What is culture?
"Culture" is a term that describes the entire way of life shared by a group of people. Cultural richness includes diversity in anything that has to do with how people live: music, art, recreation, religion or beliefs, languages, dress, traditions, stories and folklore, ways of organization, ways of interacting with the environment, and attitudes toward other groups of people. 
It’s important to understand cultural richness at different scales, from individual identities to groups and societies—local, regional, national, and global. Cultural landscapes are continually changing due to migration, globalization, and modernization. All of these factors impact forces of cooperation and conflict among communities.
Instructional Ideas
Consult Visual and Performing Arts: Visual Arts Content Standards 7.3.2: Compare and contrast works of art from various periods, styles, and cultures and explain how those works reflect the society in which they were made.
  • The questions in the Questions tab provide a framework for discussing how culture reflects social values.
  1. Scroll through the National Geographic photo gallery above. What are some ways culture might reflect a community’s social values or priorities?

    • Answer

      Answers will vary! Students may consider these issues:

      • Participation: Who is producing or engaging in this cultural activity? Alternatively, who is not producing or engaging in this cultural activity? Students may also want to think of participation in terms of age, gender, group or individual, unique skills or attributes required, etc.
      • Audience: Is this cultural activity being performed for an audience? If so, who is that audience? Alternatively, who is not a part of that audience?
      • Motivation: Is this cultural activity primarily practical, physical, spiritual, or artistic?
      • Time: Is this cultural activity an everyday event, or do participants engage only rarely—maybe even once in their lives?
      • Place: Where does this cultural activity take place? Is the place only associated with that activity, or does it serve other purposes?
      • Expense: Does this cultural activity cost money? Is it cost-prohibitive to some members of society?
      • Interpretation: Can participants or audience members change or interpret parts of this cultural activity? If so, how?

  2. Scroll through the National Geographic photo gallery above. What are some common elements in the cultural activities depicted? In what cultural activities do you see the most diversity?

    • Answer

      Answers will vary! Students may consider:

      • style of dress, costume, or makeup
      • emotion
      • demographics of the participants
      • events being commemorated, celebrated, or honored
      • participation of groups versus individuals

  3. What are some examples of cultural richness in your own life? 

    • Answer

      Answers will vary! Students may consider:

      • Scholastic habits. Do students do their homework immediately after school or hours later? Do they have a specific place they study? How do students take notes? Do they take different styles of notes for different classes?
      • Language. Do students use different words or phrases with different groups—friends, parents, teachers, etc?
      • Clothes. Do students dress differently for different occasions or audiences? How?
      • Music. Do students listen to different types of music on different occasions? Do they perform music? Do they study with a teacher, sing in the shower, or engage in public performances like karaoke?
      • Religion and spirituality
      • Physical activity. Do students like group or individual sports? Dance?
      • Social activity. How do students spend their free time—with friends, practicing a skill, earning money, engaging with a community concern such as the environment?
      • Place. Do students associate certain places with certain rituals or habits?

      How do these answers help inform a culture or cultures?


science of the origin, development, and culture of human beings.


activities to celebrate or commemorate an event.

cultural diversity

variety of different cultures in a specific area.


learned behavior of people, including their languages, belief systems, social structures, institutions, and material goods.


series of customs or procedures for a ceremony, often religious.