(Updated February 2017)
March 21 is Harmony Day in Australia. Harmony Day promotes the benefits of cultural diversity and celebrates Australia's cohesiveness and inclusivity. The continuing message of Harmony Day is ‘Everyone Belongs’. It's about community participation, inclusiveness, respect and a sense of belonging for everyone.
In 2010, the theme was "express yourself", probably two of my most favourite words in the English language. By encouraging our kids to express themselves, we are helping them develop their creative side and their communication skills. Whether they do this through dance, art, writing, sculpture, choreography, or building with toothpicks and marshmallows, what matters is all those wonderful opportunities for creative skill development.
In 2017, the message is "everyone belongs". There are so many forces in the world right now trying to drive people apart, trying to build walls and create shackles. Let's reach out to others and celebrate diversity instead! There are lots of resources at the Harmony Day website to help you organise an event, or you might just decide to wing it.
How great that there are loads of curriculum-related Primary resources on Australia's Harmony Day website - like discussion topics, lesson ideas, crossword puzzles, lesson plans, art, science, history activities and more. There are some extra craft and art activities to keep kids involved on Harmony Day, like fortune tellers (“clickers-clack”) and you’ll also find Early Years resources.
I truly believe that respect and acceptance of all cultures comes from mutual understanding. As parents and teachers, one way we can promote this is by sharing great children's literature with our kids, the sorts of books that allow children to walk a mile in someone else's shoes.
One children’s picture book I reviewed you might like to share with your kids is Hello, which gives little snippets of the cultural backgrounds of some kids living in Australia. Another I’d like to recommend is An Aussie Year, “a snapshot of who we are as a nation, covering our melting-pot culture, lifestyle and traditions.” Recently I read a new children's picture book by Mem Fox - I'm Australian Too - which is a true celebration of Australia's multicultural heritage (review coming soon.)
The Australian Red Cross has some suggested Harmony Day resources, including an app. This Pinterest board has some art/craft ideas.
Travelling to different countries is not within everyone's budget, but how about travelling to different neighbourhoods? In a culturally diverse country like Australia, it's not difficult to find people whose clothes and customs are different from our own. Seeking out people from a range of cultures not only helps our kids become more tolerant and empathetic, it enriches all our lives.
It seems to me Harmony Day is a perfect opportunity to indulge in a few of my favourite things - world music, art, conversation and great food! I can feel a party coming on. How about you? Any ideas for cultivating harmony within your family or neighbourhood?