How to incorporate Ramadan into the western classroom

Ramadan is one of the most extraordinary events in the Muslim culture. Ramadan takes place during the 9th month of the Islamic calendar. In the west, this holiday is most well known for the practice of strict fasting throughout the daytime - it includes not eating food or drinking water.

Due to its modern history, Islam has become a touchy subject in the Western world. That presents a challenging task for teachers, as they are trying to explain and teach about the culture outside of the sad stereotypes we see on television.

The good news is that there are things you can do in your classroom during Ramadan to help and deeply educate both Muslim and non-Muslim children in your class about the cultural importance of Ramadan. 


Be aware of your Muslim student's limitations during Ramadan


Although it is not required for children to fast, many Muslim children as young as 8 will fast by their own will. That means they won't be consuming any food and water during the daytime. It is important that as their teacher you respect their decision to participate in the fasting. To help communicate your respect for them you could try to show your support for Ramadan by making life a little easier for them by using a combination of the following ideas. 

During lunchtime, organise a separate, special activity for Muslim children in the classroom, or create a temporary "resting room" for them to relax in while other children eat and drink.

Cut on your demands - don't make them do difficult sports activities, especially on a hot day. Also, be aware that Ramadan is a busy month for Muslims when they spend a lot of time at home praying, doing charity work or providing voluntary services in their community as good deeds, or tending to guests. Because of all of that, consider giving lighter homework during this particular month if you can, or center their homework around their own celebrations.

Talk with Muslim children about their needs during Ramadan - if they need some time to pray, perhaps it can be organized in the already mentioned "resting room".



Read and analyze a story from One Thousand and One Nights


One Thousand and One Nights is the best-known collection of Arabic folk tales, with many of them being very wise, morally uplifting, and suitable to analyze in a classroom. It is a good way illuminate some aspects of Arabic and Muslim culture. Find a story that you like and that you consider suitable for your student's age, and then find a shorter version or take a passage for students to read. A lively and enthusiastic discussion is sure to follow, especially if you pick the well-known ones: Aladdin, Ali Baba or Sinbad the Sailor.



Traditional Rice Pudding


If none of your students are on a strict fasting regime and you have a kitchen you can freely work in, you can try to teach all of your students about the Muslim culture through its unique cuisine.

A "suhor" is a light meal which is prepared and eaten slightly before dawn during Ramadan, and it is the last food Muslims will eat until another evening sets in. Rice meals are quite common as a suhor. Dates are also cherished during Ramadan since it is believed that The Prophet Muhammed ate them, so this can be a conversation starter about Ramadan in itself. You can find the recipe here


At the end of the day, the most important part of bringing Ramadan into the western classroom is that you respect your Muslim students culture while also educating the rest of your class about a culture that may be significantly different to their own.


Looking for a low prep option this Ramadan? Why not check out my Ramadan Celebration Study? Students love this resources and learn so much about Ramadan from it. 




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Five ways to teach your students how to be sustainable citizens this Earth Day

With the environmental and climate crisis proliferating, the Earth Day, celebrated on April 22nd, is becoming increasingly important. So, how do you convey that importance to your students and engage them in saving our Earth for generations to come? Here are five creative ways.


Recycling experiment


The easiest type of recycling that you can do in the classroom is paper recycling.

>> Use some of the paper you have lying around (it must be plastic-free), whether some old drawings or pages from old notebooks.
>> Soak the small, torn pieces of paper in water and let them sit for a couple of days.
>> You will need a kitchen mixer to turn the soaked pieces into a paper pulp.
>> Take a window screen (with mesh) and strain the pulp, then press it into the shape of the paper.
>> Use a cloth and press it on top of the paper to remove excess water.
>> Let it dry for another day or so, and use it to draw or write Earth-friendly drawings and messages.

Besides giving an example of how recycling works, this exercise shows that recycling takes a lot of work (tearing the paper, soaking it), resources (water, electric power) and leaves a residue (excess pulp or trimmed paper edges). Recycling is not a miracle solution to excessive waste. Point out the other solutions - reducing the amount of waste and reusing whatever can be reused, and note that recycling is actually the last resort of responsible waste management.



Plant something


The most impressive action to do with students is perhaps to plant a tree or a shrub. Use the opportunity to talk about the overall importance of trees as oxygen makers, natural pollution filters and animal habitats. If you don't have space, or lack special permission for the planting a tree, you can plant seeds of trees or flowers. Planting the seed mixtures made for pollinators gives you an excuse to talk about the significance of bees and butterflies to the living world and human agriculture.


Debate


The Earth Day is a perfect opportunity for older students to debate on relevant hot topics such as climate change, fossil fuels, pollution, future of food production and consumerism. Create teams that will approach the chosen topic from different standpoints and give them about five resources each. A debate is a dynamic way to learn, as well as to debunk some myths that can the children have probably already encountered through the media.



Glasshouse experiment


Climate change, or global warming, is a phenomenon in which certain gasses prevent the heat from escaping from the Earth back into space, much like a glasshouse would. You can explain this with a simple experiment. You will need a larger bowl, a thermometer, a black cloth or a paper, and plastic foil.

Put the thermometer into the bowl, cover it with a black cloth and leave it in a sunny spot. After several minutes, check and note the temperature. Then, remove the black cloth and put the plastic foil. By using a permanent marker, write chemical symbols of glasshouse gasses - CO2, CH4, CFC, etc. - on the foil. Watch as the heat rises, but be careful about the thermometer - it can get so hot inside the bowl that it could pop.


Exchange and give away unwanted things


Excess litter and waste are one of the main environmental issues today. A responsible citizen of the Earth should act responsibly towards his belongings to avoid adding to the problem of waste generation. Tell your students to bring their unwanted clothes or toys that are still in good condition. They can exchange items among themselves first. After that phase is complete, you can collect them into a box to give away to charity.


Explain that through this practice you're doing two good deeds - you're making someone happy by giving them things they might need, and you're preventing the hardly-recyclable items from ending up and piling up in a landfill.


Looking for some low prep options this Earth Day? Why not check out my Earth Day Craft Activity, Earth Day Celebration Study, or Earth Day Scavenger Hunt? Students love these resources and learn so much about our earth from them. 






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Five Irish traditions to adopt in your classroom this Saint Patrick’s Day

Saint Patrick is Ireland's patron saint. Starting as a religious holiday honoured on March 17th in Ireland, Saint Patrick's Day as a true celebration came to be in the United States in the 18th century. At first, it spread to other countries with high percentage of Irish immigration, and now it is slowly taking over the world. People are captivated by the happy-go-lucky nature of this holiday, saturated with the colour green, shamrocks and cute and greedy little leprechauns.



Here are five fun ways to celebrate St. Patrick's day in your classroom.

Tradition #1: Green everything


Green colour traditionally dominates the St. Patrick's Day. Encourage your students to wear green clothes, and bring some green snacks such as green apples, kale chips or cabbage. Green foods are nutrient-dense and useful to our bodies, and this is the perfect opportunity to make them fun to eat.



Tradition #2: Meet the leprechauns


Leprechauns are charming bearded fairies. They are famous for hiding their pots of gold from the rest of the world. Get to know them. Read stories about them in class, and create maps to find their precious gold. Golden chocolate coins will do just fine for this purpose.



Tradition #3: Shamrocks


According to a legend, St. Patrick used a three-leafed shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity to the Irish. Although there is no actual proof that he indeed practised this, both three and four-leafed shamrocks are the symbols of St. Patrick's.

At the very beginning of March, plant some clover seeds in suitable pots and keep them in a warm and light spot. Hopefully, they will sprout and grow just in time for the holiday. If you have a clover patch somewhere in the school's yard, you can take the younger kids out for the ever-exciting lucky 4-leafed clover hunt.



Tradition #4: Irish folk music


You can spice up all your activities by playing Irish music. The fairy-tale-like melodies will add value to every activity, deepening the connection with the original Irish roots of the St. Patrick's Day.



Tradition #5: The Parade



All of the formerly described activities can be incorporated into the great finale - your group's very own St. Patrick's Day parade. These parades are one of the most famous hallmarks of the American St. Patrick's day, and especially those held in Boston - and you can make your own classroom version. With everybody dressed in green, special snacks, shamrocks and incredible music, you can try out traditional Irish dances and - have fun. For some extra fun why not create your own craft decorations to add some children's creativity to the parade! 




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