Determine what you have, decide what you need
Do some research in your community to find out what people know, don't know, have to share, and might benefit from learning. Are there many synagogues in your town? Are there any Hindu temples? Do people seem curious about Chicano culture?
Have a visitor, be a visitor
Many religious congregations and cultural centers are quite open to having visitors at gatherings and events. Call a local religious or cultural leader and ask about attending an event to see what it's all about. Ask if you can bring some friends. Also make sure to ask some questions about how to be ready for your visit:
- What is appropriate to wear?
- When to arrive?
- How long does the event or gathering last?
- Should you bring anything?
No matter how your school deals with diversity in the classroom, you can ask a history or social studies teacher to make room for a day devoted to religious and/or cultural understanding and celebration. See if you can invite a religious or cultural leader (or several) to come and speak to your class about their beliefs and practices.
With a little investigation, you might find that your peers are a more diverse bunch than you thought. Use your friends as resources. Encourage them to share in a group what things they do with their family or religious congregation. Discuss favorite holidays and celebrations. Share songs and food.
When you and your group or class gather for discussion, you can begin by setting ground rules of how to organize your discussion. Agree on simple rules like "Speak one at a time." Stating and agreeing on good, fair, rules will make sure they're fresh on everyone's mind when you talk.
The way we refer to ourselves and each other is often a very sensitive issue. When discussing matters of culture and identity, make sure everyone uses vocabulary that is unoffensive. Respect generally accepted standards as well as personal preferences.
Encourage questions, but enforce respectful tone and language. "What do you do on (this holiday)?" is better than "I've heard... Is that true?"
- Promoting tolerance and positivity means RESPECT above all else.
- Make sure everyone involved, old people and young people alike, knows that your goal is to educate. The information people exchange in this environment should FACTUAL, not persuasive.
- Encourage people to represent themselves or their family, rather than an entire group of people. For example, "As a Christian, I believe..." and "My family likes to..." statements are preferable to, "You should..." or "All Germans are..." statements.