The US Census cites the Bronx as the most diverse area in the US, with an 89.7% chance that any two randomly selected residents would be of a different race or ethnicity! Considering this and the globalization that impacts all of us, it is more important than ever for Bronx children to understand the diverse borough and world they live in.
The staff at BronxWorks’ Project Achieve after-school program knows this, so recently, a group of 30 children in the program based at the Carolyn McLaughlin Community Center ”visited” Haiti, Vietnam, Uganda, and South Korea. Through a partnership with One To World’s Global Classroomprogram, they were visited by Global Guides (international Fulbright scholars) from the countries and learned about their cultures.
BronxWorks Educational Coordinator Kathleen Callahan met Laura Tajima, Director of Global Classroom, at a workshop this fall. She knew Global Classroom would be great for the after-school program, especially because of the year-long Cultures of the City theme. Thanks to Kathleen’s commitment to integrating Global Classroom’s themes even more deeply into the after-school program’s activities, One To World decided to generously donate its usually fee-based program for a five-week series.
Along with Laura, a Global Guide from a different country came each week to lead the children through a presentation about their country’s culture and an art activity. The adults all noticed that the diversity in topics and presenters piqued the curiosity of the children in different ways. For example, one student was still learning English and though expressing his thoughts was challenging, he persisted and asked several questions each week because he was so curious!
The children were excited to discuss their favorite highlights of the program, referencing specific art projects like the South Korean rice paper and fun facts they learned. A few were surprised that Haiti was so close to the Dominican Republic, where several of them are from! One of the most memorable was the Ugandan dance workshop presented by Mabingo Alfdaniels, a dance education scholar at NYU.
Mabingo was a great fit for the students because many of their families are from Africa and dance is also very important in many of their cultures. The children loved the different types of dance moves and the drums and bells that Mabingo used as they explored why dance is important in Ugandan culture.
This was one of Mabingo’s first experiences with this age group, and he was “inspired and encouraged” by their “level of attention and interest… asking questions and challenging me to give them more.” He made an interesting observation: that the BronxWorks children and community members gave him a better and different perspective on the stereotypes he’d heard about low-income, “difficult” neighborhoods in the Bronx.
Tisharna Collins, a student counselor, felt that the kids have really benefited, saying “I have seen a change. I think it’s awesome!” Kathleen added that “building international, cultural, global literacy is really important, especially in New York.”
Parents were invited to join the grand multicultural celebration hosted during the final week. They brought special foods and shared the elements of their culture that they’re proud of. One mom, Marisela, moved here 20 years ago from the Dominican Republic and says she loves the US but feels that “it’s still important to have your own culture, your own identity.” She reflected that “in the end, we all realized we have a lot in common.”
We are so grateful for collaborations like this one that enable our BronxWorks community to celebrate both diversities and similarities in our borough and our city!
The BronxWorks after-school program provides both academic enrichment and social emotional learning programming to neighborhood children. One To World’s Global Classroom connects NYC youth with trained, international university scholars through interactive workshops that engage students in learning about world cultures and global issues. Questions or comments? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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