The world has always been diverse and complex. Over the past few decades, however, exposure to cultural difference has become more prevalent, and many of us are now connected to people whose identities and cultural backgrounds are different from our own. Increased intercultural encounter has many benefits and can be a positive experience, but also presents challenges – particularly when it comes to helping kids navigate difference in a productive way.
Intercultural Relations, For Kids
Many people appreciate the importance of helping children develop the skills they will need to function in a diverse society when they grow up. What is less clear is exactly how parents, teachers, and intercultural specialists should go about it. And, unfortunately, this is one area where good intentions are not only insufficient, but can actually backfire. Anyone working with children needs to consider their stage of child development and how this affects program outcomes. For example, by the very fact of children being children, they differ from adults in their:
- under-developed capacity for abstract cognitive thinking
- limited scope of real-life experiences
- receptiveness to receiving messages from authority figures
- cognitive processes at play in making sense of those messages
- need for experimentation, trial and error, and to “try on” different attitudes, opinions, and behaviors
Therefore, well-intentioned adults should not rush in blindly, but should have a good grasp of the research before designing programs.
While it is important to examine the research to make sure we do things right, it is also important to do them fun. I am a proponent of using projects, stories, and creative expression as a vehicle for engaging children, because such approaches use a wide variety of intelligences and learning styles, and have well-established appeal. When learning is vibrant and connects with their innate spirit, children can learn more.
About this site
This site is my attempt to corral the research, critique examples of intercultural children’s literature, and propose projects that any adults could do with a little bit of creativity and presence. I will also share my intercultural children’s stories, and suggest guidelines for those who would write the same. Finally, I will explore the limitations working within educational institutions, and offer considerations and strategies for maneuvering this highly regulated organizational context.
Welcome to The Creative Interculturalist. Let’s cross cultures together!