Each year, the faculty, staff, parents, and children of The International Preschools come together to celebrate a special holiday: United Nations Day. More than 50 years ago, The International Preschools was created as a way to assist international families who relocated to the United States. Formerly known as The International Play Group, the school opened locations throughout Manhattan and Queens. Today, we celebrate United Nations Day as a way to commemorate IPS’ inception and to introduce our students and families to the many cultures that make up our school community.
In the days and weeks leading up to United Nations Day, classrooms participate in a variety of age-appropriate activities. Most classes combine their learning about United Nations Day with a September/October “All About Me” unit. At IPS, children learn that flags represent countries, and that each child has a flag or flags that represent where his/her family came from. The students associate that information as part of the completed study of themselves; at IPS, their “flags” are as much a recognizable characteristic of themselves as their favorite color or number of siblings. In some classrooms, students will learn that the United Nations is a place where all the countries of the world come together and take care of each other. Classes at the 45th Street location, because of their proximity to the United Nations, often walk over to the United Nations itself to observe the flags and sculptures outside of the building. At all three locations, the teachers will use this holiday as an opportunity to expose children to books and activities promoting tolerance of differences, teaching the children that we are “all different, but all the same.”
On or near United Nations Day, each IPS location will host its own multilingual sing-along with our music teacher, Mr. Doug. Parents and families will come together as a community to sing songs in a variety of languages, which the children have been practicing for the last few weeks in music class. Both parents and children are invited to wear traditional clothing representing countries that they identify with; it can be as simple as a sports jersey or a baseball cap. Afterwards, the children and families will regroup inside the classrooms, where they will enjoy an international potluck of sweet and savory dishes to share with each other. Families may also participate in an international-themed parent/child activity in the classroom; this may be a reading of a book, a collaborative art endeavor, or a presentation of a completed United Nations-themed project. All of these activities help instill the importance of multiculturalism, acceptance, and friendship that the United Nations (and The International Preschools) represent.
The United Nations Day celebrations in October act as a springboard for our yearlong “culture share” unit. The Green Rooms (3s), Pre-K (4s), and Junior K (4s/5s) at all three locations will invite each child’s family to school to teach the class about a particular family tradition or holiday celebrated in their home. We are looking forward to sharing more about these culture shares in a future blog post.
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