Recently, in my class, we did our annual study of comparative religion. Since the state changed the curriculum a few years ago, we no longer have much time to devote to the five major religions (chosen by number of followers). Therefore, we are forced to spend just one day on each.
We find that even this small amount of time gives kids enough perspective to better understand the history we are trying to teach. We also find that by teaching religions up front, we get less complaining (but that's another blog post) when the subject comes up in our history lessons.
Anyhow, we were about half way through our week of religions when we came to our study of Hinduism. A significant part of our lesson is a short video featuring young people talking about their religious beliefs and traditions. We saw the festival of Divali in particular including all the lights and a table full of sweets. After the video was over, we discussed it as a group.
Someone mentioned the sweets and I said "Oh yes, Indian sweets are wonderful, and I'll have to visit the Indian bakery and bring some in sometime." Now sitting in the front row of this class is a little girl who had not yet spoken. In fact, she has not done much speaking since the school year began. However, when she heard me say this, she raised her hand and said in her sweet Indian accent "Mrs. X! Mrs. X! I am a Hindu! I have sweets!"
It turns out that she is very excited to share some of her culture with her classmates in the form of goodies. It also turns out that her mom is a very talented cook. We then discussed a time when she might be allowed to bring in such goodies. Not to be outdone, three of the Jewish students (there are several) also piped up to talk about religiously-themed sweets.
In very short order, we had organized a class "culture" day where anyone can bring a food that is somehow tied to their heritage or religion. Nothing too perishable of course (cookies? yes beef dumplings? not so much). I'm lucky that my school doesn't have a "no home-cooked food" rule. I'll keep you posted on how it goes.