Perhaps the most important part of planning an inclusion of multicultural art is to respect the culture that it comes from. It is one thing to make a craft mimicking a culture’s traditional artistry, but does that really show the respect that it deserves? When teaching multicultural art it is important to let your students know that the art in many cultures is more about the people and culture than it is about the finished product. Studying the process and methods that traditional artisans used to create their masterpieces is a great starting point for explaining this to children. Learning the purpose and the history of the pieces is also an important element in teaching the respect for different cultures.
During certain seasons and holidays, teachers have a tendency to teach multicultural art. Often when asked about this habit the response is “we have always done it that way.” This may be the case, but that doesn’t mean that you should only introduce an African art project in January or an Irish art exploration during the month of March. A well-rounded preschool program will strive to include multicultural art throughout the entire year.
Parents and students play a pivotal role in the success of teaching multicultural art in many instances.
If a parent is knowledgeable about a different culture or country it can really benefit children to have that parent come into class and do some kind of presentation. Preschool parents will share a traditional dish from the country or culture. If this is not an option they may sing a song, show the children a dance, read a book, or teach children popular phrases in a different language. These are real experiences that form the basis for multicultural respect of their peers and their families which will carry on to their multicultural artwork. The biggest influence of respect for multicultural art in the preschool classroom may actually be the teacher. If a teacher shows respect, enthusiasm, and a positive attitude about a cultural activity or theme the children will follow suit. Like it or not, preschool children may come to class with biases that are influenced by their family or their own culture. It is important to not focus on these, but instead to educate children and to focus on the value of learning about a different culture. We are all people and are basically the same, just with subtle differences.
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