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Volume II: Celebrations


Ruth Bedeian
John Minadeo School
Ritual, Symbolism and Imagery in African Masks

The unit’s purpose is to explore the ritual use, the cultural iconography, and the communicative impact of masked performances on the African continent. I will examine a variety of different masks by their design and function. The unit will seek to make some comparisons of masks types on the continent as well with masked ceremonies found in other cultures.


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Bread, Holidays, Festivals and Celebrations
Eileen Butler
Pittsburgh Montessori

Why bake bread with children? As a classroom activity, cooking has something that appeals to every child. It is a wonderful way to teach children who have different learning abilities and interests. It provides color, texture, action, suspense, and comraderie. It provides opportunities for using all of the senses - tasting, smelling, touching, seeing and hearing. Cooking is a kineststic craft. Measuring, weighing, and following sequential steps interest the child who is most comfortable with math and logic. The picture and chart format of many recipes is perfect for the child who visualizes things in order to understand and produce them. And, cooking in the classroom is very sociable, a great opportunity for the many children who learn best by working with others.

This unit will focus on baking bread and exploring different holidays with literature, poems, and fingerplays. This unit is designed for Kindergarten and First Grade students. The unit will begin with traditional White Bread, then Pumpkin Bread for October, Indian Fry Bread for November, Christmas Bread for December, Amish Friendship Bread for January, Cornbread for February, Irish Soda Bread for March, Easter Bread for April and Matzah Bread for May.

Is there anything to beat the smell of baking bread in your home? It's warm and comforting; something to recall with pleasure many years later. Many of us rely on shops for our bread but, recently, there has been a significant increase in the number of people investing in bread-making machines.

It seems more and more of us are seeking to relive our memories and jog our taste buds. Bread making machines are time saving, and although they produce delicious loaves, popping all of the ingredients in a machine and leaving it to get on with it, it isn't quite as satisfying as making a crusty loaf of bread the old fashioned way.


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Dolls in Japan: Rituals and Celebrations
Isabel Espino de Valdivia
Pittsburgh Allderdice High School

In their first encounter with Japanese dolls, my high school students are delighted with their beauty and exotic kimonos. As they get to learn more about Hina Matsuri or Doll’s day, the magic of the hina doll’s faces and what they represent captivate them.

Most of them, however, would never guess and are surprised to know that the Japanese have special funeral ceremonies to say good-bye to their dearly loved dolls.

In Japanese society dolls are more than objects of toy and play. Since ancient times Japanese people have considered dolls as surrogates for humans. The word ningyou (人形: doll) means “human form.”

In this paper I will examine Ningyou or Dolls and its significance to Japanese culture and religion, culminating with a Japanese language curriculum unit on Hina Matsuri (Doll’s Day). In addition, I will integrate some culture activities that could be adapted and use in any curriculum unit on Japan.


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Celebrating our Differences through a Naming Ceremony
Kim Flurry
Pittsburgh Minadeo Elementary Pre-K through 5

This curriculum unit, “Celebrate Our Differences through a Naming Ceremony”, supports academics through research of different cultures, mini-lessons and writing a paragraph about a part of each child’s heritage. This is then incorporated into a “Naming Ceremony”. This ceremony brings knowledge and understanding of different cultures together in a sharing atmosphere while building self esteem for the individual.


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The Pilgrims, with Emphasis on the Historical Background and Modern Relevance of the Thanksgiving Holiday
Billie J. Gailey, Ph.D.
Arsenal Middle School

This curriculum unit was designed to be used at the middle school level. The material deals with the history of the Pilgrims who came to Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1620. Both the text and lessons include general information about the Mayflower Pilgrims from 1604 to 1621. Special emphasis is given to the history and significance of the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States. The lessons were prepared to offer a variety of experiences for students. While designed with mainstream eighth graders in mind, the lessons can be used by students of varying ability levels.


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Diversifying the Teaching of Celebrations and Festivals in the French Classroom
David C. Ghogomu
Pittsburgh Allderdice High School

The teaching of, and learning about, celebrations and festivals in the French classroom in the Pittsburgh Public schools have mostly been metropolitan-oriented. In other words most, if not all of the activities are those that are of French and European origin. Noël, Pâques , Le 14 Juillet, Mardis Gras, etc., are festivals that are rooted in French and European culture. This curriculum unit, while following the traditional trend in the manner of instruction of, and the contents included in, celebrations and festivals in the Pittsburgh Public Schools classroom, also encourages the inclusion of activities from former French colonies. These activities may be as traditional and original as Viêtnam’s Têt or as modern and progressive as Cameroun’s Fête de la Jeunesse.

The diversification of celebrations activities simply mean the incorporation of instructional and learning activities which extend beyond Western boundaries and cultures—though some of them may still be influenced or characterized by Western ideas and organizational methods. The Camerounian Fête de la jeunesse has its roots in more traditional cultures where the elderly as well as the youth are revered and given special recognition through activities or other ceremonies within the fabric of the culture. Incidentally, this erstwhile activity is being used more or less as a political tool in the modern day francophone Cameroun. But it is a celebration that the youth as well as the politicians look forward to annually. Unlike La Fête de la jeunesse in Cameroun, the Viêtnamese Têt existed before colonization. With more than half a century of French influence before American involvement in Vietnamese affairs, traditions including Têt activities certainly have been influenced by Western—and especially French culture. The African American festival Kwanzaa, on the other hand, is a rational and conscientious movement back to “traditional” African celebration practices. Of course, this ironical twist—however well-envisioned cannot fully escape the twines of the American culture in which it is sprouting.

Because of French colonial influences in Viêt-Nam and Cameroun, teaching and learning about festivals from these countries can more easily be related to same or similar activities taking place in France or the USA and the West as a whole. Consequently, the realization of pedagogic standards such as culture, communication, comparison, connection and community as specified by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages is a doable goal by any teacher. Equally, in spite of its origin, Kwanza also presents an opportunity for the teaching and learning of African/African American culture under the same standards and rubrics, but with a French twist. Specific daily class activities have been suggested in the unit, but individual teachers can adapt the curriculum depending on their classroom setting, student population, etc.

An annotated bibliography provides readers and interested educators with an analyses of the sources used. Including books, web and journal articles, as well as documentary films, these sources are in no way exhaustive. Teachers can also add more information to what is available.'


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Nature Celebrations in the Peace Garden
Elizabeth M. Juhas
Pittsburgh Montessori School

This unit is specifically designed for use in conjunction with the Montessori Method of education, in particular its peace component. Each of the celebrations takes place in the peace garden at Pittsburgh Montessori School (formerly Friendship Elementary). This unit was written as a way of using the peace garden as an outdoor classroom space. Each of the holidays; Sukkoth, Thanksgiving, Kwanzaa, Sakura and Earth Day involve the theme of harvest or an appreciation of nature. The holidays represent a variety of religious beliefs and secular practices. Teachers can adapt these celebrations to accommodate their needs and their indoor/outdoor space. The unit was written for early childhood students from Kindergarten through third grade.


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IMGALTAGCelebrating Cosmic Time: The Roman Calendar
Elaine Liberati
Pittsburgh Montessori School

This curriculum unit on Celebrating Cosmic Time: the Roman Calendarwill seek to directly involve the students in learning the meaning of our present calendar names and the etymology, history and connection to the ancient Roman calendar. It will require the student to recognize by use of didactic materials the time line of history of not only the Roman calendar, but of several ancient calendars that lead to our current modern calendar. This curriculum unit will contain lessons for kindergarteners up to third graders using materials and practices of the Montessori philosophy and pedagogy.

This unit will require the student to recognize, compare and contrast the geography of Ancient Rome. The student will define the fundamental needs of man during ancient Roman times as compared to our current time. There are opportunities for further study into the food, art, military, and political systems during the Roman times.

The goals/objectives of this curriculum unit are to have the students understand history, culture, geography, and political influence by creating maps, nomenclature cards, booklets, graphic organizers and/or timelines of ancient Roman history, mythology, and cosmology.

The goal of this curriculum unit is to inform the student through hands on activities, videos, stories, and didactic Montessori materials. The student will be knowledgeable through formal and informal assessment to the origins of the Roman calendar and make connections to how our current calendar evolved.

This unit has many extensions for inquiry. Learning objectives that require the student to become familiar with the historical and literary figure of Julius Caesar and can compare and contrast ancient Roman times to our current time. This unit operates as a theme to enable kindergarteners, first/second/third graders to begin to research topics and present them addressing the 10 standards of social studies (Appendix B) and incorporating literacy standards and mathematical standards (Appendix C).

This unit operates as an opportunity for students to gain core knowledge about ancient Roman history. This unit provides the opportunity for students to practice presentations using technology and the communication standards of public speaking. The unit provides learning objectives that require the students to work individually, with partners, and in small groups.


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Peace Throughout the Year
Rachel Margherio
Pittsburgh Montessori

I developed Peace Throughout the Year to be taught in my kindergarten classroom beginning in September. This unit will help to build community in the classroom, which is so important for setting the tone for a positive year. Through this unit, students will learn life skills such as getting along with others, tolerance, and the importance of kindness. We live in a violent world, and often the peaceful environment we strive for in the classroom is very different from the environment students encounter at home or on the street. The goals of this unit are for students to understand what peace is, learn about celebrations related to peace, learn about famous peacemakers, and learn what they can do to make our classroom and our world more peaceful. Students will attain these goals through the study of International Day of Peace, Veterans Day, World Kindness Day, African American History Month, and Earth Day.


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Birthdays: Cross-Cultural Celebrations for the Classroom
Jeanie Nipaver
Beechwood Elementary School

Birthdays. Is there anything that a child loves more than the celebration of his or her own birthday? Children look forward to Halloween, bubbling about “what they will be”. They talk about Christmas and Santa bringing gifts. But a birthday is a holiday that belongs only to that one child, a day to feel special, a day in which that child is the center of attention. Now, why not channel that enthusiasm into our classroom lessons? Using birthdays as an anchor, we can teach children about other children of the world, about lands far away, about the other side of the world. And in the process, we can teach about the planet, the shape of the earth and exactly what constitutes a year- the journey of our planet around our nearest star. To the anchoring concept of birthdays, we can tie lessons about social studies, science, math, art, music, reading and writing.


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Chinese Dragon Boat Festival
Mina Hare-Rubenstein
Pittsburgh Brookline K-8

Little is known about the Chinese Dragon Boat Festival by most non-Chinese Americans, yet much is to be learned about the Chinese culture and history by learning about this holiday. The celebration of the Dragon Boat Festival is believed to be based upon many cultural and historical events of China. There are tales of superstition, loyalty, family, treachery, disease, patriotism, honor, and war told over more than 2200 years. All are believed to have contributed to the way the holiday is celebrated.

This curriculum unit provides a detailed description of the many events that are believed to have contributed to the celebration of the Chinese Dragon Boat Festival. It is not known how or why this holiday began but there are several historical and social explanations that are widely accepted. By focusing on this holiday as a curriculum unit the learner develops an understanding of a larger world outside the family and community. The learner engages in activities that teach the history and customs of China. Comparisons are drawn between the customs and holidays of the learner and the Chinese people. This unit helps the learner to gain an appreciation for differences between people, while also gaining an understanding of the similarities among people. A variety of hands-on activities are included with the unit.


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Canterbury Tales: the Remix
Renee C. Tolliver
Pittsburgh Oliver High School

“Whan that april with his houres soote /the droghte of march hath perced to the roote,/ And bathed every veyne in swich licour/Of which vertu engendred is the flour;…” Huh!? is probably the first reaction a student has when presented with these strange, foreign looking and sounding lines. I usually tell them that’s how I feel when they spew out their poetic rap lyrics. And thus we begin the pilgrimage through the experience of Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales. This unit is designed for a senior gifted English class, but it can easily be adapted to other grade and ability levels. Students will examine the idea of pilgrimage and its various connotations in order to understand the frame provided for the exquisite storytelling experience that Chaucer presents. Any pilgrimage is a celebration of sorts, a journey filled with anticipation, devotion and hopefully satisfaction upon reaching one’s destination. Students will discover the common components of various pilgrimages, examine the elements of poetic narrative and analyze what the Tales reveal about society. In addition to exploring the meaning of pilgrimage, students will avail themselves of Chaucer’s genius by studying his techniques and the insights he unveils through his poetry. This understanding will come to fruition as students attempt to create their own Chaucer-like tales using elements of the hip-hop genre in which many teens are immersed. As a culminating project, students will use their narrative and poetry writing skills to examine aspects of their own pilgrimage, their journey through life thus far. They will write narrative poetry that tells interesting details of their environment, treasured moments and trying times that turned out okay. They will choose an editorial team to assemble the pieces into a bound book. The class will select a title for the publication, and each student will receive a copy of the pilgrimage book. In addition, students will create a CD of their “tales” that will be enhanced with background music and rhythmic beats.


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Do Holiday Symbols Make Holidays Simple?
Alexis Tuckfelt
Fort Pitt Accelerated Learning Academy

Young children love holidays. When they see a pumpkin on the classroom calendar they know that Halloween is not far away. Turkeys, Christmas trees, hearts, clovers and colored eggs are other symbols of holidays that children are familiar with. What they don’t know are the origins behind these symbols. Many of these origins come from other countries. Teaching young children about other cultures is important and necessary. The focus of many mainstream “American” or “Hallmark “ versions of holidays doesn’t include much of this valuable historical significance. By giving students this background information they can continue to enjoy celebrating holidays with an additional spark of interest and meaning. Embracing other cultures, and in turn, other views, will empower them in all aspects of their lives.

This multidisciplinary unit is geared for 1st grade students. In this unit, the history of celebrations and their symbols is fused into the existing Social Studies, Math and Writing curriculums of Pittsburgh Public Schools. This unit will provide explanations of the relevance of using holidays as a learning tool. The lessons and activities compliment the lessons that I’m required to teach. The purpose of this unit is to further advance students’ insight into the history of symbols of celebrations and raise their multicultural awareness.


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Chatham University
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Jointly sponsored by Carnegie Mellon University, Chatham University and the Pittsburgh Public Schools.
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