Students cued on culture

Published 9:49 am Friday, November 18, 2011

Sumner Elementary fourth-grader Hapi Ogilla colors in a state in Nigeria as students learned about various countries from Area Learning Center students during Culture Day Thursday.

ALC helps elementary students learn about other countries

For the fourth year in a row, area elementary students, along with Area Learning Center students, spent a day learning about cultures of the world.

A student's passport lays on a desk in a classroom for Nigeria Thursday afternoon. Sumner Elementary fourth- and fifth-graders were learning from ALC students about different countries as they travelled from room to room, country to country.

From scenes of China and India to Brazil, Pakistan and Nigeria, 130 Sumner Elementary School fourth- and fifth-graders toured rooms in the ALC, which ALC students set up through their time and research. Elementary students learned about demographics, environments, economies, governments, architecture, clothing and cultures in a fun, interactive atmosphere. After visiting each room, or country, students got their passports stamped and moved on to the next presentations, which featured maps, PowerPoint presentations, real clothing and more.

According to Shirley Peterson Morgan, ALC language arts instructor, the annual project is possible because of a diversity consortium grant and is important for both the ALC and elementary students.

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“Active learning is a very important thing,” Peterson Morgan said.

The ALC’s ninth- through 12th-graders learn how to teach and interact with younger students. The culture day is the result of weeks of ALC students studying, compiling information and decorating rooms and serves some of the ALC’s goals.

“As an ALC, we want to become project based,” Peterson Morgan said, and added the culture project covers parts of the ALC’s speaking, writing and group-work goals.

Perhaps more than anything, the project is fitting because of Austin’s diversity.

“The idea of diversity in our school district is a major issue,” Peterson Morgan said.

She said it’s important for students to realize there are more populous countries than the U.S., and it’s important for students to know what those countries mean to them. The five countries in the culture project are five of the six most-populated countries in the world (excluding the U.S.).

And aside from fourth and fifth grade being a good time to learn about diversity, elementary students usually look up to high-schoolers and pay attention to them, Morgan said.

“It’s a good project,” she added.

Peterson Morgan credits the staff and faculty’s willingness to help the project become a reality each year.