The beauty of varied cultural dress, colours of national flags, clang of coins of different currencies, and laughter derived from playing games from around the world are but a few of the ways in which Gibson Elementary School is celebrating the diversity of their community.
“Our kids all come from very diverse homes,” explains Tina Doukas, a teacher at Gibson Elementary.
A school-wide census conducted by a class of Grade 5 and 6 students revealed 59 countries in the school’s cultural mosaic and 39 different second languages spoken by students and staff. This diversity it what led Doukas and her colleagues to focus on celebrating these cultures. As the Coordinator of Inquiry, Doukas helped staff generate a goal for the school year.
The goal they created is: “If we share our students’ family stories, then students will increase their sense of belonging in the Gibson community and they will increase their feelings of self worth and pride. We will know there has been a positive change because our community will be more connected, compassionate and welcoming as a result of being aware of our family origins and immigration stories.”
Throughout the fall, students shared their family stories with their classmates. The students were proud to have their stories embraced by their peers and the experience also enabled them to related to one-another, says Doukas. Students came to realize that most of them come from immigrant families, whether it was from England 200 years ago or India just a few years ago, she adds.
“It builds the understanding that we are all the same,” says Doukas. “Families all had common reasons for coming to Canada. They wanted to live somewhere peaceful and to have the opportunities for a better life and better education for their children.”
As part of the process of sharing their family stories, each class in the school created a book of these stories that was then professionally printed. Copies of these books are available in the school library and have also been purchased by families in the school.
Involving families in the process of embracing the multiculturalism of the school has been very important. Doukas and her colleagues are hoping to create a strong school community that includes students, teachers, and parents.
On Jan. 31, families were invited to join the students and staff at a day-long event. The event was a chance for the students to share their cultures with the entire school community.
The gym was transformed into a hub of activities all focused on multiculturalism. Stations varied from writing and speaking in different languages, to playing games from different areas of the world, to exploring the art and architecture of other nations. At each booth, students were teaching students and all of them were fully engaged in learning about different cultural features. Throughout the school, students and families were also given the chance to learn various cultural dances and songs. Each student was given a passport that they had stamped at every station they attended.
The school is going to continue focusing on their cultural diversity throughout the rest of the school year and into the future. The have aptly titled this overall initiative as “Celebrating our stories.”