Every year TCLP participants present new cultural opportunities to their host communities through outreach activities and expose them to languages and traditions they would have not experienced locally. This year’s participants are already busy planning and engaging in activities designed to build awareness and knowledge of their country, language, and culture.
One of the first assignments TCLP teachers completed, after arriving and settling into their host communities, was to create an outreach action plan. Participants brainstormed ideas on the TCLP website’s forum and shared advice from multiple sources including: videos, mentor teachers, and alumni buddies. They had conversations with one another and American Councils staff on the best ways to develop effective outreach that was both engaging and informative. Nashaat Mehany suggested giving presentations to “community clubs such as the Lions or the Rotary.” The exchange teachers explained which topics they thought would be interesting and appealing to Americans as an introduction to their cultures. Zheng Meng wrote “My favorite one is Chinese knots because it includes making a knot. People will be interested in making something related to Chinese culture.” Following the discussion on the forum, it was up to the exchange teachers to tie these ideas together into an outreach presentation for their host communities.
The following are some of the outreach activities the exchange teachers engaged in after their virtual planning sessions on the forum:
Zheng Meng tailored a unique cultural outreach activity for her community’s quilting club. She introduced the group to traditional Chinese fabrics and the meanings of the patterns on them. The audience loved learning about the different materials and subjects incorporated into the quilts such as dragons, the phoenix, flowers, as well as symbols meaning blessing, prosperity, longevity, happiness, and wealth. The audience looked with great pleasure at the Chinese quilts and remarked that they were “gorgeous” and asked “where can I get one?” The group observed the differences between American and Chinese quilts such as the materials, colors, symbols, and imagery. By the end of the activity the group learned the following words in Chinese: pillow, silk, quilt, satin strap, and 100 percent cotton.
Nashaat Mehany was involved in a variety of outreach activities in different community clubs that presented different aspects of his Egyptian heritage and culture. He gave a presentation about Egypt and his home city of Minia at the Lions club. He visited Spanish classes in the local Middle school and discussed the influence Arabic had on the Spanish language. In social studies classes he gave a survey of the history and geography of the Middle East. To connect with students interested in music, he presented several well-known instruments such as the guitar and introduced the students to their Arabic equivalent, such as the aoud.
Tan Jin incorporated teaching methods, like Total Physical Response (TPR), into her outreach for 2nd and 3rd graders to learn about the Moon Festival. The students practiced vocabulary related to the events that take place during Moon Festival and the story of the Jade Rabbit by associating each word with a gesture or action.
Jia Lili also did an outreach related to the Moon festival or Mid-autumn Festival, but reached a different audience: her fellow teachers at her school. She first explained the legend to her colleagues and then to build a cross-cultural connection she pointed to similarities between the festival and the traditions of Thanksgiving in the US. By using a familiar US cultural reference, her colleagues were able to more fully understand the Chinese traditions they were unfamiliar with before.
Hamdi Ahmed introduced students to important figures in world history from Egypt and the Islamic world. He discussed with students the achievements of great scientists and mathematicians, such as Al-Khwarizmi and how the numbers the students use in math were developed through Arabic. Hamdi has also prepared an interactive lesson on Queen Nefertiti where art students will draw her image on paper similar to papyrus.
Samar Abdelfatah is bringing the experience of living in Egypt to students in the US through her outreach activity. She speaks with students about life in Egypt and the cultural similarities and differences between Egypt and the US. For example, Samar uses images from transportation in Egypt to show students what is the same, such as subways, and what is different like mini-buses and tuk-tuks. The students respond excitedly with questions about what it’s like to ride on these automobiles.
All of this year’s participants have been enthusiastic about making outreach presentations and sharing their culture with a wide variety of audiences in the US. After each outreach students and adults alike come out learning something new, but more over they are exploring and furthering their understanding of different cultures. The outreach activities organized by TCLP teachers provide cultural trips for US communities without leaving home.