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Harmony School

Every Thursday in February, my colleague Emily Stranger and I visited a small class at Harmony School in Bloomington. This private school, which is comfortably located close to the IU campus, invited us to their Multicultural Month Celebration. We partnered with Adam Lehman, one of the Harmony School teachers, and put together a lesson plan for the following four weeks. Our goal was to create four lessons that build upon each other and that would give the young audience a multi-faceted introduction to one of the regions in Central Asia. Uzbekistan became our choice.

At our first lesson, we discussed where Uzbekistan is on the map and talked about clothing and food, as well as nature, in Central Asia. In order to engage our audience, we asked what kind of food we eat here in America or what kind of clothes we wear on a daily basis. Then we proceeded to talk about various traditions in Uzbekistan. The attention span of our young audience was naturally short, so we conducted a small language workshop on various body parts. Although learning eight new words at one time is a challenging task, the students were still able to remember half of the vocabulary and play fun games.

Story-telling is always a welcome addition to any lesson plan. Utilizing our thespian skills, Emily and I acted out an Uzbek story about a bored king. Our story included authentic Uzbek hats and beautiful robes because no king would be a real king without an Uzbek hat and a robe! Of course, our lesson would not be complete without learning about the ancient Silk Road. This lesson included simple maps that show Silk Road routes, an online Silk Road game, a fascinating online tool that lets you create your own Silk Road music, and a demonstration of real-life musical instruments. Children were able to use their critical thinking skills and tried their hand at making music, too.

For the last class we prepared a hands-on project. IAUNRC invested in some felt fabric so that the children could create their own, flat yurts. This class was the messiest one so far: glue on our fingers and ribbons scattered everywhere. At the end, all of the children created their own yurts with their own individual design.

We hope that we gave the children a glimpse of various Central Asian cultures. Planning every lesson was time-consuming but helping the children understand foreign cultures was even more challenging. At the end, both Emily and I are grateful for the opportunity to interact with incredibly smart students, and we look forward to leading similar classes in the future.