In late October, The International Preschools commemorates United Nations Day with a school-wide celebration. United Nations Day is special to The International Preschools because more than 50 years ago, our school was created in order to assist families who were affiliated with the United Nations. IPS (back then, known as IPG, The International Play Group) gave families who were new to the United States a place to come together, to make friends, and to acclimate to a new culture. Today, IPS honors our roots by hosting a multi-lingual sing-along for families and children, as well as an international potluck.
Because IPS children are between the ages of two and five, it is hard for adults to understand how a theme like the United Nations can make sense to preschoolers. The teachers and administration at The International Preschools facilitate this learning via units such as “All About Me.” Throughout the months of September and October the children are getting to know their teachers, their classrooms, and each other. Many classrooms incorporate an “All About Me” unit which allows for children to share their favorite things (i.e. color, foods, etc) that make them unique. Building upon that concept, classes will collect data via observations to create graphs on the children’s eye color, hair color, how many (if any) siblings the children have, etc. These graphs demonstrate how the children are different and in some ways, the same. The overall encompassing theme is that while we may look different on the outside, have different hair/eye/skin color, or come from different families, we are all the same on the inside; we all make friends, we all like to play outside, etc.
Another aspect of the children’s United Nations Day learning is via flags. The classrooms have small flags representing the countries that each child’s family identifies with. In addition to the flags “flying” within the classroom, the flags may also be on the children’s place mats, cubbies, etc., depending upon the approach that the teachers are taking. Children learn to identify their family’s flags, as well as the flags of their peers and teachers. They notice the shapes, colors, and symbols that make up their flags, and also that purpose of a flag is to represent a particular country, state, etc. A frequent activity in many classrooms at this time of year is for children to create flags: some are in the form of representational drawings (i.e. constructing a green, white, and red collage flag to symbolize the country of Italy); some are flags to represent each child (i.e. “The Flag of James”); and other flags will illustrate a particular class (i.e. “The Flag of Green 1”). Teachers may also choose to show pictures of the United Nations building here in New York City, particularly of the flags that stand in front of the complex. The viewing of these flags often ignites visual connections between the flags of the children’s families and the ones hanging in front of the UN!
By participating in these activities, United Nations Day is more meaningful to the children and, depending upon the child’s age/interest, they will be able to make connections between school and the outside world (from the United Nations building itself in New York City and, more broadly, to the cultures around them). We are looking forward to a wonderful United Nations Day celebration with the IPS community next week!
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