Features of Culture
Building Bridges - Unit I
- 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
- Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12
- Cross-Cultural Understanding
Students will enumerate features of their own culture and evaluate how those features have influenced their lives.
- Students will be able to explain some of the features of their own culture.
- Students will be able to describe their impressions of how the culture of the United States has shaped them.
Write the following statements on the board:
- No one is exactly like me.
- I have many things in common with the members of my family and community.
- Every person in the world needs some of the same things I need.
- Point out to students that people in various groups often look at people in other groups as "different." Ask students whether they have seen this occur in their school or community. If so, why has it happened?
- Ask students to describe some of these differences. Then ask why people in one group might behave differently from people in another group.
- Explain that many differences are related to culture—beliefs and ways of living that are handed down from one generation to the next.
- Working from the statements on the board, explain that all people share basic needs, and ask students for several examples (e.g., food, shelter, love, respect). In addition, each of us learns a set of behaviors and beliefs from the people we grow up with. Ask students for examples (e.g., the manners we're taught, the way we celebrate holidays, how we are expected to behave toward neighbors). Finally, each individual has unique talents and preferences. Again, ask students for examples (e.g., I'm good at math, I'm good at soccer, I don't like chocolate).
- Explain that when we talk about behaviors and beliefs that a group of people have in common (not individual talents and preferences), we are talking about culture.
- Now have students look at some of the features of culture. Provide each student with a copy of Worksheet #1, Features of Culture. Ask the students to complete the worksheet by filling in an example for each feature of culture. Work through a few of the features with the students to ensure they understand that they are being objective observers of their own taken-for-granted customs.
Take the five features of culture that follow and ask students to discuss the following questions about these features:
- Celebrations: What kinds of celebrations are important in your family? In the United States?
- Greetings: How do you generally greet people you don't know? People you do know?
- Beliefs about hospitality: How do you show hospitality in your community? In your school? In your home?
- The role of family: Is there a particular age at which you celebrate an important event in your life with your family or community?
- Attitudes about personal space and privacy: How important do you feel it is to have personal space and privacy?
Conduct a class discussion:
- What conclusions can you begin to draw about the culture of the United States?
- What are your impressions about how U.S. culture has shaped you?
- Review Worksheet #2, Everyone Has a Culture—Everyone Is Different, with students. For homework, ask students to complete Worksheet #2. This will help them identify unique aspects of their own culture. Students will follow up on this worksheet in class in Lesson 3.
Frameworks & Standards
- Everyone has a culture. It shapes how we see the world, ourselves, and others.
- How does culture shape the way we see ourselves, others, and the world?
- How does my culture shape me?
- Why is it important to understand culture?