Greetings!
 
Last week we sent a brief education and parent guide of resources and tips for the Thanksgiving holiday season. This week, we’re covering resources and tips for the Christmas season.
 
The Christmas season, a time of joy and good will, is a great opportunity to be inclusive of the holidays of non-Christian students in public schools, at a time when some may feel excluded from holiday events. With this in mind we have compiled some tips and resources for both teachers and parents for fostering an inclusive environment for all students during the holiday season.

For Educators:

When planning holiday activities in December, it is important to ensure that all students feel included in our increasingly diverse, multi-cultural and multi-religious classrooms. To that end we suggest the following:
 
1. Learn about and share the benefits of teaching about different cultures and traditions as a means to prepare our students in our increasingly global and multicultural world: Why Is It Important to Teach About Other Faiths & Beliefs?
 
2. Teach about all the major religious holidays represented in your classroom either in December or throughout the year. See: Religious Commemorations Around the World and Public School Holiday Celebrations.
 
3. Teach about the different holidays in a fair and balanced manner, not emphasizing one over the other. See: Avoiding the Holiday ‘Balance Traps and The December Dilemma Fact Sheet.
 
4. Use the holidays as an opportunity to learn about other faiths and cultures. Encourage students to research their own and other traditions and then share with the class. See: Teaching the Holidays: The December Dilemma.
 
5. Ask students and parents if they would like to present about a religious holiday in the classroom. For Muslim students who want to present, they can use the student version of An Overview of Ramadan and Fasting. For parents, they can use the adult version of An Overview of Ramadan and Fasting.
 
6. Incorporate some aspect of other holidays or traditions in your December activities such as including songs about Ramadan, Hanukah or Diwali. For example, play this Ramadan song for K-3 students or this Ramadan song for older students. You can also explain about Ramadan using An Overview of Ramadan and Fasting Presentation. For more information see the Ramadan Information Sheet.
 
7. Ensure that you are teaching about religious holidays in line with the required separation of church and state. See: How to Handle Religious Holidays in Public SchoolsReligious Holidays in the Public Schools and The December Dilemma: Religious Holidays in the Public Schools and a recent article on How to Navigate the Holidays Inclusively.
 
8. Plan for the New Year by taking note of holidays represented in your classroom or school. See: Holiday Inclusion Planning Template. For future dates for Muslim holidays see Islamic calendar.
 
9. Try to include songs from various traditions in your holiday program or sing-a-long. For a song about Ramadan which includes sheet music see: A Song for Ramadan.
 
10. If you have students whose families don’t want them to take part in holiday activities, make sure they don’t feel uncomfortable or left out by providing them alternate activities. See: Students Who Don’t Celebrate Holidays.
 

For Parents:

1. Take this opportunity to learn about other faith’s holidays and add multicultural dimensions to your own holiday celebrations. See: Public School Holiday Celebrations.
 
2. Volunteer to present about one of their holidays in the classroom. You can explain about Ramadan using An Overview of Ramadan and Fasting Presentation. For more information see the Ramadan Information Sheet.
 
3. Make sure that when presenting about your holiday that you are doing so in an academic, non-devotional manner. See the First Amendment Center’s How to Handle Religious Holidays in Public Schools.
 
4. Inform the school administration about future dates for you holidays to include in the 2020-2021 school calendar. For future dates for Muslim holidays see Islamic calendar.
 
 
Islamic Networks Group (ING) is a peace-building organization providing face-to-face education and engagement opportunities that foster understanding of Muslims and other misunderstood groups to promote harmony among all people.