For International Week, our school likes to have one school-wide craft that we use to line the walls. At the same time that it promotes and symbolizes unity, it also celebrates our diverse heritages and differences. Making multicultural paper dolls has been a tradition for our third graders (who do their own multicultural unit), and one year we decided to try it as an all-school activity.
The teachers have assigned this project of multicultural paper dolls in two ways. Either the students are all given a template/outline of a person, or they are allowed to come up with their own outline between 4-8″ tall. The international or multicultural paper dolls are then created and dressed based on traditional clothes worn in their families’ native countries. This works well in our school because we have a very diverse population from around the world; other schools I have talked to either use cultures from the students’ ancestry, or assign countries to the students to have more of the world represented.
Students were given some examples to view, and worked on the project at home, with their families. It was a wonderful collaboration, as parents could answer questions and provide materials for their kids. Some students used only paper, while others used cloth, felt, yard, buttons, lace, etc. We allowed the students a week to turn in the projects.
I can see the pride and hard work put into these beautiful paper dolls. I love the different textiles and media used by the kids to create the 3D images! Teacher talk to the kids about traditional clothes versus modern clothes, dress-up clothes for special celebrations vs what kids where to school, or outside to play. I have also talked to my kids about the differences in clothing used for religious celebrations versus family parties. Clothes reflect our identity, and in some ways express our personality, or show our belonging in a certain group. I smiled one time when a new student from Sierra Leone commented that all of the students in the US make jeans and t-shirts look like a uniform. Filling the hall with beautiful paper dolls that highlight cultures around the world celebrates our colorful differences and exposes kids to different styles and traditions.
This multicultural paper doll project is one of many projects we highlight in our book, The Global Education Toolkit. This smart, all-in-one resource from widely acclaimed authors Homa Tavangar and Becky Morales provides hundreds of easy, stand-alone activities, resources, and projects to help busy educators:
- Seamlessly integrate global awareness themes into existing K-5 Common Core curriculum
- Recruit parent and community volunteers and organizations
- Use social media for student global collaboration projects
- Plan international events, after-school clubs, and cross-curricular activities
Includes a 12-month timeline, backmapping tips, 50+ ready-to-start projects, and online links.