October 2021

Exploring Culture with Cinderella

 

By Dr. Amy L. Holland, Geography Teacher
Grimsley Junior High School, Bentonville, Arkansas

October, in Arkansas, means leaves are changing, the firepit is smoking, and football is on the television. Woo Pigs! It is a time of preparing for the upcoming holiday season. Our animals have almost quit shedding and are now gaining their winter coats. Wooly worms line the sidewalk, along with our walnut tree leaves. Fall smells surround us as we move into the holiday season.

In October each year, I study culture with my geography students. It is such a fun, enlightening time for me as a teacher. Various activities give me insight into the background of each student. They discuss traditions, family history, and look at cultures around the world. Many students, through our discussions, realize that culture is like an iceberg. Most of its attributes are hidden beneath the surface and difficult to see at first glance.

Students often come into class with a skewed view of culture and the elements of culture. As we move through the elements of culture and review characteristics, students begin to realize that what they once considered being a part of one’s culture is actually a stereotype within the culture. Some are true, some are false, but all represent the culture of an area in some way.

So, as we move into the fall and winter seasons opportunities continue to arise for culture discussions. I begin this study by looking at the different story versions of Cinderella from around the world. Students make connections, learn about the different cultures, and analyze historical events that might cause a culture to include certain elements.

As we move closer to the Halloween season, we look at cultural events in various countries around the world. We compare cultures and how they choose to celebrate or not celebrate Halloween. Students enjoy discussing how they celebrate the day. As we discuss various traditions I also like to include photos from the book, Material World, by Peter Menzel. His photos provide an amazing opportunity for discussion concerning cultures around the world.

The October days swiftly pass by, along with all of its wonderful attributes. However, the culture discussions will continue into the spring in our geography class. The discussions become more intricate and thoughtful as students continue learning about elements of culture from around the world.

  • Menzel, P., & C. C. Mann (2007). Material world: A global family portrait. Social Studies School Service.

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