Culturally relevant (or responsive) education is about looking for ways to engage students in meaningful conversations and critical thinking by drawing on their own expertise.
It is not about including festivals and food and checking off a diversity box.
Last week, a supply teacher visited my son’s classroom. Seems quite ordinary. Except – this teacher was wearing a Dastaar! My son was beyond blown away to see a mirror of his own identity as a teacher in his school. And this Supply Teacher was substituting for their French class. But for the children in his class, all they wondered was whether this supply teacher was my son’s Dad. Their perspective of our humanity did not reach beyond the immediate. This is one of the reasons why culturally relevant (responsive) teaching needs to happen all year long. Children need many mirrors, windows and sliding glass doors to experience the world.
In The Garden of Peace, five seeds from different regions (of what today are known as India and Pakistan) are given a chance to grow into an equitable garden to sustain future communities. These five seeds represent key human characteristics that are necessary to build upon each other to become Warriors of Change. It follows the idea of not just helping a community with charity, but actually investing in their continued sustainability.
The five key human characteristics:
Daya – kindness
Dharam – fairness
Himmat – courage
Mohkam – determination
Sahib – warrior of change
The original Countdown to Vaisakhi resource has been so popular that I decided to re-vamp it to reflect how The Garden of Peace can be used as a mentor text to include culturally relevant and anti-bias curriculum in your learning spaces. Vaisakhi is celebrated on the 13th or 14th of April.
April is Poetry Month!
Have students create a poetic performance. The five seeds in The Garden of Peace represent key human characteristics that build upon each other to create Warriors of Change.
Write an Ode to one of the seeds and then perform your poetry to an audience.
Hold a Crown Day celebration to reflect on the characteristics needed to wear a crown. (Remember, Hat Days are not inclusive for children who wear a patka or a dastaar).
Think about ideas of power and privilege for older children.
Who usually wears a crown?
Would you want to wear a crown? Why? Why not?
Imagine that everyone wears an invisible crown.
How do you think it feels to wear a crown?
How do you think a person could earn the privilege of wearing a crown?
What action(s) could take the crown away from you?
Can you think of a person who should lose the privilege of wearing their invisible crown? Why do you think that person should not have a crown?
Do you think you can earn back your crown?
How would you make sure you could keep your crown?
A Phulkari is an authentic Panjabi quilt embroidered with geometric patterns in bright colours. They are often worn during times of celebration and become family heirlooms.
Children can decorate one square of fabric or cardstock each to show:
– their own understanding of one of the characteristics from The Garden of Peace OR
– how one of the characteristics is celebrated in their home OR
– connect one of the characteristics to a book they have read (e.g. Kindness = Wonder)
Attach all of these squares together to create a Phulkari!
Spend the month of April focused on Making a Difference.
– Carry out a random act of seva (kindness) each day
– Learn something new about organizations that give back to communities. Organizations like Khalsa Aid, or Zero Hunger with Langar work globally to uplift the lives of human beings. Zero Hunger with Langar, for example, encourages people to pledge their birthday to provide children freedom from hunger. Khalsa Aid is still helping to rebuild Haiti after the earthquake even when the rest of the world moved on.
– Design a seva bag or box and fill it with non-perishable food items. Deliver it to a local food bank.
Design and create colourful kites to fly during April.
The spring air of Vaisakh makes kite flying a popular pass time. A kite is called a Patang or Guddi Manjha in Panjab. The wood and bamboo cylinder, on which the string is wound, is called a Charkhadi. Children often give their kites a special name to reflect their personal designs such as: Pari (fairy), Chand Mama (man-in-the-moon/uncle moon), Shakkar Para (a panjabi sweet). Another way to weave this activity into Poetry Month is by including poetry written on the Patang. People would write poems in Panjabi on their kites and send messages to a special person up on a rooftop.
Write favourite poetry on the kite and deliver to someone special on Vaisakhi day!
Find a lion kite printable here.
Earth Day takes place on April 22nd. By choosing a diverse #OwnVoice mentor text, you can connect culturally relevant experiences to this day.
The Garden of Peace is printed on responsibly sourced paper. Talk about how that choice makes a difference to our planet.
On the endpapers of The Garden of Peace you will find a special spread showing you how to plant your very own garden of peace. Once children have listened to, or read the story, have them reflect on what it means to share the five characteristics at the root of this story.
Choose one idea to “plant” each day by carrying out random acts of: kindness, being fair (no discrimination), being brave, having a growth mindset and at the end, children will have grown into citizens of change. How powerful!
The spread at the end of the book asks the big question:
What trail will you blaze as a citizen of change?
You could display answers on individual flags and hang them as bunting to celebrate Vaisakhi. (If you create a printable for this, please send me a message and I’ll link it here!)
Please do share this post! This work takes many hours and Mummy time away from my Little One, so please be respectful and give credit if you use or share my ideas in your own resources. Please link to the entire post. Thank you!
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