By Laurel Tollison
As an MA student in Russian, East European, and Eurasian, I had the opportunity to assist in several different outreach events as REEEC’s outreach graduate assistant. One of our regular programs included monthly visits to the Orchard Downs Community Center to bring multicultural outreach programming to their after-school enrichment program for elementary students, Kid’s Club. As outreach graduate assistant, I have had the wonderful experience of creating lesson plans and presenting to these students each month. This programming is an essential part of our community because it introduces students to cultures and people they might not otherwise learn about.
Stemming from our monthly Head Start programming, each visit focuses on a different country and a specific holiday or tradition from that country. The students “visit” this country through a presentation that introduces them to the language, geography, food, culture, and the people of this country. Each unit has an activity attached to it. Usually this activity is craft, but sometimes this activity can be learning a dance, listening to an instrument, or playing a game. At the end of each lesson, students return home with a postcard about what they learned so they can share it with their families. At the end of the year, the students can look through their Kid’s Club passport at all the stamps from different countries to reflect on all the places they have been.
This spring semester has been full of travel and discovery. We began in Estonia, learning about the colorful wool gloves Estonians make to keep their hands warm in the winter. The students used fabric paint to decorate their own colorful gloves to keep their hands warm in the Illinois winter.
In February, the students traveled back in time to learn about how International Women’s Day was celebrated during the Soviet Union. Continuing the celebration of this holiday, students decorated cards for an inspiring woman in their lives.
To get students moving during the long winter months, the students traveled to Greece in early March to learn about regional music and dancing. Undergraduate music composition student Dimitri Glaros brought his oud and played some Greek songs and taught the students a circle dance.
The students started off the spring season in Azerbaijan celebrating Novruz, the Persian new year, and decorated their own Novruz eggs. We ended the semester in Kazakhstan, where the students learned about yurt construction and built their own model yurts.
The students were not the only ones that traveled the world learning about different cultures this semester. Creating these lesson plans and sharing it with these students has been a phenomenal learning experience for me as well. I have gained knowledge and skills on how to work with and teach children that I will use for the rest my career.
All lesson plans are available to download through our website. To access a full listing of our lesson plans and classroom materials, please fill out this form.