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Outreach at Springville Elementary

By Michael Krautkraemer

On October 12, 2017, all three of our Graduate Assistants at the IAUNRC set out on a journey on the backroads of southern Indiana (and SR 37) to do outreach at Springville Elementary School. The school is located approximately 45 minutes south of Bloomington and rather than make one person drive there and back alone we decided to do it as a group. The particular outreach event was reading Inner Asian stories to a classroom of kindergarteners.

Overall, the experience was enjoyable, both for the GAs and the children. “It was good,” quipped GA Brendan Devine. GA Emily Stranger weighed in: “I like reading children’s stories. I think this was a good opportunity to expose these kids to different cultures’ stories as well as a Persian variant of one they already know.” The Graduate Assistants each study different parts of the Inner Asian world and each one read a story from their own region of specialization. Over the course of the afternoon, then, the class was exposed to stories from three very diverse parts of the Inner Asian region.

To begin, Brendan read a story from Inner Mongolia by Xuemei Han called The Brave Little Mongolian Sisters (DigitalKu, 2007) and this was followed by Emily reading Shirley Climo’s The Persian Cinderella (Harper Collins, 1999). I was last and read a story called “A Rainbow in Silk,” from Cherry Gilchrist’s Stories from the Silk Road (Barefoot Books, 1999). All three were well-received by not only the children, but the teacher, as well.

I myself found the experience to be an enjoyable one, as well as a nice break from my normal day-to-day duties at the Inner Asian and Uralic National Resource Center. It was quite pleasant to spend the afternoon listening to and reading stories, as well as being a more active representative of both the center and Indiana University. In addition to being a different way of spending time at work, it provided an important opportunity to expose a room full of children to cultures that they had never before heard of and certainly could not place on a map (to quote Ms. Stranger again as she was introducing her story: “Find Iran on the map. No, that’s Western Europe, but close.”)

In any case, the experience was very rewarding and I hope that ten years from now, if it ever comes up in conversation, one of those kids will realize that they know something about the culture of a few Inner Asian regions and that this, perhaps, will drive them to seek out more in-depth knowledge.