"My World" Explores Children's Cultural Influences

Selected blog post

Julie Burns-Ross, PhD., My World Teacher

My World is a new program in the Lower School in PK3, PK4, and Junior-Kindergarten classrooms. My World explorations are investigations of cultural settings that influence the development of each individual child and each classroom community.  My World is a literature, play- and project-based curriculum that asks children to think about their unique culture and the cultures of others who make up the Detroit Country Day School community while recognizing diversity, inclusion, equity, and belonging. My World topics include each child’s unique: name, family, home, siblings, pets, friends, neighborhood, school, religion, travel, traditions, world languages, beliefs, and values. Classroom discussions on these topics are child-centered and family-focused. The teacher follows the interests and ideas of the children about their own cultural influences and those of their classmates.

Based on the Ecological Systems Theory of Urie Bronfenbrenner, the My World curriculum explores the cultural systems that influence each child’s growth and development. The theory states that children grow up in a cultural context and the things they observe and interact with play a significant role in their growth and development. Learn more about this theory.

A child’s development includes the home culture. Cultural awareness is the recognition of one’s own culture and the cultures of others. Research states that the ways in which we are culturally diverse include ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, religious affiliation, family structure, age, and disability. Everyone has a culture. As educators, it is important to understand the culture that each child brings to the classroom in order to create activities and experiences that are meaningful and connected to each child’s life. Learn more about strategies to support young child’s social and cultural development at school and at home. 

Also important to the My World programming is family engagement. Effective family engagement is collaborative, culturally competent, and focused on each child’s learning. One important strategy for family engagement is incorporating home cultures into classroom lessons. The My World program invites family members into the My World classroom community, welcoming family members and creating an opportunity for family participation. Read more about the importance of engaging families and forming reciprocal partnerships .

Throughout the year, children explored and investigated different topics of developmental influence within children’s literature, play, and projects. One project that included family engagement, child development, and cultural awareness was the My Name Story investigation that asked the question, “How did you choose my name?” Parents were invited to Zoom into their child’s classroom to tell the story of their child’s name. Children were able to see their parents during the school day, say hello, hear their name story, and share their homes that included pets, siblings, toys, playrooms, bedrooms, backyards, and playsets. Some families even shared their workspaces.  Classmates met parents, saw the homes of their peers, and learned more about their classmates through these virtual Zoom interactions.

The My World Name Stories were documented and copies of the documentation were sent home as a keepsake, while a second copy was kept in the classroom.

picture of boy and details about his name

Later in the year, parents were invited to share home languages and cultures. Families visited during the My World class and shared vocabulary, songs, stories, and cultural artifacts that are used in their homes. The children engaged in activities and experiences exploring new languages and classmates’ home cultures.


Parent feedback on the new program and the year-long family engagement project has been positive. One example of parent feedback was, “Thank YOU for this awesome unit and learning mechanism for the kids! It was such a pleasure and an AMAZING way to get to connect with (student) and his class! We’re so grateful for all you do!” Another example was, “Thank you for allowing us to share our story with you and the class.  We are so grateful that your curriculum allows for (student) to proudly share her background and experiences in your safe space.” 

Moving forward and looking into the next school year, the My World program will develop another year-long project on a new topic. Families will once again be asked to participate in the My World classes. The curriculum of the My World program will continue to focus on the developmental systems surrounding each child and will ask each child to share their home worlds through play, projects, and family participation.


Detroit Country Day School is a private, independent, co-educational, non-denominational, preschool through grade 12 college preparatory school in Michigan focused on a well-rounded liberal arts education. Emphasis on academics, arts, athletics, and character development is prevalent across the curriculum. The school admits students of any race, color, religion, sexual orientation, national and ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs and activities generally accorded or made available to students in the school. To learn more visit www.dcds.edu