A multicultural fair or event is a great way to celebrate cultural diversity in schools. You can run it in conjunction with national days such as Harmony Day (March) or in the lead-up to Christmas (December) to be inclusive of other cultures and religions at this special time of year.
Nearly half of the Australian population were born overseas or had one or both parents born overseas, making us one of the most multicultural nations on the planet. A Multicultural Fair or Food Day is a good way for schools to recognize and celebrate this diversity, while encouraging learning (and having fun).
There are many opportunities to celebrate multiculturalism in your school, and they can range from a single lunchtime event where students are encouraged to bring in a food dish to share with their class to a full community driven fair with performers, food stalls and more. Make sure you involve people from CALD [culture and language diverse] groups in the organising stages.
Below are a list of ideas on how to celebrate diversity in your school:
International Dance Day
Ask amongst your school community to see if there are any students or families who would be able to demonstrate a dance from another country. One of my fondest memories is watching a mum from the Sudan demonstrate a dance and have the whole school spontaneously get up and dance along with her.
You might also have amateur or professional dance troupes in your area who would be able to come along to demonstrate or teach the students.
Did you know April 29 is actually International Dance Day? Why not have a dance-off or a disco where students are taught various dances from across the globe such as Irish dancing, salsa, boot scooting, break dancing, belly dancing, barn dancing, can-can, conga, Cossack dancing, Gangnam or hula.
For hundreds of international dances click here.
International Sports Day
Get kids involved with a range of popular international sports such as sumo wrestling (Japan), steeple chase (without the horses) (UK), Aussie Rules(Australia), baseball (USA), tai chi (China) or tug-of-war (Scotland).
Some sports might need some modifications: such as Fierljeppen (where people jump over canals in Netherlands using long poles) but kids could do long jump or high over a small paddling pool.
Cheese rolling from England could be modified to chasing balls down a hill.
Check out this website for dozens of cultural games for kids and how to play them.
International Food Day
This can be done on a small scale (per class) or a larger whole of school event. Ask families to bring in a plate of food that is meaningful to them, either something they ate as a child, something from the country they (or their parents) were born or even a dish from a country they have visited or read about. Ask them to write a small sign explaining what the dish is and where it came from (and also list the ingredients in case of allergies). This is often an event that parents and grandparents love to get involved with. When setting up the event, create banks of tables according to the various continents, and decorate with maps and flags.
Alternatively, have a cook-off or a cooking demonstration where members of your school (or professionals from local restaurants) teach others how to cook special dishes from their country. This could also be a ticketed event for fundraising. Click here for a full list of food ideas from across the globe that are suitable for school events.
National Costume Parade
Encourage students and teachers to wear national costume and hold a parade. If people do not have a costume to wear, encourage them to choose a country and wear the colours represented in their flag.
Encourage students (or teachers) to present short welcome ceremonies using the language and movements of their respective countries or invite children who might have English as their second language, to stand up and teach the school how to say or hello or count to ten in their language.
Multicultural Quiz Night
Bring all of these elements together with a community quiz night that celebrates diversity. Questions could cover a range of topics from the tallest peak on each continent, current world leaders, matching languages to countries, matching major manufacturers/businesses to countries, international sporting heroes, international foods, naming capital cities – the possibilities are endless.
You can sell international food and hold a raffle with multicultural prizes. Decorate with maps and flags and encourage creative costumes.
For top tips on how to run a quiz night click here.
International Storytelling Night
As a variant on the school storytelling night (click here for a detailed article) why not hold an international story night, with a series of short stories or picture books that are considered to epitomise other countries. You could ask for suggestions from within your own school or local community, or looks for lists such as this or this which provide picture books from each continent, or this list of books which celebrate diversity.
This could also be combined with some of the other ideas above – such as encouraging kids to come in national dress and to bring plates of food to share.