The Bank Street Family Center
We Celebrate Holidays in School?
Diana Musa and Heather Prince-Clarke
are several factors that influence how we celebrate holidays at
the Bank Street Family Center. Our overaching philosophy of inclusion
dictates that we find ways for every member of our community to
be included in our daily classroom activities. Ours is a community
rich in cultural and family diversity. It would be close to impossible
for any childcare program to meet each family’s unique and wondrous
holiday rituals both religious and secular.
We believe that family and cultural traditions greatly influence
the ways in which people choose to celebrate holidays. We therefore
support the idea that families will celebrate holidays in their
own ways, and that this is best done within the family unit.
We do not pretend that holidays don’t exist at the Family Center.
Instead, we follow each child’s lead when we talk about the various
ways in which his/her family celebrates holidays in their communities.
For instance, at a Friday circle time when we share our plans
for the weekend, we might discuss how Sarah is going to pick out
a tree or that Andrew is wearing his Shabbat shoes to school and
discuss who is going to come over for Rosh Hashanah.
In addition, we encourage parents to bring in food items to share
at snack time. Children can learn more about their own and other
people’s holidays through books and other activities in the classroom,
which help to reinforce the importance of holidays as shared cultural
Families also bring in food to share as part of birthday celebrations,
which are an important part of our classroom community. While
at these times the focus is on one individual, birthdays are still
a shared experience because everyone has a birthday.
Contemporary celebrations of religious and secular holidays tend
to be commercialized and quite overstimulating for children. Parents
are also bombarded with portrayals of what the media presents
as the most salient aspects of holidays. We like to think that
the Family Center provides parents and children with a safe haven
from all of the holiday hoopla.
As part of our developmentally appropriate curriculum, we emphasize
the process rather than the product. Your child’s learning occurs
in the doing of things, not by the results. During holiday seasons,
many of the traditional projects that are made in childcare programs
emphasize the product. Since our children are still at a stage
where the process is primary over product, we do not engage in
the making of perfect handprint turkeys. Each family must make
their own decisions regarding if and how they will celebrate holidays
in their homes and communities, so we leave the celebrating to
Musa and Heather Prince-Clarke are teachers of a mixed-age classroom
ranging from 18 months to three years old at the Bank Streek Family
Education Update, Inc., P.O. Box 20005, New York, NY 10001. Tel:
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