Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Global Gatherings

Back when I home-schooled my children, I had to think up ways to facilitate the natural curiosity that children have – the kind that often gets swallowed up by video games and Nickelodeon. At least it did in my house. One way I did this was with Global Gatherings.

Another homeschooling mama and I co-created this event. Once a month our group would gather and focus on one country. We’d dress in the country’s traditional clothing style, we’d make food from that country, and we’d all come with one piece of trivia about that region. If any of us had visual aids, or material items from that area, those would arrive, too.
These gatherings were well received in our homeschooling community, but you could arrange an event like this for any reason – just for the fun of it, to supplement a class project your child is already doing in school, or as an activity you do in preparation for a family vacation.
Of all the Global Gatherings we did, India was my favorite. And it happened to be our first one.
My friend, and author of The Child of Wonder, lived in India for two years – her son was born there – and she wanted to facilitate. I hosted in my house and wore a salwar kameez (loose tunic over baggy pants) for the occasion, and she arrived in a kurta (a shorter tunic) over jeans. I played Hindi music from old Bollywood movies and lit incense to set the mood for the children, and she showed them how to wear a dupatta (scarf) around the shoulders like the local women did.
The children all got a chance to share their interesting Indian facts – for instance, that elephants were sacred in India, as well as the cow – and she passed around picture books in Hindi and small statues of deities she’d collected during her time on the sub-continent.
She showed us a diya (a small oil lamp used in worship) that their family lit during Diwali – a Hindu holiday called “The Festival of Lights.”

lighting a diya
She finished off our inaugural Gathering with a cooking lesson.
She had all the kids make their own chapattis (Indian flat bread).
Total hit.


Indian Chapatti Recipe

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup hot water or as needed

In a large bowl, stir together the whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour and salt. Use a wooden spoon to stir in the olive oil and enough water to make a soft dough that is elastic but not sticky. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface until it is smooth. Divide into 10 parts, or less if you want bigger breads. Roll each piece into a ball. Let rest for a few minutes.

Heat a skillet over medium heat until hot, and grease lightly. On a lightly floured surface, use a floured rolling pin to roll out the balls of dough until very thin, like a tortilla. When the pan starts smoking, put a chapati on it. Cook until the underside has brown spots, about 30 seconds, then flip and cook on the other side. Continue with remaining dough.
I think the trivia piece to the Global Gatherings is paramount. It’s important to engage the children in a pre-gathering treasure hunt. The kids know ahead of time which country they are researching, and they have no limit to what angle they want to research. If they were fascinated by the reptile kingdom, they had the empowerment to lean that way in their research. If statistics were their thing, they could copy a couple of those down from the internet and present that. Anything you were interested in, you could bring to the table. That way, they become more invested in the event. They are bringing something to it, and a natural sort of pride results from their efforts.
The Global Gathering has a bit of presentation, a bit of sharing, and a bit of hands on activity. It’s the combination of these things that really make Global Gatherings successful. Something for every type of learner.
With just a little bit of preparation, you can have a Global Gathering of your own and introduce your kids to different cultures, too – which, of course, is the main idea.
Also, to get them off Playstation 3.

Steps for your own Global Gathering:

~Choose a country to focus on.
~Have a facilitator volunteer to delegate responsibilities and to set up where the location will be held – someone’s house or a community room. Backyards work, too!
~Get the word out! Post on Yahoo groups or make a Facebook event to let people know the country you’ll be doing. Your event will be more successful with advance planning. Three weeks, or so, seems to be optimal.
~A good mixture for the event is: music, trivia/fact sharing, props, food, activity, dress.
~Activity ideas: traditional craft (like origami, or a painting technique well-known in the region you are focusing on), making a traditional food together as a group, learning a dance move (like Bhangra, or Irish dancing), simple rituals common to that area, or just learning how to say “hi” and “goodbye” in a new language.
~Prop ideas: dolls, art, short video, clothing, books about the area or ones written in the local language, religious icons, or items used during holidays.
~Relax and have fun! Remember, it’s all about fostering your kid’s natural curiosity, so sometimes it’s best to just let them lead you. Maybe you won’t have time for all the things you planned, but the time you spend on the things you do, are richer for your child’s interest in them.

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