Ignorance is a well-known root cause of prejudice. To combat this, Delton School is offering a refreshing solution.
The goal is to educate not only students, but also their families and the broader community about the many cultures in their neighbourhood. Since January, Delton School has dedicated one night per month to celebrating culture with its Intercultural Family Night.
“We believe that if we learn about each other, that will reduce the likelihood of prejudice and discrimination,” Delton principal Errol Johnson said. “It’s hard to hate a person when you understand them.”
The idea began while Johnson was principal at Rosslyn Junior High. The school held an aboriginal family night once per month to promote similar community engagement and education. So when Johnson moved to Delton School, he knew the family nights would be a good fit for the school with its diverse student population of over 60 different cultures.
The first cultural night held at Delton shared aboriginal culture since the school currently has about 140 students who identify as First Nation, Métis or Inuit. The second event was held during Black History Month in February, so the natural choice was African-Canadian culture. Last month was Arabic culture, this month is Eastern European culture, May is Asian culture, and June is a celebration of all cultures.
A city grant funds the event, which helps to pay for food, music, and performers. Anyone can attend and in fact, Johnson encourages anyone interested to join.
The point, Johnson said, is “to try and engage the community back into schools—this school is not my school, I’m just the person who’s lucky enough to be placed in charge of the school.”
He said the current use of schools for only students during the daytime is too narrow and could be broadened to the rest of the community. “Schools are buildings that taxpayers generally invest a lot of money in and yet they’re only used from eight to four…then they just sit there empty for the rest of time. My feeling has always been that the school should be the hub of the community.”
A benefit of getting the community into the school outside of school
hours is that connections and relationships can be built, which makes discussions of parental engagement and support easier when parents know the teachers and school administrators.
“The research is pretty clear; when parents are involved and dedicated to their kids, the kids tend to do much better in school—but also in life,” Johnson said.
Nigel Robinson with the Global Indigenous Youth Coalition helped plan the aboriginal Intercultural Family Night in January. Robinson said he is amazed these types of events aren’t standard practice in Canadian schools.
“One of the most important things is it normalizes different cultures for children,” he said. “Every month they get to see different aspects of other cultures, so it’s not just something they only see at Heritage Days once a year.”
Feature image: Delton student, Teagan. Delton School hopes to encourage other schools to adopt similar approaches of fighting prejudice with understanding. | Sierra Bilton
INTERCULTURAL FAMILY NIGHTS
April 13: Eastern European culture
May 11: Asian culture
June 8: All cultures
5:30 – 7 pm at Delton School (12126 89 Street)