Enriching Students with Global Culture

With the support of South Whidbey Schools Foundation and Langley Middle School PTSA, NWLA has created a new program for the schools called Global Cultures Enrichment.  This program helps students develop a foundation for world languages and celebrates the many cultures of our world in an environment where students are not offered language education, and have little exposure to cultural diversity. Global Cultures Enrichment for Spring 2015 is serving 6th grade students at Langley Middle School who wish to improve their cultural competencies, to help prepare them for success in this rapidly changing world rather than educating them for the world in which their parents and teachers grew up. In the not-too-distant future, our middle-level students will need to communicate – either face-to-face or through technology – with people whose backgrounds and cultures are different from their own. They will be working in collaborative teams that represent increased diversity and various points of view. In order to prepare them for this globalized world, while capitalizing on the middle-grade penchant for adventure and exploration, we’re engaging the students in a fun, hands-on experience of language through role play, games, film, art, storytelling, music, and unique traditions and activities from the various parts of the world.  Currently we are presenting cultures from these regions: Japan, Brazil, Africa, the Americas (Native American cultures), and Scandinavia.

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During the first week, students learned Japanese greetings, including how to bow and say thank-you, as well as about the “Daruma” principle and the beloved Japanese proverb nana korobi yaoki (“fall down seven times, get up eight”) as embodied by the Daruma doll. Students were given a Daruma image and invited to choose a goal to set for themselves.  We then made Rice balls with pickled plums, cucumber, and seaweed, and learned about the importance of rice and seafood to the Japanese diet.  Students also learned traditional springtime songs and dances from the Okinawa prefecture, kimono dressing, and Japanese spring festivals.  Another important lesson was how to count to eight in Japanese!

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In a week focused on a number of cultures in Africa, the students got to hear one young man’s experience of growing up in rural Zimbabwe, leaving for England on a sports scholarship, and eventually traveling to California and then Whidbey Island to pursue his dream of telling stories on film.  They learned to greet and count in the Swahili and Shona languages, and about various traditional African foods.  A guest shared the importance of song and dance to Africans from all walks of life, and introduced the students to the djembe and other percussion instruments.  With lessons about the complex current events in North and South Africa, among others, the class learned about the continent’s diversity and unique challenges.

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Next week, we’re off to Brazil!