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Learning about the “People in Your Neighborhood”

Sesame Street has been known to ask a very important question:  Who are the people in your neighborhood? Throughout its many seasons the show has offered answers that include doctors, teachers, police officers and even an archaeologist.  We believe that this song is a very worthwhile educational tool for introducing children to their neighbors and teaching about inclusivity.  Wouldn’t it be fun if we also included religious diversity when exploring the people in your neighborhood?

On Thursday, April 18, Tanenbaum and our partners, Peace Islands Institute and the New York City Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, hosted Religious Diversity in the Classroom to mark the official launch of Tanenbaum’s newest curriculum, Religions in My Neighborhood.  This unique resource for grades K-4 explores religious diversity and promotes respectful curiosity for diverse cultures and identities.  Commissioner Fatima Shama from the NYC Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs delivered a powerful keynote address stressing the importance of introducing these concepts to our young people.

In her speech, Commissioner Shama explained how rapidly – and how dramatically – the demographics of New York City’s neighborhoods have changed over the past few decades.  Our city is more diverse than ever – especially when you include religious diversity.

In one area of Queens, for example, there are more than 200 houses of worship within 2.5 miles of each other.  This is the world in which our children live, the world in which they will become adults and the world which they will someday lead.  How do we ensure that our children will understand, recognize and respect the religious and cultural diversity of their neighbors, friends, colleagues and fellow citizens?

Let’s start today.  Rather than waiting until children are “old enough” – an excuse frequently heard among educators tackling these topics – we can and must begin teaching them about diversity and respect while they are still young, before their natural curiosity gets stifled by prejudice and bias and stereotypes.

We know that this is easier said than done.  But that’s why we created Religions in My Neighborhood.  Preparing our students to be global citizens begins now, right here where we live and work and play (and, for some, where we pray, too).

With this in mind, I’d like to add on to Sesame Street’s now-classic question a bit and pose it to you:  How much do you know about, appreciate and respect the culturally and religiously diverse people in your neighborhood?  Here’s a verse that we came up with:

Oh, who are the people in your neighborhood?

In your neighborhood?

In your neighborhood?

Say, who are the people in your neighborhood?

The diverse people that you meet each day…

 

Oh maybe there’s a Sikh or a Jew

Who lives in New York City just like you

Whose family came here from another land

And we work together hand in hand

 

‘Cause diverse people live in your neighborhood

In your neighborhood

In your neighborhood

Yes there’s Christians, Buddhists, too, in your neighborhood

Diverse people that we meet each day!

 

We invite you to create your own “Who are the Diverse People in your Neighborhood?” verses in the comments section below!

Jael Goldstein, Project Assistant

 

Related resources:

Diversity in Schools Fact Sheet

Religions in My Neighborhood Home

Professional Development: Religions in My Neighborhood