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World Culture Educators

Learn more about a country directly from a person who lived there! This series provides very personal student interactions with educators from around the globe.

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Message Carriers of East Africa
(Virtual and Outreach Available)
by Beatrice Bolger
Grades: 3-5, 6-8, 9-12
A kanga is a traditional garment in East African culture. This printed cotton fabric is designed with bright colors and inspirational messages in Swahili. The kanga serves many functions and communicates messages through riddles and proverbs. Women traditionally wrap a kanga in their own fashion, while men offer kangas as gifts. A Kenyan instructor teaches students about the history of kangas, their cultural meanings, their functions and basic Swahili greetings. Students then create individual kangas using paper collage that feature their own messages and African symbols.
Methali, the Proverbs
East African influences from the Sunny Motherland to the Western World
by Beatrice Bolger
Grades: 3-5, 6-8, 9-12
Swahili oral tradition is observed through greetings and proverbs prevalent from the motherland. In most continental African and African Diasporic cultures, proverbs were used as the main source of instruction for children and youth. They contained important guidelines and principles of behavior towards God, ancestors, neighbors, and themselves. This educational method is still actively used in schools, where proverbs are studied for their linguistic and social importance. In this workshop, student groups learn different proverbs in Swahili, then translate them into English to engage with their various interpretations. Students link their proverbs to real-life lessons and learn how the proverbs serve as guides to improve behavior in traditional African culture.
A Day in the Life of a School Girl in Nairobi
by Grace Ndicu
Grades: Pre K – 2, 3-5, 6-8
Nairobi is a cosmopolitan city in the heart of East Africa. Hear about it from someone who grew up there! Let Grace Ndicu be your guide as you see the sights (the daily commute to school, time on the playground, extracurricular activities), play some Kenyan games, and meet people, ranging from city dwellers to the suburbanites. Students engage in actual activities drawn from student life in Kenya and discuss the characteristics of a “home.” Discover how much meaning can be found in the simplest activities of your daily life.

South Africa

Listening for a New Nation
Introducing post-apartheid cultural politics through contemporary indigenous music making in South Africa
By Larissa Johnson
Grades: 9-12
Musical bows are structurally simple instruments that produce complex sounds. They can be found across the world but are most prevalent in Sub-Saharan Africa with many variations. In what is now the Republic of South Africa, musicians use these instruments to tell stories of contact between indigenous Southern and South East African peoples and Portuguese, Dutch and English colonists. Bows and related instruments found in the Americas tell similar stories related to the trading enslaved African people across the Atlantic Ocean. In this workshop students learn to hear and imitate basic sounds of Umrhubhe and Uhadi, musical bows of the Xhosa people of eastern South Africa and listen to Classical and contemporary Xhosa music. Through play and discussion, students discuss themes and questions around cultural-political identity in the complex history of a country still grappling with the consequences of apartheid.



Celebrate the Year 4717
Chinese New Year Rituals
(Virtual and Outreach Available)
by Haibin Wechsler; Shuhan Meng
Grades: 3-5, 6-8, 9-12
Chinese New Year is a time of exploding firecrackers and leaping dragon dancers. This workshop takes a closer look at rituals and customs associated with Chinese New Year celebrations and explores the historical origins of these activities. Students gain an understanding of these rituals, along with their cultural and social significance.
Chinese Characters
A Journey Across Time
(Virtual and Outreach Available)
by Haibin Wechsler; Shuhan Meng
Grades: 3-5, 6-8, 9-12
What is a Chinese character? Where do Chinese characters come from? How hard is to write a Chinese character? This workshop examines the developmental history of Chinese characters, a journey of many thousand years. By looking at the transformation of these characters over time and many historical factors behind such changes, students gain a better understanding not only about Chinese characters but of Chinese history and culture, as well. Students also practice writing Chinese characters during the workshop.
The Race for the Chinese Zodiac
by Haibin Wechsler; Shuhan Meng
Grades: PreK-2, 3-5, 6-8
Have you ever heard of the Chinese Zodiac? Do you know which animals are in the Zodiac and what they represent? This workshop introduces students to the origin of Chinese Zodiac animals with engaging, vivid storytelling, and explores the spirit embodied by each Zodiac animal. Students learn the relationship between the year and its corresponding Zodiac animal.
Legendary Creatures of China
Real and Imaginary
by Haibin Wechsler; Yifan Gao
Grades: 2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12
Did you know that China has given panda bears as a national gift to the United States? Have you seen Lion Dances and Dragon Boat races, and wondered why Chinese have such traditions? Please join us on an adventure to discover the fascinating stories of four symbolic animals associated with the Chinese culture, and their roles they played in forging Chinese national identity and culture values.


Classic Dance from Hindu Monasteries
(Outreach Available)
by Madhusmita Bora
Grades: Pre K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12
In this workshop, Madhusmita Bora, a performer of the Sattriya Dance Company, takes you on a journey through a 600-year-old dance tradition. This dance was only preserved, nourished, and practiced by monks in a little island in Northeast India until recently. Students are exposed to stories from Hindu mythology through the dance and also learn about the monks and their lives. Masks, costumes and props help to bring these traditions to life. Along the way, students are led in movement exercises and learn related vocabulary of this Indian tradition. Groups of less than 120 students receive a talk and dance demonstration without the formal performing costume. Groups of 120 students and more watch a live dance performance with the dancers in formal performing costume.

North/Central/South America

Native Nations and Tribes

Eastern Woodlands Culture
Daily Life and Stories, Pre- and Post-Contact
(Outreach Available)
by Uhma Ruth Py
Grades: Pre K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-10
What it was like to be a Native American before and after European contact? During this program, an educator with Lenape ancestry use artifacts and storytelling to explain the history and traditions of different Native American cultures. Storytelling remains an important aspect of Native culture today, as well as in the past. These stories appeal to different age levels and are complemented by artifacts that students may touch. Artifacts have been acquired or made by the educator herself and help to demonstrate the different roles each gender and age group play in daily village life.


Merging Afro-Brazilian Cultures in a Fight for Freedom
By Mestre Maxuel Moreira Santos
Grades: Pre K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12
Capoeira is a martial art disguised as a dance, with its own acrobatics, songs, and music. Enslaved Afro-Brazilian, who weren’t allowed to defend themselves, created Capoeira in the 16th century. They would pretend to be dancing and celebrating, but in fact were preparing a means to escape and form communities in the Brazilian forests called ‘Quilombos.’ In 2014, UNESCO listed the Capoeira “roda” (or circle, inside which Capoeira is played in pairs) as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity. In this workshop, students learn about the origins and evolution of Capoeira as part of Brazil’s socio-cultural history, discover the musical instruments, rhythms, and songs specific to Capoeira, and learn some basic Capoeira moves so that they can participate in their first “roda” by the end of the workshop. Cross-listed in World Culture Educators: Africa / African Diaspora.



Greece, the Crossroads of Three Continents
History, Culture and Identity
(Outreach Available)
by Kyriakoula Micha
Grades: 3-5, 6-8, 9-12
In this workshop students have the opportunity to learn about Greek culture and identity from ancient Greece to present day. The guide for this expedition is Kyriakoula Micha, who has a background in archaeology and first-hand knowledge of the history, culture, and daily life of Greece. Through visual examples and vivid verbal descriptions of contemporary Greece, students are able to understand Greece through continuum of history, to gain insight not only into Greece and the Greeks, but also into our shared and unique cultural identities. This experience provides a context through which students can draw exciting connections between their studies of ancient Greece, artifacts on display at the Penn Museum, and the Greece of today.

Middle East – Cultures/Religions and Diaspora

Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr
Beauty of Muslim Celebrations
By Moumena Saradar, Abdulhadi (Hadi) Al-Karfawi
Grades: 2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12
Learn more about the well-known but misunderstood Muslim observation of Ramadan and the celebration which marks the end of Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr. When is Ramadan? What is the true meaning behind it? What are those celebrating encouraged or discouraged to do, and why? What happens when Ramadan ends? How is Eid al-Fitr celebrated? Students learn more about how these important religious customs and events are practiced all over the region and clarify beliefs and practices associated with these special moments. Moumena, originally from Syria, or Hadi, originally from Iraq, also share their personal family traditions from growing up in the Middle East.
Rebuilding New Life
Photo Memories from Iraq
By Yaroub Al-Obaidi
Grades: 6-8, 9-12
If you had to choose only 10 items you can fit in your backpack to leave home for a new country, what would you bring? What do you choose to leave? Will you make a choice based on your personal values or based on necessity for survival? In this session, Yaroub Al-Obaidi, a designer, shares his long journey traveling from Iraq, through Syria, to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and finally to Philadelphia. He “visits” each point of his journey with a set of artifacts items that he packed for his departure to a new land. Describing the memories, challenges and hopes he had at each transition, Yaroub explains the contexts of global conflicts and refugee issues, and highlight what life is like for refugees in different parts of the world. Dialogues prompted by Yaroub’s vivid photographs encourage students to think about the complex issues of international affairs in a very personal way.