Promising Practices: Playing Korean Ethnic Games to Promote Multicultural Awareness

By Lee, Guang-Lea; Childress, Marcus | Multicultural Education, Spring 1999 | Go to article overview

Promising Practices: Playing Korean Ethnic Games to Promote Multicultural Awareness


Lee, Guang-Lea, Childress, Marcus, Multicultural Education


Nearly ten million Asians will move to the United States between the years 1990 and 2010. It is projected that the Asian population will be 12,121,000 in the year 2000 and 17,188,000 in the year 2010 (Source: Statistical Abstract of United States 1996, U.S. Departmentof Commerce, Bureau of Census, Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office). As statistics show, Asian and Pacific Americans are the fastest growing minority group in this country (Yao, 1988; Sileo, 1996).

Asian students are easily found in schools, not only in metropolitan areas, but also in rural areas. Due to the recent economic crisis in Asia, it is prospected that more and more Asians will move to America. The increasing waves of immigrants from East Asia and Southeast Asia will affect the school enrollment of Asian and Pacific Islander students.

However, many teachers and children in America are not familiar with the Asian culture. Although Asians are a most diverse and interesting ethnic group, many American teachers and children tend to generalize an understanding of one group to another when they see Asians. For instance, they almost automatically assume that all Asians are either Chinese or Japanese, because schools don't pay much attention to teaching the tremendously diverse Asian cultures (Back, 1997). This article will help early childhood teachers to recognize the diverse ethnic groups within the Asian community and introduce how to use Korean traditional games to promote children's multicultural awareness.

Early childhood teachers typically choose either China or Japan as an Asian theme to be covered, although there are four major ethnicity groups within the Asian community: (1) Pacific Islanders, from places such as Hawaii, Samoa, and Guam; (2) Southeast Asians, from places such as Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines; (3) East Asians, from places such as China, Japan, and Korea; and (4) South Asians, from places such as such as India and Pakistan (Pang, 1990; Schwartz, 1996). These four large groups differ, but subgroups within each group often also differ in terms of culture, language, religion, custom, history, and race (Feng,1994).

Currently, the multicultural lessons on Asia in early childhood classrooms are implemented with teacher selected activities, rather than child initiated activities. Learning activities and materials used in the multicultural curriculum are neither play-oriented nor child-selected. The multicultural curriculum includes reading, arts, writing, and social studies activities focusing on historical heroes, costumes, holidays, national flags, and climate (Bank, 1988). Teachers purchase commercially produced posters, children's literature with ethnic themes and issues, ornaments, musical instruments, and videos from Asia to be used in an Asian unit.

Multicultural awareness for young children needs to be naturally accomplished through play activities. The multicultural learning experience should be more fun, interesting, and developmentally appropriate for young children. As children play and grow in a multicultural environment with ethnic toys, they will be naturally exposed to the other cultures. They will also naturally develop a curiosity toward different cultures while playing with multi-cultural toys. Young children need to be exposed to more manipulative and play-oriented materials to develop multicultural awareness (Rogers, 1994; Rettig, 1996; Rosen, 1997; Mercer & Patton, 1996).

Children would be motivated to learn more about Korea, for instance, after playing with ethnic toys from Korea (See table 1). From this approach, it is easy to maintain their interest in learning about various countries and diverse cultures among Asian countries. An example of how teachers can include Korean ethnic toys and games into a Korean unit follows.

Examples of some of the most popular Koran games played by Korean children are Gong-Khee Norhee, Ba Ram Gae Bee Norhee, Jae-Ghee Norhee, and Paeng-i Norhee. …

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