Materials List: pictures of local festivals, pictures of local foods, newspaper stories, poster paper
Begin the activity by holding a discussion with the whole class to define the concepts of culture and customs. Topics might include cultural differences related to respect for elders, emphasis on education, definitions of important knowledge, religious traditions, musical styles, and the like. Discuss with students how music and/or storytelling have changed with the advent of radio and television, or why quilting and basket making have come to be considered arts and crafts instead of necessities. Students can begin to recognize that these might apply to units as small as the immediate family and as large as the whole nation.
The idea that cultures and customs are connected to geography and economy can be introduced, perhaps by discussing the differences between subsistence lifestyles. Tell students that people in different places eat different foods, celebrate different festivals, listen to different kinds of music, and wear different clothing. This is part of their culture. Explain to students that they will be exploring the culture of their own community. Show students pictures of different foods and festivals that are part of their local culture. Let students share their experiences about these foods and festivals with the class.
Discuss with students how the local community has certain cultural elements (e.g., food, music, festivals, etc.) Next, divide the students into groups and ask them to talk about their families and the cultures and customs represented among them and among their friends outside of school. Have students collect materials and make a collage or poster that would represent some of the cultural elements present in the community. They might use newspaper stories and/or photographs of community events such as music or craft festivals, Mardi Gras beads, items that represent special days such as Valentine candies or Halloween decorations, and so on. Each group can present their cultural studies to the class.