Getting to Know You: Cross-Cultural Pen-pals to Expand Children’s World View. by Hibajene Monga Shandomo Ph.D. Assistant professor Buffalo State College Elementary Education and Reading [email protected] Bacon 316H INTRODUCTION
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Nineteen- American second graders in an urban Professional Development School in Buffalo, New York, introduced themselves to nineteen Zambian elementary urban school children for the purpose of making pen-pals.
“If we could in some way transport students to a country and immerse them in its culture, their learning experiences would be much more vividly remembered and their motivation would increase”… However such experiences may not always be feasible because of the cost and time factors.
The nineteen students from Poplar Street Academy consisted of 11 girls and 8 boys between the ages of 6 and 8. Of these children, 2 were Caucasian, 3 were Hispanic and 14 were African American. From the Zambian side all the nineteen students were of Black African origin. Eight of these were boys and 11 were girls. The Zambian children were either in the 2nd or 3rd grades all between the ages of 7 and 9.
The purpose of this paper is to:
“What if the Africans come to Buffalo?
I just can’t wait to meet my new pen-pal
What if my pen-pal is a boy or a girl?
What if my pen-pal sends a letter with decorations on top?
I wonder if we might be friends forever like having a pen-pal!”
At the beginning of the project, all nineteen students talked and wrote about how excited they were to be connected to pen-pals in Zambia. However the one topic that they all wrote about was how they would play with animals in Africa. Elephants, snakes, camels, and monkeys were the most cited animals. Students imagined that they actually would ride on elephants, monkeys and camels. They wanted to see the deserts, jungles, and caves.
After the letters from Zambia arrived and were read, the children changed their focus to talking about their pen-pals. Each student seemed to be looking for similarities with their pen-pal. American students praised their pen-pals’ dress. Others wrote about the similar subjects the children in Zambia were learning. They talked about foods they ate, some of which, to their surprise, were similar to their own. Students also were surprised to learn that their pen-pals spoke and wrote in English.
“In looking at the experiences I have had in the classroom having an opportunity to work with the Africa project stands out as rather special and unique”. She went on to explain how working one-on-one-and talking to students about their lives and feelings have made her experience at Poplar truly memorable.
What we learned from this experience was more than just facts and information. It was a true inspiration for everyone involved. Students from such a great distance were sharing very personal thoughts and feelings. To see and engage one another in this way made the learning personal, real and rewarding. And so we learned how to embrace new people, situations and cultures. We learned how to accept others for who they are. We learned to appreciate differences and marvel at similarities. WE learned that we can love someone else no matter how far away they live. Most of all, we learned how to hold an experience and a new friend in our hearts forever.
Denial :In the denialstage, people don’t really believe in cultural differences
Defense: In the defense stage people believe in cultural differences and have accepted the reality of it, but they are deeply threatened by it and believe that other cultures are decidedly inferior.
Minimization: In the minimization stage people are still threatened by difference but they don't think that those who are different are inferior, misguided, or otherwise unfortunate. In this stage people trivialize the difference
Acceptance: In the acceptance stage people accept differences as being deep and legitimate.
Adaptation and integration: In the adaptation and integration stage people have gone from being neutral about the difference to being positive. They not only accept cultural differences, but are willing and able to adjust their own behavior to conform to different norms. They are able to empathize with people from different cultures. In many ways, they become bi- cultural or multi- cultural, effortlessly adjusting theirbehavior to suit the culture of the people they're with, "style switching," in other words. They do not give up their own values and beliefs, but they do integrate aspects of other cultures into it. In the integration stage, certain aspects of the other culture or cultures become a part of their identity