One of the most anticipated events at Dearcroft is the Celebration of Heritage Day. Heritage day is a tradition that has taken place for many years at Dearcroft and is a day where the diversity of our school is highlighted and celebrated. The Montessori philosophy, that every child is unique, caused Dearcroft to first create a day that is centered on this ideal. However, it was not this philosophy alone, which caused Dearcroft to celebrate the diversity of its students; it was also the idea of children becoming peacemakers; within the class and within the larger global community. Montessori speaks to the importance of educating children how to be respectful and accepting towards all walks of life including: plants, animals and people from all parts of the globe.
For these reasons the children of the Junior Elementary class, research a country of their heritage and present it to their peers. On Heritage Day, all the children come together, bring in food from their cultures, wear clothing from their studied country and sing songs from around the word. It is a day where the children get to learn from others and experience delicacies from cultures that differ from their own. This year, Heritage day will take place on Friday, March 6, 2015.
Heritage includes the idea of lineage, where we all came from, and globalization, how we all have come to be together. When we start to introduce children the idea of heritage; they discover that everyone comes from different places. When we learn to celebrate the differences within us and celebrate the diversity that exists within the classroom, it teaches children acceptance, respect and cultural awareness.
Heritage allows children to explore where their ancestors came from, how they became whom they are and highlights how other cultures differ from their own. By doing this it expands children’s worldview, making them less egocentric and more aware of cultures outside of their own. What Dearcroft wishes to do by studying heritage, is to bring about discussion of difference and sameness, respect and courtesy, peacefulness and cooperation.
Study of heritage links heavily to the needs of people. When children research the needs of people from their places of heritage and present to their peers, the realization that all people have the same basic human needs starts to become apparent. It is interesting when researching cultures around the world, how differences are discovered but also similarities between all humans shine through.
By teaching children about their own heritage and celebrating the diversity that is within our classes, Dearcroft hopes to bring about a respect for other cultures. This respect leads to the creation of more peaceful individuals within the classroom, who will be more understanding of individual’s differences. Furthermore, children will be more aware of the world that exists outside of their “bubble”. It is for these reasons that it is important at a young age to introduce the idea of diversity to children.
According to research by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman in their book NurtueShock (2009); instead of trying to create a blind environment for children, it is actually important to talk to children about race, gender and ethnicity as early as age three. Talking and educating children on these topics instead of ignoring them, will actually lead to children who are more likely to embrace diversity. Maria Montessori never wanted to ignore how we were different from each other, she wanted children to celebrate it and be educated about it. She was a woman who considered herself a citizen of the world and wanted children from a young age to learn about the world outside their classroom.
Montessori stated (1949), “The needs of mankind are universal. Our means of meeting them create the richness and diversity of the planet. The Montessori child should come to relish the texture of that diversity.” By learning about children’s heritage and the celebrating our schools diversity, Dearcroft hopes to teach children the needs of people and how different cultures fulfill them. We hope that this will lead to an understanding that those cultural differences create diversity, which should be celebrated, honored and respected. This will begin the development of peaceful individuals, which is our ultimate goal as Montessori educators. As Montessori (1949) said, “Establishing lasting peace is the work of education.”