Cultural Studies Archives - Eva Varga

March 12, 2012
Each year, the local Sheriff’s Association sponsors a Cultural Faire at the mall.  The Sons of Norway takes part each year … and we were delighted to participate. There were numerous cultural groups represented with booths around the mall … each staffed by volunteers to share with the public a little about what they do.  A stage in the center of the mall was the highlight for volunteers and visitors alike.  There were dancers, singers, and performers all day. 
There were many groups of children dressed in their national dress.  Several groups showcased folk dancing.  I was very impressed with the diversity of the area and was also inspired to incorporate folk dance as a part of our Barnesklubb.  I would really like to have a group of youth dancers on stage next year. 

The kiddos dressed up in their Norwegian festdrakt bunads and helped to staff the lodge booth.  They taught a few people how to weave Scandinavian heart baskets.  However, we were surprised at how little the people interacted with the booths.  The big draw of course was the entertainment on the stage.  I’ll have to think of a way to help encourage the public to engage more with the booths … perhaps a scavenger hunt or passport to enter a drawing.

 One of the most popular entertainers were the Scottish Bagpipes.  They played on stage for about 15 minutes and then led many of the groups around the mall in a parade.  Just behind the bagpipes were American veterans carrying the United States flag and thereafter a volunteer from each group carried a flag for their ancestral country.  We walked around the mall twice and then ended in the center whereby the veterans led us in the National Anthem.  I thought the parade was very well done.

There were two distinctly different Native American groups at the event.  The above photo (taken during the parade – so sadly I don’t have a better picture) is of a local Wintu tribe.  I was fascinated with the woman’s skirt, the design was done entirely in seashells and it swayed and jingled as she walked.  The group below is not local … but I believe a group that travels to different venues like this one to educate the public about their culture.  I wish I had caught their name and the region they represented.  They reminded me of the Warm Springs tribe but I’m not certain.  

October 23, 20111
I am delighted. Another homeschool mom organizes a Geography Club similar to the way I had organized Passports Club in central Oregon.  She hosts a gathering in her home once a month, invites the children to give presentations on the country selected for that month, and encourages families to bring a dish from that region to share.  The focus in October was on Nepal and we were fortunate to have two guest speakers … Gyan (a native to Nepal) who now resides here in Northern California and Ana (a native to Costa Rica who has climbed Mt. Everest).  
Gyan speaking to us of the Gurkha soliders, young Nepalese who are trained by the British. 

Gyan spoke to us of his childhood and of how much education is valued in Nepal. He reminded us of how fortunate we are in the United States and how many take our opportunities for granted.  He spoke of the poverty and stated that girls in Nepal do not get a formal education, though this is slowly changing, particularly in urban cities.  He also stated that many young Nepalese men serve in the military.  
Ana speaking of her climbing expedition in May of 2011.
Ana spoke of her expedition and attempt to summit Mt. Everest earlier this year.  She shared with us a slideshow showcasing man photographs from her expedition and talked about the many perils that face the climbers.  We were enthralled by her presentation and had many questions.  She had brought with her a small rock that she passed around for all to touch.
I got to touch Mt. Everest!!!  Well, a rock from 21,000 feet .. the highest point Ana has reached (thus far).
After the presentations, we enjoyed the food that everyone had brought to share.  We were encouraged to eat the many dal dishes in the Nepalese manner … with our fingers rather than forks or spoons.  Dal refers to the thick stew prepared from lentils, peas, and beans – an important part of Indian, Nepali, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, Bangladeshi cuisine.  Dal is a ready source of proteins for a balanced diet containing little or no meat.  It was a little strange to eat in this manner .. many of us felt uncomfortable as we’ve become so accustomed to using utensils. 
Buddy eating dal and rice in the Nepalease manner.
I asked if Gyan might have a friend or family member that could send us a postcard.  Instead, he allowed us to pick from a stack of postcards he had brought along for the occasion.  I thereby don’t have a postage stamp … but a las, I share with you the card I selected.
Gyan gave us a postcard … this is the one I selected.
 The postcard album notebook pages the kiddos completed.
We returned home and soon thereafter completed the notebook pages for our Postcard Album. Of note, Nepal is the only country in the world whose flag is not rectangular and the nation’s flower is rhododendron – my mother’s favorite. 

July 29, 2011
Every summer, our public library encourages kids to continue reading and to do so, provides a variety of incentives.  From what I understand, most libraries in the United States participate in the program and while the theme will be consistent whether you are in Oregon or Minnesota, the way in which each library implements the program will vary.
I have always been impressed with our library … particularly the children’s librarians who go out of their way to develop fun, engaging and educational programing for all ages.  The 2011 theme is One World, Many Stories and children ages 6-11 take part in Adventure Corps – stories and crafts specific to this age group.  We have attended when we can – though sadly, not as often as we would like.  This week, we journeyed to Africa.
African Adventure
Jambo, rafi ki! Hello, friend! “Safari” is Swahili for journey, and that’s what we’ll do. Travel from east to west Africa with a story from Kenya, and a story and game from Ghana. Learn to speak Swahili and make a mask.

Upon our arrival, the kids were given an opportunity to play with a number of the musical instruments that Heather McNeil had brought in to share.  Heather is one of the most dynamic storytellers at the library and we discovered that she has traveled to Kenya multiple times herself to collect stories and perfect her craft.  We were delighted to spend the afternoon listening to her as learned more about Africa.

The instruments the boys are shown with here are called, shekere.  The shekere is a handmade rattle consisting of a hollow gourd or calabash, covered on the outside with a net of seeds, beads, shells, or any available material. Although its origins are West African, today it is found in the Americas and Caribbean as well.  Check out this website to learn more and to find instructions to build one for yourself, The Beaded Gourd.

The girls are modeling a kalimba or thumb piano.  A kalimba is an African musical instrument, a type of plucked idiophone common throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, consisting of a wooden board to which staggered metal keys have been attached. You can play one here at PBS: AFRICA.

The program began with Heather sharing with us a wonderful oral telling of Who’s in Rabbit’s House (Masai Tale) by Verna Aardema.  Her animation and voices had everyone – adults and children alike – enthralled.  We then learned to count in Swahili and jumped to count out each number.  She then read aloud Zomo the Rabbit: A Trickster Tale from West Africa by Gerald McDermott.

Last summer, we spent several weeks inundating ourselves in the culture of Africa as a part of a Geography Co-op.  You can read all about our activities on my Squidoo lens, Africa: A Homeschool Unit Study.

February 4, 2011

We were delighted when the museum announced the return of the Gum San exhibit, exploring the impact of Chinese Americans on the history of United States … the only exhibit to tell a comprehensive story of the Chinese experience in the High Desert region.  As a student of Mandarin Chinese, MeiLi was very excited when I informed her that we would be going not only with her best  péng yǒu / 朋友 who also studies Mandarin (in fact, this is how they met), but with their  lǎo shī / 老师 as well.  

MeiLi and TianTian enjoyed looking for characters they recognized in the prints, most were traditional Chinese,  however.  It was so nice to have an opportunity for the girls to explore a little more about Chinese history with their lǎo shī.  In addition to the exhibit, they were also able to participate in a couple of Chinese crafts (knot tying and paper lanterns) as well as sample a few foods (barbeque pork, spring rolls, etc.).

DìDi / 弟弟 wasn’t very enthusiastic about the exhibit, however.  I thereby provided him with an impromptu scavenger hunt.  As he is passionate about trains, I encouraged him to find at least 3 different artifacts or photographs related to trains.  Success!  One of the things he found was an axe-head, with Central Pacific Railroad markings. “Look!” he said, “It’s a wedge! A simple machine!”  Curriculum integration at it’s best. 🙂

wǒ xiān zuò huǒchē / 我先坐火车 
(If only I could get him to stop making these crazy faces … such a comic!)
Still on exhibit, Live Butterflies! We had to visit this one again, of course, as it is a family favorite.  Very crowded but still enjoyable.  🙂
wǒ ài hú dié / 我爱蝴蝶 
(I can rarely catch her looking at the camera … always looking elsewhere!)

August 29, 20101

Where did the summer go?  I completely forgot to summarize our activities each week during our unit study Explore Our World : AFRICA.  We were actively engaged in a variety of learning activities but as the summer progressed, other obligations began to conflict with our plans and my neighbor and I were not able to get together as often.  Not surprisingly, I also neglected to take many photos!

Week 3 :: Western Africa

  • Key Points – Region more diverse ecologically than Northern Africa.  Many European nations had colonies in this area.  The cultures are more settled (as opposed to nomadic) and thereby agricultural cultures dominate.
  • Read aloud Why Mosquitoes Buzz in Peoples Ears by Verna Aardema and created a crayon resist of a savannah animal
  • Did a comparison (Venn diagram) of Little Red Hen by JP Miller and Talking Vegetables by Won-Ldy Paye & Margaret Lippert
  • Discussed the meaning of onomatopoeia
  • Sampled cassava chips
  • Began a mini-book of African animals
  • Played several games of Mancala
  • Enjoyed listening to music from Western Africa with African Playground CD.

Week 4 :: Western Africa, cont.

  • Key Points – Slavery was once prominent here –> huge impact on economy –> formerly rich region now poor.  Masks are a key component/feature in festivals and ceremonies.
  • Read aloud In the Rainfield by Ann Grifalconi, Mrs Chicken and the Hungry Crocodile by Won-Ldy Paye, Talk Talk, Why the Sky is Far Away and Anansi and the Talking Melon
  • Painted an animal in Naïve style of Ghana and read aloud Man Who Painted the Sky (illustrated in a similar style)
  • Began a mini-book of African style homes
  • Cooked Benne Cakes (a recipe from the Malinke) and sampled dates and chocolate from West Africa
  • Enjoyed listening to music from Western Africa with African Playground CD. 
  • Watched a Schlessinger media video on Ancient Africa.

Weeks 5 & 6 :: Eastern Africa

  • Key Points – Animal / Wildlife Reserves prominent in Eastern Africa.  Water is a valued resource for life.  Differences and similarities among daily use of water in Africa and in the United States.  Mt. Kilamanjaro.  Lake Victoria – source of the Nile River.  Madagasgar has unique (endemic).
  • Did a water comparison study.
  • Read aloud Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain, Trouble, The Good Lion, Young Mouse and the Elephant, The Lonely Lioness, Rain Makes a Monkey of Lion, We All Want a Safari, Count Your Way Through Kenya and Kenya A-Z
  • Enjoyed listening to music from Western Africa with African Playground CD. 
  • Created beaded bracelets inspired by Maasai.

Week 7 :: Central Africa

  • Key Points – Ethiopia considered the cradle of civility, so many fossils, etc.  Birthplace of coffee.  Region is dominated by rainforest.  All countries are former colonies of European countries.
  • Played a thumb piano or mbira on PBS Kids.
  • Read aloud The Elephant’s Wrestling Match
  • The kids wrote their own African fable.

Week 8 :: Southern Africa

  • Key Points – Apartheid.  Nelson Mandela.  Desmond Tutu.
  • Read aloud Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters, A Child’s Day in a South African City, Marriage of the Rain Goddess, Count Your Way Through Zimbabwe, The Girl Who Spun Gold
  • Put together lapbooks with all the mini-books we had begun
Check out my Hub page for more information about our Africa Unit Study

June 24, 20102

This past week, we focused upon the countries in Northern Africa.  In doing so, we learned that the countries in the northern region of Africa are characterized by the desert biome and thereby many of the cultural groups that reside in this area are nomadic.  As such, for many, cattle are very important in their lives.

We also discovered that along the coastal areas, the populations are very dense and as you proceed south, the populations become more sparse due to the climate and environmental conditions (desert).  Throughout the first centuries (633-732 AD), Arabs spread their culture and religion across the northern countries and even into the southern parts of Spain.  To this day, their influence is very strong though Christian and Jewish faiths are also prominent.

Africa Unit Study :: Week Two

Listed below are the key activities we coordinated for the second week of our study. Join me each week as I outline the many hands-on activities and projects we implement to introduce the kids to the beauty and culture of Africa.

  • Read aloud Living in the Sahara by Nicola Barber, Houses & Homes by Ann Morris & Ken Heyman, and A is for Africa by Ifeoma Onyefulu
  • Read about the Tuarag of the Sahara
  • Began a flip-book illustrating many of the cultural groups of Northern Africa (Tuarag, Berbers, Copts & Nubian)
  • Illustrated on a map the cultural regions of a variety of ethnic groups in Northern Africa
  • Prepared a few Northern African recipes:
    • Saffron & Raisin Couscous (National dish of Algeria)
    • Carthagenian Flank Steak (Morocco)
    • Chick Pea Tagine (Morocco)
  • Discussed differences between soils (potting soil/dirt, clay, and sand) and took part in a soil erosion experiment
Check out my Hub page for more information about our Africa Unit Study