Utah Lesson Plans
Social Studies
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Lesson, Lesson Plan
Lower Elementary
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    Community Culture Trunk

    Community Culture Trunk


    Students will pack their own "culture trunk" as they learn more about the cultural contributions found in their community.


    Students will pack their own "culture trunk" as they learn more about the cultural contributions found in their community.


    • Suitcase or box filled with artifacts, books, pictures, artwork, and music that represent the cultures in your community.
    • When I First Came to America, by Harriet Ziefert
    • Post-it Notes
    • Three prong folder
    • Student Culture Trunk
    • Student Continent Culture Map

    Part 1

    Part 2

    Wrap Up

    • Culture trunk with the items from the invitation to learn
    • Culture Cam

    Additional Resources


    • When I First Came to this Land, by Harriet Ziefert; ISBN 0-439-05284-X
    • People, by Peter Spier; ISBN 0-385-24469-X
    • Children Just Like Me, by Baranabas and Anabel Kindersley: ISBN 0-7894-0201-7
    • Hello World! Greetings in 42 Languages Around the Globe, by Manya Stojic; ISBN 0-439-51-743-5


    • Postcards From Buster, 1-800-866-5852 or Utah Instructional Television website (below)
    • Maya & Miguel, 1-800-866-5852 or Utah Instructional Television website (below)
    • American Cultures For Children Videos, 1-800-867-0307, Newbridge

    Background for Teachers

    The different and varied cultures represented in each classroom provide an opportunity for students to learn about others and themselves. Targeting specific cultures represented in individual classrooms validates student's backgrounds and gives them a chance to understand and appreciate one another. When teaching about cultures it is important to be sensitive and not to stereotype. Use your culture trunk to compile information and artifacts of the cultures you want to represent. Let the diversity of your class guide your decisions and discussions. It is important to integrate discussion about appreciating, valuing, and respecting differences of cultures.

    During this lesson the teacher will need to have a bulletin board featuring continents of the world. Each continent will have a string connecting that part of the world to their community in North America. Students will be asked to place different cultural items/ pictures/words on the corresponding continents. Teachers may want to review the terms culture and community before beginning the lesson.

    Intended Learning Outcomes

    6. Communicate clearly in oral, artistic, written, and nonverbal form.

    Instructional Procedures

    Invitation to Learn

    Unpack your culture suitcase. Pull out items such as a pair of chopsticks, a tortilla, a pair of moccasins, an African drum, a woven poncho, a beret, a soccer ball, a menu from an ethnic restaurant, something written in another language, a CD of Irish music, candy treats from another country, a multicultural folktale, etc. Each time you pull an item out of the suitcase ask the students where they think it came from. Once everything is out of the case reveal that all of the items were collected from right there in their own community. Ask students to predict how so many different kinds of items arrived in their community?

    Instructional Procedures

    1. Read When I First Came to America or another book about coming to America.
    2. Ask the students if they were moving far away what important items would they want to take with them so they could "do the best they could" in their new surroundings but still remember their original way of life. Give each student one to three Post-it Notes and ask them to write one answer on each sheet.
    3. Have students share their items. On the board help the children sort the Post-it Notes into like categories. Help students name and title each category (e.g. toys/games, family, clothes, pets).
    4. Ask students if there are other things they might bring with them but wouldn't necessarily need to pack in a bag (e.g. traditions, languages, celebrations, stories, physical features). Add new suggestions to the board.
    5. Tell the children they are going to be packing their own culture trunk as they learn more about the cultural contributions found in their community.
    6. Create the student trunk by gluing the Student Culture Trunk Cover to the front of a three prong folder. Put the Student Continent Culture Map inside of the folder.

    Part 1: Languages

    1. Open the cultural trunk and start pulling out word cards with foreign origins (Europe--macaroni, ballet, camouflage; Asia--ketchup, magic, karaoke; Australia--koala, kangaroo, boomerang; Africa--aardvark, jumbo, banjo; South America-- yo-yo, cocoa, barbecue; North America--moccasin, tortilla, Utah). Ask the students how these words became a part of our language. After revealing the origin of the word, have students post the card on the appropriate continent located on the bulletin board.
    2. Let the children know that if they were to move to another country the first thing they would need to do is learn how to communicate with others who might not speak the same language. Tell students this is what happened as people began to move to this land and began building new communities. They had to learn each other's languages. We still share languages today. Many children speak different languages in the home and are able to learn new languages at school. Books and movies are even available in different languages here in America.
    3. Tell the students one way to welcome someone into a new community is to greet them with a friendly hello. Ask students if they know of any other ways to say hello.
    4. Learn the song "Hello to all the Children of the World." (lyrics available at Lyrics and
    5. Give each child a Hello Card. As students greet each other they can sign their greeting on the Hello Around the World Recording Sheet to place in the Student Culture Trunk.
    6. At the end of the lesson have students place their hello card on the appropriate continent and record the greetings on the Student Continent Culture Map.

    Part 2: Games/Sports

    1. Ask the students if they realize that many of the activities they participate in each day are influenced from other cultures.
    2. Open the cultural trunk and start pulling out Game Word Cards (you can add samples or pictures). After each item tell students where the game originated and have them place a picture or the word on the correct continent (e.g. darts/ England, cat's cradle/Africa, mancala/Egypt, Rocks, Paper, Scissors/Japan, Parcheesi/India, thumb wrestling/Japan, video games/Japan, hopscotch/Italy, leapfrog/England, Chinese jump rope/China).
    3. Even today other cultures continue to influence our community. Tell students that we are going to be playing a game from Egypt. Introduce the game of Seega. Ask students if the game reminds them of any games they are already familiar with.
    4. Students can play Seega on their Seega Game Board
    5. Record games on their Student Continent Culture Map under the appropriate continent heading.

    Wrap Up: Cultural Snapshots of my Community

    1. Repeat the invitation to learn.
    2. After students have identified that all of the items came from their community via other cultures, review souvenir pages, and continent bulletin board.
    3. Introduce the Culture Cam. Tell students they will be creating a minimum of three to four round snapshot pages for their camera. The pictures should be of cultural contributions to their community.
    4. Students can draw, or use cut out pictures, or write about cultural contributions found in their community.
    5. Assemble the book by stapling their snapshots to the lens of the camera.
    6. Students can share their cameras and place them in their folders.



    Curriculum Extensions/Adaptations/ Integration/span>

    • Teachers can continue to spotlight topics such as literature, music, dance, holidays, homes, transportation, clothing, fashion, hairstyles, pets, religions, food, and art.
    • Share different episodes of Postcards from Buster. Buster from the Arthur series visits several cities in America and learns more about various cultures and how they contribute to that community.
    • Invite guest speakers to come and share more about their individual cultures.
    • Use poetry and songs from other cultures in fluency lessons.
    • Share stories and literature from other cultures for comprehension lessons and for read alouds.
    • Show a familiar video that uses a different language.

    Family Connections

    • Invite parents to take children to the grocery store and point out different food items from different cultures. Sample foods from other countries at home or in a restaurant.
    • Invite children to create a cultural suitcase with their families. Students will be invited to fill the case with items from their own cultural heritage. Tell the student to keep the cultural origins a secret while sharing. Other classmates can guess which cultures their contributions come from.

    Assessment Plan

    • Ask students to create a travel brochure advertising the cultural diversity found in their community.
    • Cultures in My World paper plate book. Each student will receive eight mini paper plates. Decorate the first plate with the book's title and appropriate illustration. Label the remaining plates with the name of each continent. Students will demonstrate knowledge of contributions to their community by writing or illustrating pictures for each page.



    Research Basis


    Singer, Judith. The potential of multicultural literature: changing understanding of self and others. Multicultural Perspectives, Volume 5.2, pp. 17-23.

    Utilizing literature that is multi cultural helps to create a climate that welcomes diversity in the classroom, whatever the racial, gender, or cultural constituency of the class. Multicultural children's literature provides self-affirmation for readers when it conveys that people like themselves have lives worth knowing about and worth sharing with others.