Pupils were invited to wear clothing or bring items into school that they felt represented their own culture or faith in some way, aiming to spark conversations in class. Children also welcomed special visitors into their classrooms who talked about their own cultures.
One such visitor was Harkirat Singh, who delivered informative and engaging lessons for children. He said, “Today we are celebrating faith and culture day in the school and I have been asked to come in today as a Sikh, and as part of the Sikh Education Service, to share what that means to me. Instead of working on the differences, we will focus on the oneness of all of us as human beings.”
Harkirat says that the day was about learning about each other, and from each other. “Children have asked me all sorts of things today, including the joyful ‘why are you wearing a hat?’ So, we have been able to talk about the turban or dastar, and why it is important for me to cover my head. That might lead to recognising and discussing the different choices our own parents make for us and having that element of respect for our parents and the choices they make for us when we are growing up.
“For me, and being a Sikh, I am also here to learn and to understand what children are seeing in my actions and learn from their responses. I think if I could leave a message with children here today, I could say it in the word ‘love’. Love irrespective of what we look like, what colour our skin is, our gender or abilities, age, religion or background. What brings us together, and what makes us individually very special, is love, and we can all achieve that.”
Other visitors to the school included Tina Bhundia and Durshna Gohil who brought along many items to show to children including wedding garments, items representing their faith and also traditional food items for children to try. Tina said, “I think it went really well and because of the age of the pupils we set up little workstations around the classroom where they could look at the various items we brought in to show them. Together Durshna and I brought in books and religious items that we use when we attend temple, traditional food, and clothing and jewellery. The jewellery was very popular with the children!”
Tina said she thought that providing a safe environment to ask questions and to learn about each other’s culture is important. “I think often children might feel worried about offending a person if they ask questions, but I believe it’s a good way to learn. In fact, something that really shines through is how similar our festivals are, and children are recognising those similarities in their own backgrounds. Faith may be the root of those festivals, but it is also about family and spending time together, sharing food, being generous and kind and also having confidence in who you are. To have a school day where it is OK to wear traditional clothing or discuss culturally important items, really does allow children to embrace their diversity, but also their similarities.”
Durshna agreed, “We feel that the day is very worthwhile in opening up dialogue for children to explore these topics. We created a PowerPoint presentation and brought in the items for children to handle and encourage them to ask questions and learn more. I would hope that the children get to learn a little bit more about our culture and faith and the reasons behind our events and festivals.”
Head Teacher Anthony Thomas said the day was a great success and one which children enjoyed, “It was a wonderful day; a real celebration of our diverse local community. The children had a fabulous time learning about each other’s beliefs, traditions and culture. Developing curiosity, respect and a tolerant attitude towards differences are key attributes we want to develop in all our children. Most of all, at Edwalton, we want to foster a love of learning and develop children who are aspirational and that have a moral outlook.”
Teacher Sarah Rowland said the day felt like a joyful celebration, “All the children and staff thoroughly enjoyed the day. It was great to see our community come together and celebrate our similarities and differences. The children got fully involved with all the workshops and activities available. The enjoyment on their face and the memories made are priceless.”