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|Of Cultural Riches
Grade Level: 8-12
Subjects: Social Studies ( U.S. History, Behavioral Studies)
Summary: Immigrants bring with them vast cultural riches, many of which become embedded in American culture. This occurs over time, as immigrants assimilate and acculturate, and as Americans adopt and modify new cultural elements.
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Standards: This lesson addresses the following national content standards established at http://www.mcrel.org/standards-benchmarks/
- Define culture and its elements
- Determine how immigrant cultures are adapted to American culture
- Determine how American culture adopts elements of other cultures
- Explore family/personal cultural riches, particularly their immigrant origins
- Chalkboard and chalk
- Chart paper and markers
- Television and VCR
- Copy of The New Americans (To purchase: Home Vision Entertainment: 888 - 572-8918)
- Computers with Internet access, if available
- Print and Internet resources on culture
The following are varied definitions on culture to provide a framework for student discussion.
Cultures are systems of behaviors and customs passed from one generation to the next. The rules, language, religion, family systems, recreation and education that a group of people shares provide predictability and safety in their daily lives. When people are bound together by common beliefs and practices, they understand each other and the world around them has meaning.
…[A] culture is a complex and evolving pattern of life, rooted in tradition as well as place. Culture is indelibly a part of each person's identity, but individuals also influence culture. It defines how we see ourselves and how we perceive others. How can we, then, ever understand a culture other than our own? One way is to view differences through a neutral framework that organizes cultural traits around a set of common functions. Over the years anthropologists have developed lists of cultural universals, or functions, that are found in some form in every culture on earth.
Culture: is a shared, learned, symbolic system of values, beliefs and attitudes that shapes and influences perception and behavior
Culture: The system of shared beliefs, values, customs, behaviors, and artifacts that the members of society use to cope with their world and with one another, and that are transmitted from generation to generation through learning
Culture: all the things that make up a peoples entire way of life.
Source: Peace Corps
1. Ask students to take five minutes to write down the definition of culture and/or what they understand to be its elements. On chalkboard or chart paper, create a CULTURE web (mapping or schematic web) to record student thoughts regarding culture. (Mapping samples can be found at http://www.graphic.org/goindex.html) Discuss with the class the map concepts and have the students come to consensus on what culture is and includes.
2. Provide students with additional background on culture, particularly the elements that make up culture. Invite students to read several synopses of segments from The New Americans on the Web at http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/newamericans/newamericans.html to note some common cultural elements, such as music, religion, and food. Or, if they are viewing or have seen the series, ask them to jot down the various cultural riches it underscores.
3. Have students identify and list the ways immigrant cultures influence American culture by looking at popular elements, such as food music, film, art, and others students may name. For this, students can create a chart that identifies the elements and their accompanying influence. (Students can work in theme-based groups—listing examples for one cultural element.) Have students visit the Cultural Riches section of The New Americans Web site and find information and interactive features. Features include the Latino Mural Tradition, Mexican Home Altars, Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) and an international cookbook.
4. Have students share their lists and discuss with them the value of immigrant cultures to strengthening an existing culture base in America. Also, have students consider challenges immigrants might face as they try to retain their cultures while adapting to a new homeland (introduce students to the concept of acculturation — the process by which adults acquire the knowledge, skills, attitudes, values, and behaviors that enable them to become functioning participants of a new host culture.) What must Americans and immigrants do to ensure that immigrant cultures are recognized and respected, but do not remain isolated and out of the mainstream?
5. Students should understand that all who came to the United States (even before it was called such) were immigrants, and that immigrants continue to grow the nation. Those who are new to the nation now will be “Americans” of some type of descent over the next few generations. In that regard, students should recognize that their family history is also based in immigration; thus certain cultural practices and beliefs they entertain probably have interesting origins.
6. Instruct students to generate a list of interview questions that probe someone's culture and cultural riches. These should include inquiries regarding the person's family history in terms of culture, what original cultural practices and beliefs the person has retained and how they have evolved over time, any influence this culture has had on American culture, etc. Work with students to compile student questions to arrive at one class survey to be used by all. Instruct students to research their family culture.
7. Pair students and have them interview each other to learn about their respective cultural practices and beliefs, and to present their findings to the class, which can ask additional questions and also share how they have experienced a peer's particular culture. Students may wish to compile these interviews to include in a collection focused on community cultural riches.
Design a student-friendly questionnaire that measures student understanding of culture. Create a rubric that assesses student application of cultural concepts.
Students can identify and proactively explore a specific cultural group in their community. For example, they can interview people representing the culture, participate in cultural events, etc. They can report on this culture through a visual presentation, such as a picture book containing photos of their actual observations, a video, etc.
Meet the New Americans >
The New Americans: Cultural Riches >
The New Americans: Learn More | Cultural Riches >
Beyond the Border >
The City/La Ciudad >
Defining Culture >
Everyone Has a Culture—Everyone is Different >
Elements of Culture >
United Nations Year for Cultural Heritage >
Introduction to Culture >
Correlation to National Standards
Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL)
United States History
31: Understands economic, social, and cultural developments in the contemporary United States
1.Understands that group and cultural influences contribute to human development, identity, and behavior
Michele Israel has been in the education and non-profit fields for over 20 years. As an independent consultant and writer, she has produced myriad written and online instructional materials, including lesson plans, teacher and discussion guides, articles, newsletters, and training curricula. Among her clients are Newsweek, WETA, Teacher Source, CNN, various affiliates of the Public Broadcasting Service, as well as numerous New York City-based non-profit organizations.
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