Founded in 2002, the Kaur Foundation is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to create awareness of the Sikh identity, heritage, and secular values, while promoting and pursuing cultural literacy through education in classrooms. As its primary focus, the organization works to accomplish these goals by providing teachers and students specific tools and resources for use in their classrooms.
Through its innovative outreach programs, the Kaur Foundation is building institutional partnerships to help create safe and inclusive learning environments for Sikh American students. The Kaur Foundation has partnered with over multiple school districts and counties across the country to integrate its comprehensive Sikh cultural curriculum package into the social studies classrooms of 1.3 million students nationwide, and organized and sponsored the launch of the Sikh Collection Initiative at the Library of Congress — a permanent installation of over 80 books on Sikh history, literature and the arts, scriptures and classics in English and Punjabi.
Below, Jessica Arora, an elementary school teacher from Los Angeles, California, writes about bringing the Kaur Foundation’s “Celebrating Baisakhi in Schools” initiative to her classroom last April.
I want to share my story…
As a teacher, I feel it is vital to introduce cultural awareness at a young age to students. The use of pertinent educational tools to talk about traditions, commonalities, and differences is a great way to familiarize young minds to the diversity they see around them in their school and neighborhood. So what better place to spread this awareness than in their own school and classroom? Let me tell you how easy, fun, and valuable such a sharing can be – you just need to have the right tools!
On April 9, 2013, as part of Kaur Foundation’s ‘Celebrating Baisakhi in Schools’ initiative, a Sikh parent had the opportunity to talk about the Sikh identity and heritage with 6th graders at a Prince George’s County school in Maryland. Administrators and teachers were invited to join in the mini lesson as well. Using Kaur Foundation’s educational school kit which includes the ‘Cultural Safari’ DVD, students were able to visualize the Sikh way of life through a light-hearted, informative, and engaging 17 minute film.
One exercise for the students was to participate in a quick 5-question survey about ‘Do you know the Sikhs?’ The ‘before’ and ‘after’ surveys showed how impactful the “Cultural Safari’ DVD was in delivering an understanding to its audience of the Sikh identity and traditions.
As educators, parents, older siblings or community members, I feel we can all do our bit in promoting an understanding of our community in the K-12 cycle of student learning and development. I know I would welcome, and implement, these powerful cultural awareness tools in my own classroom to achieve the fundamental goal of bringing a better understanding of Sikh students to their peers. My wish for Baisakhi is to encourage each and every one to join this initiative and bring information about the Sikh community into classrooms across the country. I know we can help prevent instances of ignorance based bullying and harassment in schools that our children fall victim to.