Resources for Multicultural Awareness and Social Action


Ron W. Wilhelm


The roots of multicultural education lie deep in the hallowed soil of the African American struggles for civil rights in the United States during the 1950s and 1960s. Yet much of the curriculum and instruction that bears the label “multicultural education” today is devoid of any notion of civic efficacy grounded in a commitment to combat prejudice and discrimination in its many forms. Too often, teachers—particularly of elementary-age learners—avoid the topic by offering excuses such as that their children are too young to comprehend the complexities of prejudice, or that the teachers themselves are not prepared to lead a unit of instruction on the topic, or that they do not have access to appropriate resources. In this article, I address the resource issue by providing teachers with an annotated list of curriculum, journals, and organizations they may use to help young students make connections between institutionalized prejudice, intercultural competency, and their own, albeit limited, power to produce change.



A World of Difference. Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith. (823 United Nations Plaza, New York, NY 10017).

Appropriate for grades 1-6. This kit of prejudice reduction activities is available to teachers who have been trained in its use. The activity guide contains three units of lessons: (1) valuing ourselves, (2) valuing others, and (3) confronting prejudice.


A-Gay-Yah: A Gender Equity Curriculum for Grades 6-12. American Indian Resource Center, Tahlequah, Oklahoma, and Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U. S. Department of Education. (Washington, D.C.: Women’s Educational Equity Act Publishing Center, Education Development Center Inc., 55 Chapel Street, Newton, MA 02160, 1992).

By framing gender equity lessons within the context of Native American history and culture, this two-part curriculum offers teachers a unique opportunity to increase student awareness and knowledge in this key equity area as they explore issues in U.S. history and social studies. Part I includes activities that increase student understanding of general gender equity issues, such as sex role stereotyping and the effects of biased language. Part 2 uses focused readings and activities to prompt student thought and discussion on cultural roles and gender issues.


Anti-bias Curriculum: Tools for Empowering Young Children. Louise Derman-Sparks and the A.B.C. Task Force. (Washington, D.C.: National Association for the Education of Young Children, 1989).

Appropriate for grades pre-K-3. This book presents lessons to help young children explore differences in others and learn to recognize stereotypes and prejudicial acts. The book provides guidelines for teaching children about groups different from their own and how to lead youngsters away from biased behavior. In one important section, members of the Anti-bias Task Force present the process they used for a systematic analysis of their curriculum and instructional practice to ensure unbiased teaching. Also available is the video “The Anti-bias Curriculum,” in which members of the Anti-bias Task Force discuss their efforts to take multicultural education beyond a “tourist approach.” The video includes several portions of lessons that demonstrate basic tenets in antibias curriculum and instruction.


FoodFirst Curriculum. Laurie Rubin. (Oakland, Calif.: Institute for Food and Development Policy, 1984).

Appropriate for grades 3-8. This curriculum contains six units of learning activities that focus on topics related to how food is transported and processed from the farm to the table, how people in other parts of the world produce food, and what young learners can do to work for more equitable food distribution worldwide. Basic curriculum ($15.00). Also available is the information brochure Hunger Myths and Facts (5/$3.00) that explores common misconceptions about world hunger. For a $30 yearly membership fee in the Institute for Food and Development Policy, teachers receive two monthly newsletters, Background and News and Views. Both publications provide excellent analysis and current information regarding problems in food production and distribution policies worldwide.


Open Minds to Equality: A Sourcebook of Learning Activities to Affirm Diversity and Promote Equity, 2nd edition. Nancy Schniedewind and Ellen Davidson. (Needham Heights, Mass.: Allyn and Bacon, 1998. ISBN 0-205-16109-X [pb]).

Appropriate for upper elementary and middle school to young adult. The lessons in this book are organized sequentially to (1) create an inclusive, trusting community where students appreciate diversity in the classroom, (2) enable students to empathize with others’ life experiences and explore why and how inequality based on difference exists, (3) help students examine discrimination in the institutions in their lives and see how it has affected them, and (4) empower students to envision and create changes to foster greater equality.


Starting Small: Teaching Tolerance in Preschool and the Early Grades. Teaching Tolerance Project. (Montgomery, Ala.: Southern Poverty Law Center, 1997).

Appropriate for grades pre-K-3. This free kit contains a video and copies of the book Starting Small. The book provides real classroom examples of lessons on such themes as nurturing justice, respecting all families, fostering gender equity, and facing prejudice. Also included are suggested activities in each chapter and an ample list of resources. The video presents five programs in five different schools from various parts of the United States. Teachers at each school discuss their philosophy and multicultural educational goals, and demonstrate lessons that involve their students in learning activities that emphasize such themes as empathy for others, fair and unfair behavior, social action problem solving, and conflict resolution.


“Teacher they called me a _______!” Prejudice and Discrimination in the Classroom. Deborah Byrnes. (Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, 823 United Nations Plaza, New York, NY 10017, 1987).

Appropriate for grades K-6. This book contains activities intended to help elementary-age children understand concepts such as prejudice, discrimination, and stereotyping and to act in ways that are nondiscriminatory. The activities are divided into seven themes: learning about prejudice, disabilities, race and ethnicity, appearance, religion, family and lifestyle, and gender.


What Have You Got to Lose? New World Tropical Rainforests. Carol E. Murphey. (Stanford: Institute for International Studies, Stanford University. Contact: SPICE, Littlefield Center, Room 14, 300 Lasuen Street, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305-5013; [415] 723-1114).

Appropriate for grades 3-8. This kit contains a unit of study, slides, and a poster illustrating the components of a rain forest. The lessons emphasize small-group work and simulation activities that help students explore the connections and complexities between their life-style as consumers, the needs of various groups in Brazil (and elsewhere) who exploit rain forests, and the devastation of the world’s rain forests.



Cultural Survival Quarterly, 53A Church Street, Cambridge, MA 02138 (Subscription: $45.00/yr.).

This journal focuses on indigenous peoples around the world and issues related to their struggle to maintain their cultural integrity.

Feminist Teacher, 442 Ballantine Hall, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405 (Subscription: $12.00/yr.).

The articles in this journal treat various topics related to gender issues.


Multicultural Education, Caddo Gap Press, 3145 Geary Boulevard, Suite 275, San Francisco, CA 94118 (Subscription: $40.00/yr.).

Formerly the journal of the National Association for Multicultural Education, ME publishes scholarly articles of multicultural theory as well as lesson plans and annotated bibliographies of resources.


Multicultural Perspectives, NAME, 1511 K Street, N.W., Suite 430, Washington, D.C. 20005 (Membership: $75.00/yr. and includes the journal).

The new journal of the National Association for Multicultural Education (NAME).


Multicultural Review, P. O. Box 5007, Westport, CT 06881-5007 (Subscription: $59.00/yr.).

This quarterly is “dedicated to a better understanding of ethnic, racial, and religious diversity” and publishes scholarly reviews of multicultural materials and information on the subject of multiculturalism in general.


NACLA: Report on the Americas, P. O. Box 77, Hopewell, PA 16650-0077 (Subscription: $27.00/yr.).

The North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA) is internationally recognized as a principal source of information and analysis on social, economic, and political issues facing the countries of Latin America.


Rethinking Schools, 1001 East Keefe Avenue, Milwaukee, WI 53212 (Subscription: $12.50/yr.).

A group of teacher and parent activists publish this newspaper-formatted journal. The articles critically analyze contemporary issues in education today with an emphasis on local community control of the schools. The group has produced several curriculum units of study as well.


Teaching Tolerance, 400 Washington Avenue, Montgomery, AL 36104 (Subscription: Free with request on school letterhead).

This journal is published twice yearly by the Southern Poverty Law Center and contains annotated bibliographies of resources on diversity issues, articles about programs throughout the country dedicated to reducing prejudice, poetry, and children’s art work.


Teacher Resources

Banks, James A. An Introduction to Multicultural Education. 2nd ed. Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 1999.

_____. Multiethnic Education: Theory and Practice. 3rd ed. Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 1994.

_____. Teaching Strategies for Ethnic Studies. 6th ed. Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 1997.

Banks, James A., and Cherry A. McGee-Banks, eds. Multicultural Education: Issues and Perspectives. 3rd ed. Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 1997.

Bigelow, Bill, Linda Christensen, Stan Karp, Barbara Miner, and Bob Peterson, eds. Rethinking Our Classrooms: Teaching for Equity and Justice. Milwaukee: Rethinking Our Schools Limited, 1994.

Grant, Carl A., and Christine E. Sleeter. Turning on Learning: Five Approaches for Multicultural Teaching Plans for Race, Class, Gender, and Disability. 2nd ed. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1998.

National Women’s History Project, 738 Bell Road, Windsor, CA 95492-8518. Catalog contains numerous teaching materials including poster sets, books, and videos of women from various ethnic groups and professions.

Nieto, Sonia. Affirming Diversity: The Sociopolitical Context of Multicultural Education. 2nd ed. White Plains, N.Y.: Longman Publishing USA, 1996.

Perry, Theresa, and James W. Fraser. Freedom’s Plow: Teaching in the Multicultural Classroom. New York: Routledge, 1993.

Sleeter, Christine E., and Carl A. Grant. Making Choices for Multicultural Education: Five Approaches to Race, Class, and Gender. 3rd ed. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1999.

Third World Resources, 64 19th Street, Oakland, CA 94612-9761. Publishes an annotated bibliography of resources. Each issue treats a different region in the world.


About the Author

Ron W. Wilhelm is an associate professor in the Department of Teacher Education and Administration at the University of North Texas, Denton.