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Culture

Students attend a village school in Laos.

Photo Š 2010 Mina Funakoshi


Culture Tree Goal: Participants define various aspects of culture and compare two communities. Standards: Social Sciences – Places and Regions  Understand the physical and human characteristics of places.  Understand that people create regions to interpret Earth's complexity.  Understand how culture and experience influence people's perceptions of places and regions. Activity Length: One hour Materials: Blackboard/chalk or whiteboard/markers Activity:  Conduct a group discussion on culture. What does “culture” mean and how does it impact our daily lives?  Create a group list of different features of culture. (For inspiration, see the list from Building Bridges: A Peace Corps Workbook for Classrooms in the Appendix.)  Participants should look at both the visible and invisible aspects of culture. Visible aspects may include types of clothing, food, and language. Invisible aspects may include religion, traditions, values, history, societal structures, etc. Participants should think of the image of a tree: you can see only the leaves and trunk, but what about the parts that are underground? What are they? How do they relate to the leaves and branches? What do they say about the culture?  The facilitator should draw an outline of a tree on the board. Then, as a group, write the visible and invisible aspects of culture in the appropriate places. Aspects of culture that are immediately apparent go on the leaves; aspects that become more apparent over time go on the trunk; and the foundations of culture go in the roots. Then copy the tree onto a piece of paper and scan it over to your linking partners.  Once the participants have exchanged ideas with one another, they can begin to identify the cultural threads that are shared by everyone.  Both groups in the partnership can work together to create a tree of the joint culture between the two countries. Share copies with one another. Questions for Participants to Consider:  What were the easiest aspects of culture to identify? What were the most difficult? Did it correlate with placement on the Culture Tree?  What aspects of culture do you share with the linking partners? Did you expect these similarities?  What aspects of the linking culture do you want to learn more about?

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Interlocking Circles of Culture Goal: Participants discover and visually demonstrate the similarities and differences between the cultures of the two linking groups. Standards: Social Sciences – Places and Regions  Understand the physical and human characteristics of places.  Understand that people create regions to interpret Earth's complexity.  Understand how culture and experience influence people's perceptions of places and regions. Activity Length: One hour Materials: Poster board, magazines, newspapers, the Internet, printer, scissors, glue, and markers. Activity:  Participants separate into teams of four to five people. Each team is given a poster board, magazines, newspapers, glue, markers, and a pair of scissors. If additional pictures are required, students may print pictures from the Internet.  Participants draw a very large Venn diagram with two large interlocking circles (like the Olympic rings). One circle should be labeled with the name of your community, and the other circle should state the name of the linking partners’ community.  Participants should find images that demonstrate various cultural components of both communities. These can include clothing, food, sports, religion, government, education, entertainment, technology, transportation, architecture, language, etc.  Participants fill one circle with pictures that represent their own culture/community and fill the other with pictures that represent the culture of your linking partners. The middle intersecting section should show things the two countries have in common. They can also write in words if photos can’t be found.  Once finished, bring the group together for a discussion. Participants can share the similarities and differences they found. Display the posters in your school hallway or community center!  Take photos of the posters and upload them to the School 2 School Linking website. What are the linking partners’ impressions of the posters from your group? What does your group think of the posters from the linking partners?

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Questions for Participants to Consider:  What similarities did both communities have in common? Did these meet initial expectations? What similarities were surprising for the participants?  Did participants notice trends among the differences or similarities? Did they fit into any certain themes (e.g. clothing, food, entertainment)?  What were the reactions of the linking partners? Did they agree with your categorizations? What new perspectives did they provide?

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Discovering Culture as Extraterrestrials (Adapted from Building Bridges: A Peace Corps Workbook for Classrooms)

Goal: Participants challenge themselves to view their own cultures and communities from an outsider’s perspective. Standards: English – Understanding the Human Experience  Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions (e.g., philosophical, ethical, aesthetic) of human experience. English – Multicultural Understanding  Students develop an understanding of and respect for diversity in language use, patterns, and dialects across cultures, ethnic groups, geographic regions, and social roles. English – Applying Language Skills  Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information). Activity Length: 30 minutes Materials: Paper and pencils Activity:  Participants should imagine they are extraterrestrials – peaceful, intelligent creatures from another planet that have been given the mission of spending a week researching life in their community and school. The extraterrestrials are expected to return to the earthlings’ home planet to report their findings and observations.  The participants’ mission is to find answers to the following questions: o What is unique, different, or interesting about your school or community? o What explains why humans in your community and in your school act the way they do? o What is important to all human beings? o Why are there some aspects of life that are different for different people? o Why don’t all people think and act the same way? o What shapes how human beings see the world, themselves, and others?  Participants should write down what they have observed.

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Once the group has answered the questions above, conduct a group discussion of the findings. Participants should then develop questions that they can take home and discuss with their family. Sample family questions include: o How and why do we dress the way we do? o How and why do we celebrate certain holidays? o Why do we eat the food we eat? Why have we been taught to eat them? o What have we been taught is “polite”? Do those gestures mean the same thing in other parts of the world? o What are the traditions in our family? o What values and beliefs are important to our family? o What influences and shapes the way our parents think and act?

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Culture Capsule Goal: Participants identify items that represent their community and culture. Standards: English – Multicultural Understanding  Students develop an understanding of and respect for diversity in language use, patterns, and dialects across cultures, ethnic groups, geographic regions, and social roles. Social Sciences – Places and Regions  Understand the physical and human characteristics of places.  Understand that people create regions to interpret Earth's complexity.  Understand how culture and experience influence people's perceptions of places and regions. Activity Length: 30 minutes in class Materials: Camera Activity:  Instead of a time capsule, create a group Culture Capsule. Each item should represent an aspect of your culture. Every participant should bring in three items to contribute (for example, an iPod, flag, iconic book, or blue jeans). They can use photos or illustrations if the objects are too big or not available.  Participants should write a few sentences explaining what their objects mean in their society and culture. The facilitator collects the descriptions and compiles them into one document.  Take photos of all of the objects in the class. Upload the photos to the S2S site and also send the descriptions to the linking partners. Questions for Participants to Consider:  Why did you pick the items that you did? Do they mean something special to you?  How do you think a Culture Capsule would be different if created in a school in another part of your country?  What do you think would be included in a Culture Capsule from your linking school?

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Act One Goal: Participants reflect on cultural norms and dramatize them. Standards: Foreign Language – Gain Knowledge and Understanding of Other Cultures  Students demonstrate an understanding of the relationship between the practices and perspectives of the culture studied.  Students demonstrate an understanding of the relationship between the products and perspectives of the culture studied. Foreign Language – Develop Insight into the Nature of Language and Culture  Students demonstrate understanding of the nature of language through comparisons of the language studied and their own.  Students demonstrate understanding of the concept of culture through comparisons of the cultures studied and their own. Technology – Technology Communication Tools  Students use telecommunications to collaborate, publish, and interact with peers, experts, and other audiences.  Students use a variety of media and formats to communicate information and ideas effectively to multiple audiences. Activity Length: Varies Materials: Costumes, props, and a video camera Activity:  Participants separate into small teams. Each team should decide on a unique aspect of their culture to act out. Think about greetings, interactions in a classroom, conversations at the dinner table, at a store, etc.  Participants create a 5- to 8- minute video demonstrating these aspects of culture. Make sure to use costumes and props to make it as realistic as possible.  Upload the videos to the S2S website to share with the linking partners. Questions for Participants to Consider:  What was your video about? What do you think the scenario says about your culture?  Are there any preconceived notions you think the linking school may have? If so, what are they?

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Parallel Mapping Project Goal: Participants reflect on personal and community values and identify resources and risks in the community. They connect to the linking partners by evaluating and sharing insight into their community. Standards: English – Multicultural Understanding  Students develop an understanding of and respect for diversity in language use, patterns, and dialects across cultures, ethnic groups, geographic regions, and social roles. Social Sciences – Places and Regions  Understand the physical and human characteristics of places.  Understand that people create regions to interpret Earth's complexity.  Understand how culture and experience influence people's perceptions of places and regions. Visual Arts – Understanding the Visual Arts in Relation to History and Cultures  Students know and compare the characteristics of artwork in various eras and cultures.  Students describe and place a variety of art objects in historical and cultural contexts.  Students analyze, describe, and demonstrate how factors of time and place (such as climate, resources, ideas, and technology) influence visual characteristics that give meaning and value to a work of art. Visual Arts – Reflecting Upon and Assessing the Characteristics and Merits of their Work and the Work of Others  Students compare multiple purposes for creating works of art.  Students analyze contemporary and historic meanings in specific artwork through cultural and aesthetic inquiry.  Students describe and compare a variety of individual responses to their own artwork and to artwork from various eras and cultures.

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Phase One: Self-Portraits Activity Length: 45 minutes Materials: Assorted craft supplies, markers, glue, scissors, and paper. Activity:  Participants can use any creative medium to create their self-portrait. They should not include their name.  Participants write a short description of their physical appearance to go with their self-portrait.  Once they finish, they can scan or take photos of the portraits and send them to the linking partners along with the descriptions.  When the linking partners receive the portrait and description, they will try to match them together.  Another variation: Include an actual photograph of the students, and the linking partners will match the photo to a drawing. Questions for Participants to Consider:  Do the linking partners look like you imagined? Why or why not?  Are they wearing any uniforms, jewelry, or other clothing/accessories that tell you something about them?  How does seeing a photo or depiction of your linking partners affect the partnership? Do you feel more connected after exchanging self-portraits?

Phase Two: Individual/Community Value Comparisons Activity Length: 45 minutes Materials: Blackboard/chalk or whiteboard/markers and pen and paper Activity:  The group has a discussion on being a certain age in your community/culture. What is expected of children that age? List values and responsibilities on the board.  Additional questions for participants: o Do I identify with these values? o What do and don’t I agree with in terms of society’s expectations of me? o What would I like to change about myself or my society’s expectations?

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If a participant is part of an indigenous or minority group, he or she can further answer the following questions: Where is my particular community within this list and where is the larger society? How do I as an individual fit into both lists? Participants analyze the lists from the linking partners. Before this stage, there might be need for group research on the overseas community/culture. Discuss the community and individual value lists as a group. How are the value lists of the two communities similar or different?

Questions for Participants to Consider:  What values do you think are most important within a society?  What do you think your greatest contributions are to society? Do these match your responsibilities?  How do you think your values and responsibilities will change over time?

Phase Three: Community Resource and Risk Mapping Activity Length: Three hours or more Materials: Pen and paper/poster board Activity:  The group develops a community resource map and a community risk map. Other options include creating a map of what the community was like 25 years ago and at present; or the community now and as the groups want to see it in the future.  Participants can conduct research in various ways: a community walk, the Internet, or the library. Students can also talk to elders or adults in the community about resources and where they come from.  Participants should determine where their community starts and ends. The facilitator may want to keep the boundaries small enough so that they could feel some control over it when they get to the risk mapping action phase.  Participants should compile a list of community resources and risks. Community resources can include water, the environment, the economy, food, spirituality, people, etc. Risks can include crime, violence, and other threats to personal health or security.  Participants answer the following questions: o Where do youth feel safe? o Where do they like to go? o Are there any environmental risks? Drug or alcohol risks? Risks for girls and women? o What are examples of resources that youth are afraid the community might lose?  Conduct a group discussion about local resources and risks

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o How do we preserve resources and use them to benefit youth? o Prioritization of risks: What are the most pressing community risks? Which ones could the group feasibly do something about? What support would the group need from adults and other youth? In smaller teams, participants create visual risk and resource maps on large paper or poster board. They can create a key to signify the risks and resources listed, placing them in the appropriate place within the pre-designated community boundaries. Participants exchange their maps with the linking partners. As a group, discuss how each group understands the other group’s map. What additional questions does each group have? Participants in both countries should exchange advice on how to resolve priority problems in the two communities.

Questions for Participants to Consider:  What does your group think the biggest risk for the linking partners might be? Why is this the case?  What do the maps have in common? What is vastly different or hard to conceptualize?  What advice can the groups share on how to resolve their priority problems?

Phase Four: Community Action Activity Length: 30 minutes Materials: Paper and pen or computer Activity:  Participants develop a Local Action Plan on combating a community risk.  If the groups in both countries have common issues, collaborate and come up with solutions together.  Each group further develops the Local Action Plan related to the issue they want to try to resolve. This may involve research, outside support from institutions or individuals, input from local community members, etc.  At the end of the exercise, participants will be encouraged to draft a Local Action Plan to address resource conservation or risks in their communities. The groups could then share their plan with their linking partners, and support one another to take action.  Once finished, the results can be housed in the shared S2S website.

Students attend a village school in Laos.

Photo © 2010 Mina Funakoshi

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S2S Culture