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Cultural and Holiday Observances in the Lower School

By Ms. Oliphant, Second Grade Teacher

As a teacher, I believe that one of the most important learning opportunities we can give our children is to learn about other cultures. In today’s globalized world, it is more important than ever to understand and appreciate the diversity of the world around us.

Learning about other cultures can have a range of benefits for children. It builds empathy, compassion, and understanding for people who may be different from themselves. It also helps children broaden their perspectives and gain new insights into their own lives. By learning about their classmates’ celebrations, children learn essential skills including, communication, problem-solving, and adaptability that will serve them well in an increasingly interconnected world. 

Over the past several years, lower school teachers have invited parents into their classrooms to share their religious and cultural holidays. These experiences have provided opportunities for students to learn about holidays and celebrations they may not know about in a more meaningful way. 

The following are comments from faculty, administrators, and students regarding these special classroom celebrations:

“I like these celebrations because they give children the opportunity to feel proud of their own culture.” 
Mrs. Carter - 1st Grade Teacher

The celebrations highlight the similarities between holidays and observances. Some common themes are lightness over dark, starting fresh and new, and the spirit of giving and helping others.”
 Mrs. Graham - 3rd Grade Teacher

“These celebrations highlight people in our community and create an appreciation for others.”
Mrs. Chiao- 4th Grade Teacher

“The kids like seeing what their friends are doing at home with their families. The families get a sense of pride by getting to share something about themselves.” 
Mrs. Meyer - School Librarian

“Learning about other cultures enriches all of our lives.”
Mrs. Mullane - Lower School Director

“We get to read books that we wouldn’t normally read and learn about other people.” 
Cade B. - 2nd Grade Student

“Some people get made fun of because they are different. Learning about other cultures helps us learn more about people and we can ask them questions to learn more.”
 Lily P. - 2nd Grade Student

“The majority of our class is Christian and these celebrations give Christians an opportunity to learn about Jewish and other religious holidays. We usually just think about Christmas, but we get the chance to open up about other holidays.” 
Camille P. - 2nd Grade Student

About the Author:
Ms. Oliphant has been teaching at Harbor Day School since 2003. Prior to teaching second grade, she taught first grade for 11 years. Ms. Oliphant received her bachelor’s degree in child development from California State University, Northridge. She then earned her master’s degree in educational counseling from Loyola Marymount University. She is currently the department chair for lower school social studies. Ms. Oliphant continues her professional development through educational workshops and conferences. When not in the classroom, she enjoys reading, traveling, and relaxing at the beach.  

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Harbor Day School is a co-educational private independent K-8 school established in 1952.