This blog was originally published on The Guardian. While Eid al-Fitr was last week, these activities can work well with another upcoming Eid al-adha to help cultivate a feeling of belonging and safety for Muslim students and students of colour in the classroom.
As fasting in the holy month of Ramadan draws to a close, some 1.6 billion Muslim people around the world will celebrate Eid al-Fitr on Wednesday 6 July 2016.
When translated from the Arabic, Eid al-Fitr means “festival of breaking the fast” and traditionally lasts up to three days.
As families and communities across the UK prepare for the celebrations, teachers might be wondering how to bring the festival to life in their classrooms. Some pupils might not be familiar with the meaning and significance of Eid to Muslim students. It’s important to create a safe and mindful environment where all students to feel comfortable, and those who practise Islam can celebrate.
“Celebrating who we are” activity
This activity has been modified from Teaching Tolerance’s “Celebrating Our Lives” activity. It allows students to learn about and understand some of the holidays that their peers practise with their family – and helps students to see some of the similarities and differences of religious holidays.
A good place to start is with a discussion about the month of Ramadan, and what it means to Muslims. Then you could go on to the following:
- Ask students to jot down three holidays they celebrated in the past two years (birthday, Christmas, Hanukah, etc) and ask them to write who celebrated with them.
- Have students answer some of the following questions: What stood out for them? What do they remember the most? What was something they or their family did that was very meaningful to them? Are there any qualities and characteristics that you need to practise during these holidays? Why do you think it’s important to embody good qualities and characteristics – such as compassion, kindness and empathy – during religious holidays?
- Next, divide the students into several groups, making sure they are as diverse as possible so pupils learn about different holidays. Then, ask students to share their reflections of the three holidays within their groups.
- At the end of the discussion, open up the floor to the whole class and ask them to share one thing they appreciated about the holiday of one of their group members.
- Summarise the conversation to students, and help to tie in the discussion to celebrating Eid, mentioning some of the similarities to other holidays.
This activity will help students see that everyone’s religion, culture and traditions are appreciated, respected and welcomed in the classroom. It will foster a culture of community, connecting and belonging.
Video conferencing with other classrooms that are celebrating Eid around the world is also a great option. Skype Classroom provides one option to connect with other classes. You can use the hashtag #SkypeClassrooms to connect with other educators who are willing to link their classroom to yours. This is an exciting adventure: it helps those those students who are celebrating Eid see how others are joining them and, more importantly, that there are possibilities to connect with people on a global level and learn more about their culture. It also builds empathy among students as a whole, and can help to eliminate some preconceived ideas.
Cultural cooking classrooms
If you have a kitchen in your school, you could make cookies with your students. In many Muslim cultures, it’s tradition to make Eid cookies and share them with family and friends. This symbolises kindness, compassion and the importance of giving to others. If you do not have access to a kitchen, students could bring in a small dishes of food from their culture, or something they like to eat and share it with their peers. The objective here is to learn about each other’s cultures and home backgrounds through food. This activity also helps to create a community in your classroom, where everyone is sharing and giving something that represents who they are and where they come from – and many will benefit from the potluck conversations.