During a time when so much that is happening is difficult to explain, it’s easy to connect only with people who seem most similar to us. While this may comfort us in the moment it’s a mistake. Step back, look at the bigger picture, and make the effort to learn about others.
With your children, learn about people who live drastically different lives and think about similarities and differences. Start by tasting new foods, and even ponder how weather in other places affects daily lives.
Continue to learn by investigating what play looks like for children in different countries. What sorts of chores are common for children in other places? What sorts of beliefs do different people hold? And then we need to give our own children the opportunity to write and reflect on these differences.
One of my own children shared a book with me called “Extra Credit” by Andrew Clements (FYI I love all of his books). It’s about a student who needs to complete an extra credit project, among other assignments, to be promoted to the next grade; this student becomes a pen pal to another student in Afghanistan. As a side-bar, my daughter’s pod is also learning about the world in Social Studies and is currently focused on why people travel, how they travel, and reasons why people take the risk to leave their home.
“Extra Credit”, this unit of study (and this time of year) reminds me of the importance of understanding differences.
It’s through constantly comparing and contrasting that learning happens. Comparative thinking is one of our first and most natural forms of thought. As infants, one of the first differences that must be identified is the difference between a parent and anyone else. Research has shown that strategies that engage students in comparative thinking have huge effects on student achievement.
In America, many of us are able to take for granted that so many choices exists. While America has a LONG way to go to make things equitable for everyone, it still has more opportunities than many other places in the world.
It’s our responsibility as the grown-ups to teach our children to see the opportunities that they have been given. We must lead them to appreciate and value those opportunities and to work to create opportunities for others.
By teaching them to be critical thinkers through comparative thinking, along with being empathetic to the world around them, we will develop a future generation of strong leaders and world citizens.