In September, Primrose schools across the country kick off a yearlong celebration of different cultures, beginning with an exploration of “Alike and Different.” Children learn that people come in all shapes, sizes, colors and personalities, that we all have different customs and traditions, and that we’re all special for who we are.
“[At Primrose School of Druid Hills], we are very proud of our diversity, and we put effort into how we promote and celebrate each culture—not just during September, but every month. We are trying to accomplish a sense of community and ensure that each family and staff member feels like they belong here and can openly celebrate who they are.” – Laura Stechmesser, Franchise Owner
This past September, infant teacher Ms. Gil shared her Native American heritage in the classroom through art, stories and cultural items like a rain stick and dream catcher.
In honor of Native American Heritage Month, we spoke to Ms. Gil to learn more about her heritage and why it is important for her to share it with her students.
Tell us about yourself and your Native American heritage.
My dad and grandma always said that our Native American Heritage was Blackfoot from the northern Idaho and Montana region. It wasn’t until our family moved to a tiny town in northern Nevada that I really learned about Native American culture. McDermitt, Nevada is connected to a reservation, Ft. McDermitt Paiute-Shoshone reservation. I lived on the reservation with my husband and his family for several years after graduating from high school. They taught me traditions and customs of the tribe. They sang traditional songs while my father-in-law played the drum. I tanned a deer hide and learned how to make moccasins and bead on buckskin. There are many traditions and customs still practiced today.
Can you share how you brought your culture into the classroom for the Alike and Different Unit and why it was important to you?
Because there are so many cultures in many of our backgrounds, we felt Native American, being indigenous to the U.S., would be a good choice for our classroom. It also helped that I had a few items collected over the years, and we put these on display. I was excited to share anything about Native Americans because we just don’t hear about them very often.
At Primrose, we strive to maintain an environment where everyone feels included and where similarities and differences are nurtured and respected. Why is it important to foster that sense of belongingness?
A sense of belongingness is important for so many reasons. We’re all on this world together and that should be enough, but for some, the differences are too vast. To close the gaps of misunderstanding, the Alike and Different Unit and other school programs help bridge the understanding to foster a sense of belongingness.
For more on fostering a sense of belongingness, check out:
- Fostering a Sense of Belongingness in Every Child
- 6 At-Home Activities to Foster Belongingness
- Creatively Speaking: How Children’s Books Artists and Authors Approach Belongingness
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