional Development- pro-social behavior
  • 2.L.03 Cognitive Development: Social Studies- understanding of diversity
  • 2.L.05 Cognitive Development: Social Studies- community
  • 2.L.09 Cognitive Development: Social Studies- contribute to classroom and community

National Social Studies Standards

  • Thematic Strand I: Culture
  • Thematic Strand IV: Individual Development & Identity
  • Thematic Strand V: Individuals, Groups, & Institutions

National Geography Standards

  • Essential Element 1: The World in Spatial Terms

National Standards for Civics and Government

  • Content Standard 1.E.1 Purposes of rules and laws

Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy

  • Reading: Informational Text
    • Key Ideas and Details: describe connections; group reading
  • Writing
    • Research to Build and Present Knowledge: recall information from experiences
  • Speaking and Listening
    • Comprehension and Collaboration: explain ideas and understanding; respond to specific questions
    • Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas: describe familiar people places things and events
  • Language
    • Knowledge of Language: choose words and phrases for effect
    • Vocabulary Acquisition and Use: use words and phrases acquired through reading and being read to 

Extensions

  • Discuss your Peace Corps Volunteer's experiences learning about communities in his or her host country. Compare and contrast key features, highlighting characteristics of communities, community leaders, and the way that those within the community interacts and helps each other.
  • Have your students research and create a list of their community's elected leaders and discuss each person's role.
  • Identify ways you and your class can contribute to your community by doing a service project.
  • Have the students create a map of their community. This map should highlight their home, school, and other important features.
  • As the unit's culminating activity, engage students in a service learning project. Ideas include:
    • Asking the Peace Corps volunteer from your class' correspondence match to gather questions from children in their region regarding culture. Have students create a video or multimedia presentation addressing their partner country children's questions.
    • Have students engage in oral history projects in which they have residents of nursing homes reflect on their culture and how it has potentially changed over the course of their lives.
    • Organize a community art show in which students and those in the community showcase art that represents their culture.
    • Have students collect children's books that represent their culture and/or that may be among their favorites to read. Raise money to accrue postage and handling costs to send the books to their Peace Corps correspondence match partner country. 
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