Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Heritage Day: Helping Children Celebrate Their Ancestors

Part of the Heritage Day display at my son's school.

Among my friends who are interested in genealogy, the topic of how to interest our children in family history is a recurring one.  I've written before about sharing your family history with children and young adults, but am constantly looking for new ways to engage the next generation with stories of the past.  That is why I was absolutely thrilled to hear that the second grade at my son's school would be celebrating what they called Heritage Day.

Just before Thanksgiving, the second grade teachers sent home a family history questionnaire and a blank paper doll.  The children were tasked with interviewing a family member about their ancestry, and then working with a parent to decorate the doll to reflect their heritage.  My son interviewed me, and I told him stories about both mine and my husband's lineage.  He wrote parts of it down, choosing what he thought was most interesting to share.  We worked together on the doll, which featured a green yarn cap and shamrock shirt buttons.

Cambodia, Greece, Japan, Mexico and Ireland were all represented here.

The completed questionnaires and dolls were displayed in the school's multipurpose room, and parents were invited to join the second grade classes for a celebration of heritage and culture.  The children sang four songs about immigration and family roots.  The parents brought food items reflecting their ethnicity.  We ended up with three big loaves of Irish Soda Bread, including mine, but fortunately, other families came through with Danish Aebelskiver, Filipino Lumpiang Shanghai, Japanese Mochi, Guatemalan Estofado and German Bratwurst, among many delicious offerings.

It was a lovely event, and such a fun way to involve children in their family history.  The parents were amazed by the care that had gone into all of the heritage dolls, and as we stood reading the stories on our children's questionnaires, we learned a lot about each other.  We started swapping stories about our ancestors and how they came to America.  We were surprised to find that friends we'd assumed were German were also Sicilian; that some families had only moved to this country recently.  The children learned from this exercise, but parents did, too.  It brought us all together, happily celebrating our diverse backgrounds with our kids.  I can only hope that other schools will also choose to host Heritage Day.  I can't think of a better way to engage young children in their family history.

Dolls representing Trinidad and Tobago and Scotland.

1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful way to start sharing your heritage with the kids. I love the paper dolls. I hope they continue that tradition.