North Carolina teachers are bringing foreign cultures to life for their students thanks to UNC at Chapel Hill and federal grants.
The outreach program has produced more than 50 culture kits for loan to teachers, who use the kits to introduce school children to the toys, games and clothes that children in countries such as South Africa or Senegal might use daily.
Some of the programs are funded by Title VI grants from the U.S. Department of Education and are offered by some of the area studies centers and the Carolina Navigators program at UNC-Chapel Hill. “It takes about one year to develop such a kit,” said Barbara Anderson, associate director of the African Studies Center in the UNC College of Arts and Sciences. Each item has to be researched and explained in the accompanying notebook – and then the kit is reviewed by people native to the country for accuracy.
Before teachers receive a kit, their students are tasked with creating their own culture kit, including items such as flags, kid’s books and popular DVDs — to better compare and contrast items from the incoming culture kit.
Carolina Center for the Study of the Middle East and Muslim Civilizations center’s outreach coordinator Regina Higgins and UNC School of Information and Library Science graduate student Amanda Click recently presented the Cairo, Egypt, culture kit to a class of third-graders at New Hope Elementary in the Orange County (N.C.) School System.
“They all sat in a circle and compared the items they collected,” said Orange County public school teacher Tracy Rettig of the day that her third grade students explored the kit. She used the kit as part of a month-long unit on geography.
Higgins describes the development and use of culture kits as part of a dynamic relationship between K-12 teachers throughout the state and members of the university community, who are able to travel the world, gather materials and information and bring them back for the betterment of the children of the state.