In November a group of English Language Learners teachers in the Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows school district were looking for resources to teach their students about the festival of Diwali.
In their search the foursome realized there were numerous lesson plans and books, but nothing in child-friendly language to engage students.
So Kawaldeep Ghuman, Sukhdeep Birdi, Harjit Chauhan, and Moona Tyers, took matters into their own hands, collaborated together, and came up with the idea of creating their own video, sharing what they knew about the festival and their experience as Sikh Canadians who grew up celebrating it. And not just solely for their students but the broader school community as well.
Students were so enthralled with the video that the teachers released a new video Monday, May 2 – this one student led – explaining the month of Ramadan, during which Muslims worldwide fast, pray, do good deeds and appreciate family and friends – and Eid, a festival celebrating the end of Ramadan, during which the video was released.
They asked not only their students to share firsthand information about how they mark the events, but also their families as well.
When they talked about the different holidays, the teachers and students realized there are so many similarities that they could focus on that would help their student community speak out and offer them a platform to do so.
Ghuman, an ELL teacher at Harry Hooge Elementary School said family members, their own included, provided not only resources like lesson plans, but art activities for the students, and photographs of traditional food and clothing for the videos.
Some of their students were initially shy, explained Chauhan, an ELL teachers at Fairview Elementary School, but when they started talking about their culture, it helped them come out of their shells.
“It’s just so beautiful because in some ways, some kids they want to share, but they don’t have the courage because they are a little bit shy,” said Birdi, ELL teacher at Albion Elementary School. However, she elaborated, when there is someone to facilitate the project and lead it, then all the students want to share and talk about their culture.
Birdi also noted how unique the project was and what positive feedback they received. Now they are planning for the next video.
One of Ghuman’s students who saw the Ramadan video approached her and asked if the next video could be on the Persian festival of Nowruz that marks the first day of spring.
“We’re in a unique situation where we are able to provide a platform for the students and their families to be heard,” remarked Chauhan. Otherwise, she noted, these celebrations are not on the typical calendar of holidays.
Not only do the videos broaden understanding, but they bring peer to peer awareness, and empower the students who celebrate the holidays. Chauhan noted how important it is to understand the different cultures in the community, which is diverse and continuously growing.
“Let’s talk about this, let’s understand it and let’s see what people are doing because it is important to a group of people that exist in our community,” she said.
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