Why not tap into our great strength and distinction, our diversity? From 2001 to 2009 Baruch College has been ranked number one in the nation, in terms of student body diversity, by U.S. News and World Report. Early in each semester why not schedule a Cultural Exchange Day? I have, and it has proved quite a learning tool. . .
For Cultural Exchange Day each student is asked to bring in at least one item, of any kind, that represents their nation of origin, religion, ethnic group or any other aspect of what they consider to be their culture. During the session each student is required to talk with at least a dozen of their fellow students carefully making note of each other’s (1) name (2) culture (3) item that they brought to class and (4) its significance. (Stack up some of the chairs, and rearrange the others, to provide room to walk around.)
I have found that oftentimes students, who normally do not talk at all, become the center of attention as they briskly discuss, display and explain a wide array of fascinating artifacts from dozens of countries around the world. Some even come dressed in their traditional garb. Knots will periodically form and disperse around elaborate, or particularly intriguing, items and their presenters. This exercise is not just an ice breaker, but also an eye opener to the richly varied ways humanity has adapted, survived and thrived in every corner of the globe.
Cultural Exchange Day can be held in any course. If you like a focused approach, require that the items brought in be relevant to the subject matter of the course be it music, history, religion, business, or whatever. With this approach, in particular, observations made during Cultural Exchange Day tend to resonate later in the term. Since cultural diversity is our great strength and truly unique distinction, why not tap into it in this and in other ways?