Showing students the world

There is a joke on the East Coast, where I am from, that California is a country of its own.

When I arrived for service in San José, I found that the joke has some elements of truth, at least in the minds of the students. The students’ knowledge of geography is so basic that it is not unusual for a student to answer “California?” in response to any question about different cities, states or countries.

Last week, my team put on several events to appreciate the students for their hard work this year and get them pumped up about the California Standards Tests that begin today.

When the idea of a World Culture/Art Fair surfaced as a possible activity for Student Appreciation Week, I jumped on the idea, excited at the possibility of teaching students about many countries and cultures.

The students worked hard to prepare for the World Culture /Art Fair by gaining points every day of April during the after school program for their good behavior. Students could earn as many as four points for excellent behavior, or lose up to three points for poor behavior.

Senior Corps Member Krista Corwin wore tradition Spanish garb as she taught the students more about Spain.

Each grade also helped prepare art projects, including tie dye t-shirts and paper bag piñatas, which students could then “buy” during the fair using their behavior points. The team was able to purchase art supplies and other materials for the fair thanks to a City Year Attendance, Behavior and Coursework grant.

On the day of the fair, in addition to buying their art projects, students were free to essentially tour the world, by visiting 14 booths, set up outside on the school’s blacktop and inside the cafeteria. Corps members as well as senior corps members, City Year staff members, school staff and members of the Parent Teacher Association led the booths. Many of the booths featured food, souvenirs from the country or culture and activities or games, all of which students could “buy” or “pay” to participate in using their behavior points.

The students and staff had a great time writing their names in Hebrew like the Israelis, practicing the limbo in Trinidad, eating fried dough at the Native American booth, simulating the plight of the Chilean miners, popping balloons tied to their legs; a popular game in Germany, listening to music and viewing artifacts from Mexico, learning about Hurricane Katrina, making Spanish castanets and much more.

Program Manager Laura Cutler taught students how to write their names in Hebrew at the Israel booth.

In addition to games and treats, each booth also had a poster with information and photographs from the given country or culture so students got to taste, feel and learn about each culture they visited. Each student also received a passport, which was stamped at each booth after the student completed the activity. The students who filled in every location on their passport were entered into a raffle for a grand prize.

At the end of the day, the students had been rewarded for their good behavior, had practiced saving and spending money, had spent time with their City Year and school staff and most importantly, had learned that there are many interesting, diverse countries and cultures in addition to the state of California.

For more photos from a couple of the World Culture Fairs that corps members held in after school program, click here.

Anya Bergman, Corps Member CYSJ

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