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Bridging the Gap Between Cultures

Cynthia H. Roberts

Contents of Curriculum Unit 93.04.07:

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Ethnic groups have often faced unnecessary problems because of their unique cultural backgrounds. With the growing focus on pride of heritage, it becomes increasingly more difficult to find one’s position in the Melting Pot of America.

As people and Nations become more secure, they are better able to appreciate and accept the diversity of their heritage with increased exposed to differences, we also learn about our similarities; our cultural differences are the highlights.

It is necessary to strengthen students appreciation of individual differences. This enables them to value differences rather than view them as something to make fun of, as students frequently do.

The best way to understand others is to step into their shoes. Learning is more effective when the student has lived it, felt it, and experienced it.

This Unit was written for Special Education students in grades 9-12th, who are not easily motivated and who reading levels are below grade level. I am always in search of new ideals to use with them. In writing this Unit, it is my wish that it will interest and motivate them as well as stimulate them in what they are learning.

In this Unit, I want to celebrate Multiculturism by honoring the diversity of students while bridging the cultures of our broader society. I feel the need to help students become familiar with other cultures (within their own nation and in other nations) and to relate these other cultures to their own.

In this Unit, students will study, discuss, explore, reflect, debate, write, create and expand their knowledge about themselves and the world around them.

This unit is a continuation of a previous unit I wrote called “A Multicultural Look at the Art and Culture in Today’s Society.”

I want to provide students with a Multicultural Curriculum which focuses on the various Cultural groups within our Society and world.

A goal of this Unit is to expose the students to similarities and differences of two cultures, which include: Greek and Israeli. Three areas will be given special attention: Artwork, cooking/foods, and an Introduction to each cultural group/recreational activities for each.

As we know it, America is made up of people with various ethnic backgrounds, religious beliefs and Cultural identities. Even though obvious superficial differences exist. All American citizens share important common bonds. This Unit will help students realize that America’s greatest resource is its unique blend of people.

In this unit, students will gain and understanding and appreciation of other cultures besides their own. Also understand how each culture has its own tradition.

The overall focus is to help students appreciate and understand a Multicultural look at the cultures of a growing society. Also, to encourage students to detect cultural patterns as a way of identifying commonalities and to appreciate human diversity.

This unit will offer students the strength of diversity, the values that allows diversity to flourish, the history and literature that have shaped our country and our world. Students will also be provided with “Hands on activities”. I will utilize both the cognitive and affective domains to help internalize the similarities and differences.

The Cognitive Components of this unit are designed to increase the student’s ability to conceptualize and generalize about ethnically related events and to collect and evaluate data related to race and ethnicity...The Affective Component is designed to help students analyze and clarify their attitudes and feeling related to racial and ethnic groups and to reduce racial and ethnic prejudices.

My goal is to build student’s awareness: (1) of ethnicity as one source of diversity within our nation society; (2) of the contribution of that diversity, as well as why it is a source of tension and dissension; and (3) of sense of identity and personal pride that many can and do derive from their sense of ethnic identity.

This unit is designed to be used over a ten to twelve week period. Students will be encouraged to examine the similarities and differences of each culture. Individual, groupwork, class discussions and guest speakers will be presented.

The primary goals and objectives of the unit are the following:

1.] Emphasize the importance of the society.
2.] Create Unity.
3.] Analyze role of popular individuals for cultural groups.
4.] Expose students to Similarities and differences.
5.] Compare the development of ethnic neighborhoods among diverse cultural groups.
6.] Encourage students to detect cultural patterns as a way of indentifying commonalities.
7.] To understand the values, customs and beliefs.
8.] To list Cultural Traits.

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There are many ethnic holidays which are celebrated in the United States. These holidays are observed by groups who manintain some ties to the and from which they or their ancestors originate. Since every individual in the United States, except the Native American, is a descendent from some foreign born ancestor each of us is a part of some ethnic group. Students enjoy celebrating holidays.

There are many ethnic holidays which are celebrated in the United States. These days are observed by groups who maintain some ties to the land from which they or their ancestors

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Israel is a small nation on the Eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. It was founded in 1948 as a homeland for Jews from all parts of the world. Most of the people of Israel are Jews, about half of whom were born in other countries. Nearly as of the other Israelis are Arabs. Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, and Tel Aviv Kya Fo is the largest City.

Israel makes up most of the region once called Palestine, the Holy land of the Bible. In ancient times, the Jews built a nation there, but Palestine fell to a series of conquerors. Although Israel is a free country that welcomes all faith, nine out of every ten Israeli are Jewish. Due to the large ratio of persons in one faith, the religion of the Jews, play a large role in the life style of all Israeli.

Israeli New year is called Rosh Hashanah and is celebrated sometime in September, the date changing from year to year depending on the Hebrew calendar “Rosh” mean “Head” and “Shanah” mean year. Rosh Hashanah last for ten days. The tenth day, called Yom Kippur or day of a tenement, is the day on which one must seek forgiveness for mistakes and resolve to live a better life.

Passover is a celebration of the Jews liberation from slavery. This holiday is usually a celebration in April and it is one of the oldest festivals of freedom in the world.

PURIM—Festivals of Lots

In Israel, many elaborate Purism celebration were held. Some cities have festive, three-day celebrations with many activities including parades, parties and dramatic presentations

SUCCOTH—This holiday is celebrated in late September or early October. This is a very happy ancient festival. It has religious significance and is somewhat similar to the Thanksgiving day celebrated in the United States.

The Republic of Israel began in 1948 in a land previously called Palestine, on the Western edge of the area called the Middle East. Many of the towns in Israel still bear their biblical names. Not only Jews live in Israel—-there are diversity of people from Algiers, Morocco, and Europe, including Arabs and Druzes. Many ancient historical sites attract vistors from throughout the world.

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All of the cities and many of the villages of Israel have their own art museums. Sculptors and artists strive to express the freedom of the people of Israel. Many of the recent books about Israel tell of their skilled craftmen—potters, goldsmith silversmiths, blacksmiths, and coin makers. Some fashioned delicate, lacy jewelry decorated with precious stones. Many women are skilled at embroidery and basket weaving. Many of the highly skilled crafts have been passed down for several generations.

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Tzenna (meaning austerity) is the word for food in Israel. Israel cooking really had its origin in 1948 when Israel came into existence. People of at least eighty nationalities have come together to form the population of Israel, each bringing their recipes and traditions from the lands they left.

Israeli cooking is lumped into three categories: European, Oriental (which covers non-European dishes: Arabic, North America, African, Indian, and the far East), and original dishes. Due to modern techniques, Israeli farmers have increased sixfold in the past two decades. Israel is the third largest exporter of avocados (after California and South Africa). They raise guava, citrus fruits, mangos, vegetables, dates, rice and honey.

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Israel is a new country with a mixture of modern buildings and old forts. Leisure time is spent listening to the radio and attending movies theaters, dance and concerts. Some of the favorite sports in Israel include: basketball, hiking, rowing, sailing, skin diving, soccer and swimming. Much of the time the weather is quite warm—children lead an out-of-doors life which includes picnics, camping, and excurisons to historical places. A favorite party in Israel is the Kumsitz (from the German, “Come sit”). At this party, the children sit around the camp-fire at night to sing and clap. Often the words are only “La, La La”. The national dance of Israel is the Hora. It is a circle dance that is enjoyed by people throughout the world. It is danced to the music of “Hava Nagila” and may be found on most records and in most Jewish or Israeli books.

City children of Israel play many games exactly as children of the United States. Some favorite partly games are: Blindman’s Buff, Jack and Ball, musical chairs, and Red light-green light. Name games are common in both countries.

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BOOTH (SUCCAH) is a festival of thanksgiving which begins five days after Yom Kippur. In celebration of this light day festival, many Jewish families build gazebos out of branches and leaves and decorate them with fruits and flowers. Many Israeli families sleep in the Succah and even eat their meals there during the celebration.


Chad Gadya (an only kid) is a folksong traditionally sung during passover. It tells the story of a man who brought a goat for two Hebrew coins.


Chanukah (or Hanullah) is a well-known Jewish holiday during which the dreidle game is played. Four Hebrew letters are placed on the four sides of a spinning top: Nun, grimmel, hey and shin. These are represented by symbols. These symbols stand for the words: Nes, Gadol, Haya, and Sham respectively which may be translated to mean; “A great miracle happened there”.


Some friends of ours, who grew up on a Kibbutz near the Negev, taught us to make kites similar to those that they had made as children. These kites bear the national emblem of the six pointed star.


The Kibbutz council for musical education in Israel has edited a book by Tamar Yardeni-Yaffe which illustrated the possiblities of making instruments from plants. Tamar suggests that the child has entered a secret world of creation when he is allowed to create musically.


Purim, or the festival of lots, is created by Jews throughout the world. It is a joyous springtime celebration that is looked forward by the children of Jewish families with as much excitement as Christian children await Christmas or as the Hindu child would await Holi. This holiday is held to honor Queen Esther and Mordecai (Esther’s cousin), who together saved the Jews from the wicked Haman of Persia.


Although Israel is near Asia, the Israeli way of life is far more like life in the United States. In school and at home children are encouraged to use their time wisely and doing stitchery is one enjoyable past time.


Bagel cookies (Ka’Achei SumSukm) Bagels are a traditional food eaten by Jews throughout the world. These bagels are usually eaten for Sabbath breakfast, with coffee by Syrian Jews in Israel.

CHALLAH BREAD (Brauded Bread) Challah is the traditional twisted bread always served on the Sabbath. An old tradition that goes back to the time when loaves were carried as a tribute to the priests in temple in Jerusalem, is that the person baking the bread breaks off a bit of dough and throws it in the fire while saying a prayer for their home and for peace for the world.


Falafel is as common in Israel as the hot dog is in the United States. It is sold on many street corners throughout the country. It consists of chik-pea balls served in pita bread with lettuce, tomato and a sauce.

There are many varieties of Latkes made in different countries, also there are many varieties enjoyed during the Chanukah season, The batter is especially delicate, similiar to a Japanese tempura, and the fruit may be any kind that is in season.


Hamantaschen are triangularly shaped, filled cookies that are traditionally served at the feast of Purim. Purim is a spring holiday celebrating the freeing of ancient Jews from the Persian Prime minister Haman, who was going to have them killed.


The people of Israel come from many other lands yet all celebrate their New Year by eating foods that are cooked with honey. Pita bread is a flat bread used extensively in Middle Eastern cooking It is frequently filled with various stuffings and eaten like a sandwich.

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Greece is a small country where the first European civilization started more than 2,000 years ago. In those days, Greece controlled much of the land bordering the Mediterrean and black seas. Today, Greece has little power and is one of the least developed countries of Europe. Athens is the capital and largest city of Greece.

Greece is a democracy in Southeastern Europe. It is a mountainous area that is surrounded by water on three sides. It is, therfore, a promient seaport in its part of the world. The ruins of ancient Greece attract daily vistors to Greece.

The national language is Greek. Most of the alphabets throughout Europe and the Americas have based on the Greek alphabet. Greeks are known for their respect for learning; consequently many wealthy Greeks have founded institutes of learning both public and private.

The beauty of ancient Greek art and architecture has spread throughout the world. The Greeks viewed each item, no matter how small, as a work of art. Coins were often produced as artistic master pieces. The classic beauty of Greek art has even been duplicated in modern art pieces. Greek scenes were often of daily life, majestic buildings, or likenesses of Greek gods.

Today, Greek handicrafts abound in the form of hand woven goods, embroideries, carved rustic furniture, ceramics, leather and metal goods, brass and silver household articles and jewelry, and carved statues.

Ancient Greeks are thought to have begun the art of cooking nearly 3,000 years ago. A Greek Archestratus, wrote the first cookbook move than 2,000 years ago and Greek cooking has influenced many different cuisines. Today, Greek, Turkish, and Armenian dishes are often similiar and it is difficult to determine the origin of these recipes because the borders of these countries have changed many times.

There are many olive and lemons trees in Greek; therefore, olives and lemons are used extensively in Greek cooking. Everyday meals are generally simple. Often a complete meal will be fresh vegetables quickly cooked, sprinkled with olive oil and lemon juice. Delicious feasts presented elegantly are also a part of the Greek cooking heritage.

Children are frequently needed for work in most Greek families. They often work very hard while helping their parents in their jobs.

Play time is generally spent out-of-doors and may focus on learning job skills. Many Greek children make their own toys from pine cones and seashells. Others play with toys similiar to those purchased in the United States. Flutes are often made from bamboo or bird’s bones. Boys often make their own rod and tackle for fishing. Girls learn to care for children and to spin, weave, and do embroidery.

A major part of Greek life today is handicrafts, folk music, and dancing. Most of the traditional folk dances are circle dances. Traditional folk dances are always an important part of Greek holiday celebrations.

In most of the dances, the dancers stand in a semicircle around a leader. They hold hands or hold the ends of a knotted handerchief. Only the leader performs. If the leader is a man, he leaps and twists. A woman leader steps and turns primly. The other dancers in the semicircle move together, swinging with the music. The music has been handed down through hundreds of years.

Some dances are regional, other such as the Tsamikos and the Kalamatiano have become national dances and are performed all over Greece. The songs are usually accompanied by a violin, a clarinet, and sometimes alto, which is similar to a fute.

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Coins of Greece

In ancient Greece, the making of coins was considered to be a highly skilled art. In the 600’s B.C. each community make its own coins.


Colorful embroidery of fabrics is a favorite handicraft of Greece. Although Greece imports some of its clothing today, many beautifully decorated pieces are found throughout the market place and are representative of domestic regional designs.


Traveling puppet theaters are popular in Greece, a popular detective puppet, originally from turkey, is cally Karagiosi. Karagiosi wears many disguises a woman, soldier, cook—but the audience always recognizes him because of his large nose and hunched back. Hashivat, his friend, helps him to solve all crimes

KOMBOLOI (Worry Beads)

A traditional Greek art piece is Greek worry beads. If a Greek person is concerned over a problem, he takes out his worry beads and soothes himself. He simply holds the beads behind his back and counts them two by two.


Early Greek wore animal masks to workship their goddess of agriculture (Demeter, and their god of grapes Dionysius). This ritual use of masks later developed into a primary theatrical use of masks. One man could then play several roles in one Greek play simply by changing masks. Greek masks were constructed of painted canvas. Sometimes a small megaphone was installed in the mouthpiece of the mask so that the actor’s voice could be heard by large audiences. Special masks were make to be worn only by villains or only by the hero.


Baklava: Greeks rarely eat dessert after dinner. They prefer their sweets, pastries and rich desserts during the early evening (about 5:00 p.m.). Many Greek desserts are soaked overnight in syrup or honey. Baklava is the best-known example of this type of Greek dessert. It is Make from Filo which is a paperthin pastry dough make with salt, flour, water and skill. Filo is available in Greek markets.


Most meals ordered in Greece come with these potatoes, cut into round shapes like the Greek silver coin, the drachma.


The Greeks use a lot of lemon and olive oil in their cooking. Often a complete meal will be fresh vegetables, quickly cooked and served with lemon sauce. A typical sauce used to enhance vegetables is make from the water the vegetables were cooking in, enriched with olive oil thickend with egg yolks and spiced with lemon.


It is often difficult to determine if a particular dish (recipe) is of Greek, Turish, or Armenian origin because the borders of these countries have changed many times and the dishes are very similar. The Turks are thought to have brought Halvah to Greek in the 1300’s. Halvah is used extensively in Jewish households in the United States.

INGREDIENTS: Olive oil, Semolina or white cornmeal, sugar, milk and water.


1. In a heavy saucepan, heat the oil over moderate heat until a light haze forms above it.
2. Slowly pour in the semolina a tin stream, stirring constantly
3. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes, or until all the oil has been absorbed and the meal turns a light golden color, stirring occasionally.
4. Add the sugar, stirring constantly.
5. Gradually stir in the milk and water mixture.
6. Continue cooking about 10 minutes longer, stirring constantly until the mixture is thick enough to hold its shape almost solidly in the spoon.
7. Pour the halvah into a small (3”x 5”) ungreased baking dish, spread it and smooth the top with the back of a spoon.
8. Cool until firm and then cut into 1” squares.

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This unit is designed to be taught at a minium of two forty minute periods a week for a duration of ten to twelve weeks. This section of the unit will provide the reader with some possible strategies which could be used as motivating factors in teaching the goals of this unit.


Geography of Israel/finding location/identifying the physical structure.

Introduction to: 1) Israel 2) Holidays, 3) Cooking 4)and recreational activities.


Study the Geography of Greece, finding location, and identifying the physical structure.


An appreciation of artwork.


Terms to know











Functions of Greek artwork. An appreciation of Greek artwork.

1) Komboloi (worry beads)

2) Baklava

3) Drachma

4) Koulourakia

5) Halvah

6) Soupa Avgole mon (lemon soup)

7) Fassoulada soup

8) Pat at oke fehes (potatoe pancakes)

9) Tiropetes


Students will be exposed to various art terms. Students will also be introduced to Israel and Greece artwork. As students get the feel of tone, they will be shown actual artwork.

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1) Booth (Succah)

2) Chad Gadya (an only kid)

3) Dreidle (Chanukah)

4) kite

5) Yarden (Yaffe)

6) Purim (Puppet)

The teacher will be able to produce pieces of artwork and have students share their interpretations.

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During the teaching of this unit, students will have developed a Cultural Awareness Center within the classroom.

Students will also visit several restraurants in the area for a food sampling of the different cultures.

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The Cooking experience provides a perfect opportunity to discuss the similarities among cultures. Cooking becomes both an art and a science. Students become aware of certain

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1) Mixing should be done while students are seated at table.
2) Two students at a time may use these centers.
____a) food supply center
____b) cooking center
____c) hand washing center
____d) dishwashing center
3) Avoid moving quickly. Look around before moving.
4) Partners help each other.

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OBJECTIVE: food sampling of other cultures.

MATERIALS: potato, oil for frying, salt, frying pan.



Most meals ordered in Greece come with these potatoes, cut into round shapes like the Greek silver coin, the Drachma.


1) Have students peel the potates and slice into 2 inch rounds.

2) Dry with towel.

3) Heat oil in a large frying pan until hot.

4) Gently students will place potatoes in oil and fry 10 minutes or until ready.

5) Students will use slotted spoon to turn potatoes over and remove from oil.

6) Students then drain on paper towels.

7) Students will be working in groups of three.

8) After dish is done, students will taste the results.

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OBJECTIVE: To teach location by using longitude and latitude.

1) to use directions.

2) To be able to select a body of land and determine its location (Greece and Israel).
MATERIALS: World map, regional map, ruler, compass, textbook (Geography).

1) Determine the location of both Greece an a world map by using longitude and latitude.
2) Have students determine the latitudinal location of Greece and Israel by using the equator as a reference.
3) Have students determine hemispheres.

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OBJECTIVE: Study pieces of artwork to develop feelings or tone.

MATERIALS NEEDED: slides, pictures, magazines, pencil and paper.


Introduce Vocabulary:
1) pleasant

2) soft

3) pretty

4) smooth

5) tough

6) sadness

7) natural

8) temperamental

9) morbid

10) bored

11) nature

Divide students into groups of threes or fours. Give them a picture to observe. Students will be using the technique of clustering to write a brief description of that picture. Share their writing with the class.

Have students use one of the mood words of a previous lesson and make a sketch which would depict that mood. Students will write a brief description of their work and add it to the

Students will be allowed to visit an art museum or an art gallery to develop an awareness and better understand pieces of art.

Students will create a piece of artwork and write the meaning and/or significance of their creation.

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Burnett, Bernice. The First Book Of Holidays. New York: Franklin Watts, 1974.

The author describes the origins and ceremonies of ethnic Holidays and festivals of other nations.

Dee Pree, Mildred. A Child’s World of Stamps. New York: Parent Magazine Press, 1973.

A collection of 150 postage stamps that relate to children of the world, children may discover that the pleasures of childhood are similar in the world over.

Evans, Eva. People are Important. New York: Golden Press, 1951.

Teacher may choose selected passages to read to students. It describes similarities and differences of children in various cultures.

Horner, Deborah. Masks of the World. New York: Charles Scribners Sons, 1977.

Masks from nine cultures. These masks are modeled from actual masks in the collection of the national museum of natural history.

It could Be a Wonderful World. MC 329, Record.

Beautiful narrations of stories from many cultures.

Maz, Julian. Why People are Different Colors. New York: Holiday House, 1971.

The author explains what causes biological differences of varied races.

Simon, Norma. Why am I Different? SG 547.

Stresses how differences enhance our experience.

Moncure, Jane. One Little World. Elgin, Illinois: The Child’s World., 1975.

A picture book in verse that reveals that despite outward differences people everywhere are essentially the same. Easy text that a primary student can read by himself.

Simon, Norma. All Kinds of Families. Chicago: Albert Whitman and Company, 1976.

A picture book that acknowledges that families do not always exist in the traditional manner. The book stresses the supportive function of the family even though it may have a different structure.

Quakenbush. Robert and Bush, Harry. The Holiday Song Book. New York: Lothrop, Lee, and Shepard Company, 1977.

Lisnoski, Gabriel. How Tevye Became a Milkman. MC 429, Book.

Tale of a Jewish milkman who loves mankind.

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Evan, Eva. People are Important. New York: Golden Press, 1951.

Teacher may choose selected passages to read to students. It decribes similarities and differences of children in various cultures.

Horner, Deborah. Masks of the World. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1977.

Masks from nine cultures that are ready to be cut out and worn by children in dramatic play. These masks are modeled from actual masks in the collection of the national museum of naturalhistory, Smithsonian Institute.

Simon, Norm. Why am I Different? SG547.

Stresses how differences enhance our experience.

World Culture Series. Sound Filmstrip Sets. MC427.

This excellent series introduces people, their cultures, and musical traditions around the world.

Jones, Jayne. The Greeks in America. Minneapolis, Minnesota Lerner Publication Company, 1969.

Teacher reference. Brief summary of early Greece immigration to America, plus obstacles and achievement.

Ausubel, Nathan. Pictorical History of the Jewish People. New York: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1953.

Teacher Reference: Black and White photography and text describes the Jewish people in the past 2,000 years.

Maz, Julian. Why People are different Colors. New York: Holiday House, 1971.

The author explains what causes biological differences of varied races.

Laskin, Joyce. Arts and Craft Activities Desk Book. West Nyack, New York: Parker Publishing Company, Inc., 1971.

Teacher Resource. a selection of arts and crafts activities to be used with all grade levels.

Croft, Karen. The Good for Me Cookbook. San Franciso: R & E Research Associates, 1971.

A selection of recipes from different cultural groups.

Hunt, Kari and Carlson, Bernice. Masks and Mask Makers. New York: Abingdon, 1961.

A selection of masks from different cultural groups.

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