Importance of Multicultural Classrooms


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Back to school means back to the basics, and in North Carolina classrooms today, this means more than just reading, writing and arithmetic. Schools across the state increasingly recognize the importance of a multicultural education, with teachers educating students about our global society. Parent-teacher associations also involve parents in the process, and families are bringing home the lessons of diversity and inclusion.

Carnette Debella, a teacher who heads up the multicultural fair at Pearsontown Elementary in Durham, believes multiculturalism is an important component of a well-rounded education. "A student's knowledge base is increased by learning about different cultures," she says, citing lessons in world geography and history, national flags and languages.

Debella also says current events and international disasters can teach kids about other societies — from government and economics to family structure and housing. Through studying disasters, such as the earthquakes in Chile and Haiti and famines in Africa, children's minds are open to lend a helping hand when others are in need. "If our young people have been taught about different cultures, as adults they will be more willing to help in times of need," Debella says.

Nurturing open minds

Gilmara Johnson, an English-as-a-Second-Language teacher at University Meadows Elementary in Charlotte, believes strongly that multiculturalism is a valuable part of education. "Cultural content helps (students) review their preconceptions about a certain culture and hopefully treat everyone the same," she says.

Johnson says teachers should be aware of the nationalities represented in their classrooms to share knowledge and to prevent misunderstandings that may arise from language barriers or the expression of varying customs. In her classroom, new students are encouraged to present information about their home countries to their classmates. Johnson also frequently incorporates activities about her own home country — Brazil — into her lesson preparations.

"I usually make a compare-and-contrast activity, especially about holidays and monthly events," she explains. "I also have a world map on the wall and the name of each student on an index card with a thread linking to the country where the student comes from."

Technology enables children today to live in a global society, where they can view and communicate instantaneously with others around the world, says Roanne Ornelles, director of diversity at Summit School in Winston-Salem. "However, children cannot truly understand, appreciate and communicate with others unless they have experienced the culture in an authentic way," she says.

Parents understand the importance of multiculturalism, too. Tuyet Huynh, a Raleigh parent of three children, appreciates that her kids were exposed to different cultures at an early age. She says she feels her children, as a result, will grow into open-minded citizens who will more easily work and live within a global society.

Celebrating diversity

As students move beyond high school and college into the workplace, they will enter jobs that require not only critical thinking skills, but also acceptance of others' differences, since corporate offices, retail centers and manufacturing plants are hubs of people from all over the world. To translate academic achievement into a successful career, today's children need to graduate with a different set of skills than their parents.

"Students who learn to accept others of different cultures will have success in the diverse workforce they will find themselves in as adults," Huynh says. "They'll be open-minded, productive team players."

Beyond English, math and science, Ornelles says children must also learn "adaptability, effective communication, problem-solving and collaborative working skills for them to work well with others."

School communities that foster acceptance and inclusion among families are paving the way for the next generation of doers and leaders.

Providence Day School in Charlotte held a Global Day last fall, which was an outreach event from the school's Global Studies Diploma program. More than 600 faculty, staff, students, families and community members attended. Every region of the globe was represented, with exhibits featuring indigenous crafts, regional cuisine and facts addressing issues ranging from poverty and disease to economic development.

"The children really enjoyed learning about the cultures of some of their friends and experiencing some of their traditions," says Lisa Sicard, a Providence Day parent. "They particularly enjoyed watching the Indian dancing, playing backgammon in the Middle Eastern tent and trying out some fencing moves."

Many schools hold similar events. At the Pearsontown Elementary Multicultural Fair in Durham, children share art they create based on their impressions of the countries they study. Members of the community also are invited to participate.

"This year we had Chuck Davis and his famous African Dance Ensemble," Debella explains. "Previously, we had representatives from a local Turkish Cultural Center."

At Cary's Davis Drive Elementary, the PTA supports the cultural arts program, which offers performances that expose students to different cultures and forms of arts, such as the Liang Chinese acrobatic show.

Frank Porter Graham Elementary in Chapel Hill holds family focus nights in an effort to strengthen the school's connections with minority families. During Latino Family Night and African-American Family Night, families are invited to bring foods that reflect their cultures.

"Each event offers brief presentations by the staff and the community regarding opportunities available for families and children," says Susan Pegg, interim principal at the school. "The main goal is to reach out and say, 'We are here for you and your children. Please let us know how we can help.'"

Taking global awareness home

Whatever the format of a school's multicultural efforts, one of the ultimate goals is to encourage further exploration at home and within the community.

Scouting organizations provide excellent opportunities for students to gain a global awareness. Cassie McGowin, a Fort Mill, S.C., mom of twins, says Girl Scouts World Thinking Day promotes girls and their families getting together to learn about traditions in other countries.

Families can watch cultural programs on television, visit museums, and attend local festivals that celebrate cultures from around the globe, like the area Latino festivals this month. (See our Calendar Highlights page for more information.

Ornelles says the best way for parents to teach children to empathize with others is to model acceptance through their own interactions with others. "It is absolutely true that children learn by what respected adults do as much as by what they say," she says.

Lee Rhodes is a freelance writer in Waxhaw.

Diversity Increasing in the Triangle

More school-age children in the Triangle, or their parents, are from another country compared to the state as a whole. Of children ages 6-17, 6 percent in the Triangle are foreign-born compared with 3.5 percent in the state as a whole.

In the Triangle, in that same age group, 19 percent of children had at least one foreign-born parent, as compared with 13.5 percent in North Carolina.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Durham and Raleigh-Cary metro areas for Triangle populations

Wake County Public School System demographics reports show that diversity has increased in the state's largest school system during the last 20-plus years. The percentages of Asian, Hispanic or Latino, and multiracial students have increased significantly while the populations of white and black/African-American students have decreased.

Below are statistics that show growth for various race/ethnicity groups between 1987-1988 and 2009-2010.

American Indian/Alaska Native
1987-1988: 0.2 percent
2009-2010: 0.3 percent

Asian/Pacific Islander
1987-1988: 2.1 percent
2009-2010: 6.1 percent

Black/African-American
1987-1988: 26.7 percent
2009-2010: 25.9 percent

Hispanic/Latino
1987-1988: 0.5 percent
2009-2010: 11.8 percent

Multiracial
1987-1988: 0 percent
2009-2010: 4.8 percent

White
1987-1988: 70.5 percent
2009-2010: 51.1 percent

Source: Wake County Public School System

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December 2017

Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about tummy time alternatives, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to...

Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
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Join Mindful Families of Durham, a Buddhist-inspired spiritual community that supports area parents, caregivers, and their children in the practice of mindfulness and the understanding of the...

Cost: Free

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Erwin Road
Durham, NC  27705
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Contact Name: Adam, Laura, Josh, Sumi
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Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about carry positions, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to crawl,...

Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
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Barriskill Dance Theatre School present its annual production of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Ballet. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Reynolds Theater, Duke University
125 Science Dr.
Durham, NC  27708
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Enjoy a family Chanukah concert from local band, Mishpacha (Hebrew for “family”). Mishpacha’s music is influenced by a variety of musical genres including folk,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Quail Ridge Books
4209-100 Lassiter Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
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Take the family to this witty and warm journey through a lifetime of Christmases as Scrooge finally finds redemption, charity and love. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $15 and up

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Kenan Theatre
120 Country Club Rd.
Chapel Hill, NC
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Join Burning Coal Theatre Company as it presents a stage production based on the children's novel by JM Barrie. Purchase tickets online.  

Cost: $25/adult, $15/student

Where:
Burning Coal Theatre
224 Polk St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Telephone: 919-834-4001
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Learn about winter. Sip pine needle tea, and observe the ice and snow through hands-on science experiments. All ages with adult. Registration required. 

Cost: $1/person

Where:
Crowder District Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd.
Apex, NC
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Cary Ballet students presents a condensed version of the holiday story for younger audiences. Join Clara, her heroic nutcracker, the evil Mouse Queen and all of Clara’s colorful friends on a...

Cost: $21-$25

Where:
Cary Arts Center
101 Dry Ave.
Cary, NC  27511
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Sponsor: Cary Ballet Company
Telephone: 919-200-3939
Contact Name: Michelle Gisondi
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Build a LEGO menorah, discover chocolate making and enjoy games from 3-4:45 p.m. at the Apex Community Center. At 5 p.m., a menorah lighting and fire show take place at 220 N. Salem Street in...

Cost: Free

Where:
Downtown Apex
, NC


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Enjoy a family-friendly holiday gospel tradition. The show, created by Langston Hughes, features soaring singers, inspirational dancers and the heartwarming and humorous procession of...

Cost: $26/adult, $22/student

Where:
Stewart Theatre, N.C. State University
Raleigh, NC


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Enjoy a 3.5-hour bus tour in the heart of downtown Raleigh during the holiday season. Pullen Park Holiday Express tickets included. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $55/adult, $39/child

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
, NC  27601


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The Triangle Youth String Orchestra performs its annual holiday concert. All ages. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $15/adult, $5/child

Where:
Athens Drive High School Auditorium
1420 Athens Dr.
Raleigh, NC  27606
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Cary Ballet students presents the holiday story of Clara, her heroic nutcracker, the evil Mouse Queen and all of Clara’s colorful friends. The Raleigh Boychoir's Resident...

Cost: $21-$25

Where:
Cary Arts Center
101 Dry Ave.
Cary, NC  27511
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Sponsor: Cary Ballet Company
Telephone: 919-200-3939
Contact Name: Michelle Gisondi
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Join in celebration of Hanukkah with a group menorah lighting (bring your menorahs from home), fun crafts for the kids, latkes, jelly doughnuts and more. This fundraising event is open to the...

Cost: $10 children 3-18, $12 adults. At the door: $12 children 3-18, $15 adults

Where:
Beth Meyer Synagogue Social Hall
504 Newton Road
Raleigh, NC  27615
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Sponsor: Beth Meyer Preschool
Contact Name: Michelle Panek
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Enjoy a family-friendly holiday gospel tradition. The show, created by Langston Hughes, features soaring singers, inspirational dancers and the heartwarming and humorous procession of...

Cost: $26/adult, $22/student

Where:
Stewart Theatre, N.C. State University
Raleigh, NC


Website »

More information

Come experience O'Henry's classic Christmas tale “The Gift of the Magi." Be transported back to the Roaring '20s in...

Cost: $25

Where:
Sonorous Road Theatre
3801 Hillsborough St, Suite 113,
Raleigh, NC   27607
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Take the family to this witty and warm journey through a lifetime of Christmases as Scrooge finally finds redemption, charity and love. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
Kenan Theatre
120 Country Club Rd.
Chapel Hill, NC
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Create a snow globe to take home. All ages with adult. Registration not required. Meet at the Cardinal Shelter. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten Ten Rd.
Apex, NC
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Telephone: 919-662-2850
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See 10 unique play homes built by Terramor, with $10 raffle tickets available per play home benefitting Duke Children’s Hospital and the YMCA of the Triangle. The Play Homes include a fire...

Cost: $10.00/raffle ticket

Where:
Terramor Homes Corporate Office
7208 Falls of Neuse Road, #201
Raleigh, NC  27615
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Sponsor: Terramor Homes
Telephone: 919-810-2504
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Family members join teams to shoot foul shots for a chance to win a holiday ham. See website for age divisions and times. No registration necessary.

Cost: Free

Where:
Apex Community Center
73 Hunter St.
Apex, NC  27502
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Telephone: 919-249-3402
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Enjoy a family-friendly holiday gospel tradition. The show, created by Langston Hughes, features soaring singers, inspirational dancers and the heartwarming and humorous procession of...

Cost: $26/adult, $22/student

Where:
Stewart Theatre, N.C. State University
Raleigh, NC


Website »

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See a family-friendly movie on a big screen. Take snacks and a blanket. Doors open at 9:30 a.m. Children must be accompanied by an adult.

Cost: Free

Where:
The Halle Cultural Arts Center
237 N. Salem St.
Apex, NC  27502
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Explore toys that children enjoy all over the world. Make a toy to take home and read a story. All ages with adult. Register online.

Cost: $1/person

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Children's Book Buyer Sarah reads stories to babies, toddlers and preschoolers.

Cost: Free

Where:
McIntyre's Books at Fearrington Village
2000 Fearrington Village Center
Pittsboro, NC  27312
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Kids ages 6 and younger enjoy stories. Take part in an optional arts and crafts session after storytime for $5.

Cost: Free

Where:
Read With Me Book Shop
111 E. Hargett St., $110
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Take the family to this witty and warm journey through a lifetime of Christmases as Scrooge finally finds redemption, charity and love. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
Kenan Theatre
120 Country Club Rd.
Chapel Hill, NC
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Website »

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Toddler Time is a special time for ages 5 and younger to bounce under the supervision of their parents, and without interference from the big kids. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $7-$10

Where:
Sky Zone Durham
1720 Guess Rd., Ste. 90
Durham, NC  27701
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Take the family to this witty and warm journey through a lifetime of Christmases as Scrooge finally finds redemption, charity and love. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
Kenan Theatre
120 Country Club Rd.
Chapel Hill, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

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Explore creative movement. Ages 2-5 with caregiver. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $5/member, $8/nonmember

Where:
N.C. Museum of Art
2110 Blue Ridge Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
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Explore creative movement. Ages 2-5 with caregiver. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $5/member, $8/nonmember

Where:
N.C. Museum of Art
2110 Blue Ridge Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Explore creative movement. Ages 2-5 with caregiver. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $5/member, $8/nonmember

Where:
N.C. Museum of Art
2110 Blue Ridge Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Take the family to this witty and warm journey through a lifetime of Christmases as Scrooge finally finds redemption, charity and love. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
Kenan Theatre
120 Country Club Rd.
Chapel Hill, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

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Kids enjoy crafting and nature while parents enjoy holiday shopping. Take a lunch and water bottle. Ages 6-10. Meet at the park office. Registration required online. 

Cost: $16/child

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC  27562
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Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St.Clair
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Kids hike, make projects and engage in nature activities. Ages 5-8. Register online.

Cost: $9/resident, $12/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC  27518
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
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Learn what the Ingalls family did to survive one especially long winter and how they celebrated Christmas. Taste an old-fashioned peppermint candy stick and take home a homemade holiday craft. Wear...

Cost: $6/child

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, AL
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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A wonderfully kid-paced hour featuring music, play and dancing with toddler stars singing on the mic at Cotton's gently amplified & participatory music show. Children delight in...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Pump It Up Raleigh
10700 World Trade Blvd, #112
Raleigh, NC  27617
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Sponsor: Pump it Up
Telephone: 919-828-3344
Contact Name: Owner/manager Kellie Paterson McHugh
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The Raleigh Boychoir presents its annual holiday concert. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Edenton Street United Methodist Church
228 W. Edenton St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Take the family to this witty and warm journey through a lifetime of Christmases as Scrooge finally finds redemption, charity and love. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
Kenan Theatre
120 Country Club Rd.
Chapel Hill, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Take the family to this witty and warm journey through a lifetime of Christmases as Scrooge finally finds redemption, charity and love. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
Kenan Theatre
120 Country Club Rd.
Chapel Hill, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Come experience O'Henry's classic Christmas tale “The Gift of the Magi." Be transported back to the Roaring '20s in...

Cost: $25

Where:
Sonorous Road Theatre
3801 Hillsborough St, Suite 113,
Raleigh, NC   27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Take the family to this witty and warm journey through a lifetime of Christmases as Scrooge finally finds redemption, charity and love. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
Kenan Theatre
120 Country Club Rd.
Chapel Hill, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

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