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Mapping Diversity to Foster Cultural Competency: Using Giant Maps to Trace the Migration of Culture

Using large maps painted on canvas, arts teachers can effectively promote cultural competency among students. By encouraging students to locate cultural and artistic practice on these maps, teachers ask students to think critically about multi-culturalism.

Students can be invited to use oral and written communication skills, research skills, information literacy, and peer collaboration to create giant interactive posters. The map of the world should be comprehensive so that coloured thumb tacks or footprints, either cut out or stamped, can be used to trace the way the culture of that country travelled and influenced the cultures of others.

Mapping Cultural Activities

Creative arts classrooms provide a fertile environment within which to teach cultural awareness. This form of knowledge can be nurtured as a way to combat racism and to promote harmony within society.

In the paper, “How does Cultural Competency differ from Cultural Sensitivity/Awareness?” featured on the CECP Website,readers see that official definitions of these similar terms.

  • Cultural Knowledge is about cultural characteristics, history, values, belief systems, and behaviors of the members of ethnic group(s) (Adams, 1995).
  • Cultural Awareness shows students how to develop sensitivity and understanding for ethnic groups. This kind of education helps change attitudes and values, by promoting openness and flexibility to others. “Cultural awareness must be supplemented with cultural knowledge.” [Adams]
  • Cultural Sensitivity helps students know that cultural differences and similarities exist, without assigning values or judgment to them. (National Maternal and Child Health Center on Cultural Competency, 1997).

Creative arts teachers are encouraged to think about strategies to foster cultural competency as a living element of arts based education.

Materials Needed.

  • two large canvases (more may be needed if the project spills over)
  • an overhead projector
  • black pens, acrylic paint , brushes
  • a section of the class room that can be kept clear for this project to evolve
  • a library for research
  • guest speakers and demonstrators
  • coloured thumb tacks or adhesive stamps (like footprints)

Setting Up the Project

  • students draw the map on a large canvas by projecting an overhead transparency
  • ask them to paint the country and its surrounds so that the canvas becomes aesthetically pleasing.
  • draw and paint a map of the world in the same manner

As the project evolves there will be possibilities for synergy (cultural blend) as the students become aware of the way cultural characteristics travel as people travel around the world.

Class Research Groups

When researching dance ask the students to find out about the varieties of dance that have originated from the country. Encourage them to look at blends such as Salsa and to notice which countries the separate influences of dance styles have come from. Allow this to merge with information about the history of the country.

An interesting way to find out about drama is to set up up a web quest. Ask students to look for plays and movies that have originated from or have been set in the country. Allow students to represent these on the canvas in anyway the like. Also encourage them to prepare a small snippet from a play or movie to present to the class.

Music will find researching music that has originated from or has become nationally listened to over the years enjoyable. Ask them to play examples for the class or set up music to play from behind the canvas. Encourage the students to find ways to represent this music on the map.

The best places to find out about the Visual Arts is digital art galleries and museums. Some indigenous students may be able to bring artifacts and artworks from home to display. Student imagination will be stretched when they use imagination to find ways to represent painting, drawing, sculpture and craft on the map.

Researching a countries food is fun. Students can research the styles of cooking and food that originated from or found its way to the country. Teachers may wish to cook food with their class and cultural workers might be invited to come into the school to do a cook up with the students.

As part of research into what types of vegetables come from the country, students may wish to set up a garden of their own. This will cause them to come to an understanding about the climate and the terrain of the land.

Dressing up is also a good way to invite students to become engaged . Traditional clothing can be represented by drawing, photos or real samples may be adhered to the canvas. Students may wear traditional dress as they serve authentic food from the culture if there is a launch of a final exhibition. Jewellry is an aspect of cultural dress not to be forgotten.

The project will evolve naturally over a length of time. As the project takes shape, students may wish to suggest other categories not mentioned above. An audio device could be hidden behind the map so that music plays.

The map of the world will become even more attractive as the coloured thumb tacks or footprints trace the way the culture of that country travelled and influenced the cultures of others.