A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE® Institute
Lesson: Culture Tree
From the A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE® Institute Anti-Bias Study Guide (Secondary Level)
1. Prepare students for this activity by explaining that in order to understand how to acknowledge and support cultural diversity and freedom, they need to first examine their own cultural identity, biases and behaviors.
2. To begin this process, they will be identifying the cultural group(s) that they belong to or that they admire and the ways in which these cultural groups shape their thinking and beliefs.
[NOTE: Be mindful of the complex emotions an adoptee or a child in foster family placement may feel participating in this assignment. During discussions a student should feel free to "pass" with no explanation required.]
3. Have Student Handout: The Culture Tree on an overhead transparency or distribute one copy to each student. Review the diagram with students. You may choose to fill in the transparency using yourself or a volunteer as an example. The leaves or fronds on the tree represent a person's cultural groups (e.g., race, religion, ethnicity); students should add as many leaves or fronds as they need. The trunk of the tree represents those cultural characteristics that are visible (e.g., customs, food, language). The roots of the tree represent a person's foundation or what she or he values and believes (being independent, taking care of one's family, getting a good education).
4. Explain that each student will prepare a culture tree to share with the class.
5. Provide each student with construction paper or chart paper and have markers, crayons and colored pencils available for students to use. Allow 15-20 minutes for students to complete their culture trees.
6. Divide class into small groups of five or six students and have each student share his or her culture tree with the group. Students should begin by telling the cultural group(s) that they belong to and then explain the observable layer of their cultural identity (language, food, celebrations). Lastly, they should share the underlying assumptions upon which their behaviors, actions or thoughts are based. This is a person's belief or value system which is passed from one generation to the next.
7. After all students have shared with their groups, have a closing discussion about the meaning of culture using the following discussion questions:
- Do you or other members of your group belong to several cultural groups? What were some of the groups represented?
- How have you learned about your culture(s)?
- What are some of the beliefs and values (roots) expressed by group members?
- Were there similarities in the roots of the trees shared by students in your group? If so, what were they?
- How does culture influence what you believe or value?
- What is your primary cultural group?
- Has your primary cultural group ever changed? If so, why?
- Was there anything difficult about examining your cultural background? If so, what?
- Did members of your group identify themselves the way you expected them to? Were there any surprises? Explain.
[NOTE: you may wish to post student Culture Trees around the classroom.]
8. Explain that the next step towards cultural awareness is for students to spend time identifying how one's own personal behavior reinforces or combats prejudice. Students will also discuss the many roles that people can find themselves faced with when a bias act occurs (e.g., sometimes we perpetuate prejudice, sometimes we observe others acting in a prejudiced manner, sometimes we are victims of prejudice). Only then can they begin to develop skills to confront prejudice and discrimination in their schools and communities.
ADL's A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE® Institute operates on the premise that educators are most likely to be successful in integrating anti-bias content and methodology practices in their classrooms when they have had hands-on experience and training with the materials they use. For this reason, ADL's A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE® Institute curriculum materials are available only within the context of a six-hour (minimum) staff development workshop, and are not for sale through ADL’s Resource catalog. In the interest of providing specific examples of the Institute's curriculum materials, this sample exercise has been made available. For more information on how to organize an A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE ® Institute training program in your school or community, contact your ADL Regional Office, ADL National Headquarters (212) 885-7700, or by E-mail.
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