Hot Topics     Home and Family     K-12    

8 ways students can build a cultural identity



A simple and fun opportunity for discovery

8 ways students can build a cultural identity


Days spent in the classroom are often centered around language, reading, math, science and other traditional curriculum, but there’s another key subject students may learn about without even realizing it: themselves. While coming to understand one’s family background and culture may seem like a daunting task for school-aged children, it can actually be a simple (and fun) opportunity for discovery.

LaRayne Woster is the Native American Studies Lead and Cultural Specialist at St. Joseph’s Indian School, a small nonprofit Native American school making a difference in preserving the culture and heritage of its students. As a cultural specialist, Woster developed a unique project with her students, helping them discover who they are and where they came from.

By developing fun and informative activities like learning their creation story; learning traditional arts, crafts and dances; making a traditional meal; and understanding religious traditions, she challenged her students to connect with their ancestry.

READ MORE: Carve out more family time this Halloween

While this activity focused on Native American children, Woster recommends parents and teachers use this exercise and share ideas to help any child connect with his or her own heritage, from Hispanic and African cultures to French, Irish and beyond. Schools like St. Joseph’s provide an environment ideal for students to make those connections as the school is dedicated to improving the quality of life for children and families with a mission to educate mind, body, heart and spirit.

Consider these ways you can promote cultural connections.

  1. Bond with Someone Who Knows the Culture. One of the easiest ways students can introduce themselves to their own history is by talking with relatives, friends or neighbors who can share wisdom and knowledge. These mentors can provide direction and educational opportunities while taking part in games, dances, storytelling and other cultural traditions.

  2. Learn a Traditional Game and Share It. Throughout history, people of all cultures played games and took part in activities to spark creative freedom and break free from everyday stressors. Learning and participating in one of these games offers children a fun, hands-on way to connect with their heritage.

  3. Cook Traditional Foods. While family reunions and holidays are often filled with your loved ones’ favorite meals, the foods of your ancestors may differ dramatically from today’s classics. Connecting with the past can be as easy as researching recipes, heading to the store for a few ingredients and spending cherished moments together in the kitchen.

  4. Do a Traditional Dance. Folk dances from around the world have been passed down from generation to generation. Native American grass dances, Lakota dances and rain dances are popular examples that offer lively, entertaining ways to connect with the past.

  5. Study Oral Traditions and Learn to Tell the Stories. Whether your culture dates back hundreds of years or thousands, there are tales to be told. Learn some of your ancestors’ most influential stories from creation and ancient history to modern folktales and retell them to friends and family.

  6. Read the Works of Early Authors. Studying your culture’s most well-known authors, fiction or non-fiction, can give you a glimpse into the past. Even fictional works provide a gateway to the thinking, traditions, beliefs and more of those who came before you.

  7. Learn the Traditional Language. For students whose ancestors spoke a different language or communicated in a different manner than people today, studying that language provides a direct connection to the culture. In fact, learning the language can be an exciting experience to communicate with an elder in your community who speaks fluently.

  8. Come to Know and Respect Your Family. While history and its traditions may seem long, long ago, your closest possible connections to that past are the loved ones you see every day. Bonding over your newfound knowledge of your shared heritage is a profound opportunity to grow closer, connect with your background and celebrate those who came before you.

Visit stjo.org to find more fun, student-friendly ways to discover and preserve the past.

(Family Features)
Photo courtesy of Getty Images (family cooking)
Photo courtesy of St. Joseph’s Indian School (woman dressing child in traditional feathers)




Other articles by HVP News Reporters


  • 5 tips to help families manage holiday stress

    The holiday season can make everyone feel a little overwhelmed

    ’Tis the season for holiday parties, travel, hosting and more. While it is a joyous time of year, the never-ending to-do lists and school being out of session can make everyone feel a little overwhelmed, children included. read more »
  • A foil packet meal for sweet fall simplicity

    Delicious and easy dinner with sweet potatoes

    Fall provides almost endless opportunities to gather friends and family around great food. From tailgates and family events to those precious last outdoor meals before winter sets in, the scenery of autumn is a perfect backdrop for sharing meals together. read more »
  • 5 steps for better meal prep

    Eat healthier and save time

    Eating healthier and saving time around the house are common goals for many families, and there’s one solution that can help attain both: meal-prepping. By planning and preparing meals in advance of each week, you can practice better portion control while creating free time for normally hectic mornings, afternoons and evenings. read more »
  • How to keep pets happy and healthy this holiday season

    7 tips to help you spot potential hazards for your furbaby

    The holiday season means fun and festivities for all, but getting wrapped up in all the excitement and celebrations can lead to forgetting about safety and precautions, especially for pets. read more »
  • Thanksgiving traditions and memory-making meals

    2 mouth-watering recipes everyone will love

    Starting with parades and ending with family meals, Thanksgiving provides all-day opportunities for celebrating life’s special moments with those nearest and dearest to your heart. read more »
  • How to protect your home and valuables this holiday travel season

    Protect your assets when you hit the road

    Whether you’re visiting your in-laws or taking a tropical vacation over the holidays, you’ll likely be leaving your house and the majority of your belongings unattended while you’re gone. Recent research suggests that if you’re like many Americans, you may not be doing enough to protect your assets when you hit the road. read more »
  • Webinar on nicotine and stress

    From NYS Smoker's Quitline

    Panel of national and state experts elucidates the "vicious cycle" as a result of regularly using tobacco and vape products read more »
  • Elevate a family-favorite side dish to a flavorful, protein-packed meal

    Turn an easy, everyday side dish into a full-blown dinner

    Taking the stress out of family meals at home can be as simple as turning your attention toward recipes that pack plenty of flavor without complicated prep. In fact, you can even turn an easy, everyday side dish into a full-blown dinner by simply adding your favorite protein. read more »
  • Put a plant-based twist on holiday baking

    Try these delectable holiday desserts

    Flavorful desserts are a staple of the holidays and the exciting, appetizing allure of new recipes can help elevate seasonal gatherings and create sweet memories. With near-endless options for celebrating the season, putting a plant-based twist on traditional recipes offers everyone the opportunity to indulge with decadent treats. read more »
  • Understanding GMOs

    Info from the FDA

    Many consumers are curious to learn more about GMOs. A GMO (genetically modified organism) is a plant, animal or microorganism that has had its genetic material (DNA) changed using technology that generally involves the transfer of specific DNA from one organism to another. read more »