By Bernie Petit
They didn’t want to leave.
The first graders in Judy Yang’s art class didn’t want to take off their wooden shoes.
They wanted to dance. And they wanted to keep learning about The Netherlands.
“This is the best day of my life!” one student told Yang as he left her class.
Third, fourth and fifth grade students at Tuckaseegee Elementary in Charlotte had similar experiences recently while learning about Africa, Mexico and Australia, respectively, thanks to an Arts & Science Council (ASC) Education School Grant.
The ASC Education School Grants program provides up to $285,000 in total funding to local schools to provide cultural programming opportunities that align with their curriculum and help increase student success. Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools are eligible for $1,500 to $3,000 each.
Tuckaseegee used its grant to bring The World in Our Backyard, a multicultural program developed by Ineke Van der Meulen, to the school for three days in January.
The program helps students understand how cultures evolve over time through photos and artifacts, stories and movement and by dressing students in traditional costumes. Yang said the program stood out to her because she knew it would help make her students more globally aware.
“I wanted to bring in clothes and instruments and artifacts and pictures so these kids could touch it, hold it and experience it,” Yang said. “A lot of times just teaching it to them on a smart board, they’re not involved in it, they don’t remember it. When they stand up and they dance and they play these instruments, they’re going to remember.”
In the process, the students were able to connect their “backyard” cultural experiences their prior learning.
“Whatever they are learning in the classroom, this backs it up,” Yang said. “For an experience to truly be educational, you have to be able to dive into it, be surrounded by it and be involved in it… that’s the only way for you to learn.”