A great way to bring some different cultures into the class is to substitute a few songs you normally would sing with your students with a few different childrens songs from other countries. Or translate a song you already sing to a different language as something special for the kids (http://babelfish.yahoo.com/ has a wonderful translator). This way your students get a taste of a different language without changing a lot of their set daily schedule.
http://www.mamalisa.com/?t=eh Is a great site to get started on finding some new songs!
If you are not the only specials teacher in your school (Most of the time specials teachers include P.E, Library, and Art teachers) Try teaming up with them and put on a performance. You could all work together to bring the school together for one large performance with each grade using a culture and the Art teacher could have them do crafts relating to that culture, the P.E. teacher could do dances or children’s games, the librarian could relate it to books or movies, and you of course could handle the music. Do at least a few weeks of this unit with each grade or class as they come around to you in their weekly rotation. You could practice for it choosing songs for each grade that they could sing to or have the older kids do instrument performances (African drum circle for instance). At the end put a concert on for the parents and the school to show off what you and the other special teachers have been working on with the students. Decorate the performance space with all the art projects, have a few classes do some dancing on stage, have some sing songs, and maybe they librarian could have some small groups come up from each grade and do a small presentation talking about each culture.
Make this performance something to remember because it would be great advocacy to let the school and the parents know that specials are not just for show, they have a well deserved place in the curriculum.
This performance could take the place of a spring general music concert if desired!
There have been some recent US cases involving anthrax and African drumming. I myself had a scare due to a recent gift of an Indonesian djembe I received for Christmas that has a goat skin head (the same type of head that has carried the anthrax spore in two other drums.) I’m safe so not to worry! But the spread of infectious through cultural instruments is always a concern when bringing them into a classroom. Keep an eye out for recent cases of disease, always look for treated materials especially TANNED hides. Tanned hides are treated and have a much lesser risk of caring spores and diseases! Also make sure you are buying from an accomplished distributor one who has sold more than one or two drums and knows what they are doing so they can sell you a proper drum. Also please buy from areas not known for carrying diseases in previous products (such as Haiti, that as an area notorious for carrying infected instruments). My recommendation is to NOT buy ethnic instruments for your entire class buy a few and have them tested before they enter your classroom. Then go synthetic, Remo is an amazing distributor known for quality and have discounted buys if you purchase more than one instrument! Synthetic instruments stay around longer, keep a better sound, most can be key tuned, AND they can take a beating and keep on playing!