Ideas, Approaches, Topics
The purpose of this paper is to present some ideas for studying a country and culture. It is not exhaustive, but will hopefully be a stimulus toward brainstorming other ideas appropriate to your own setting and situation.
Choosing a Focus
For younger children (ages 5-7), it is good to begin by looking at the country and culture in which they are currently living – focusing on what they can actually see and experience around them. Intermediate children (ages 8-10) can do more in-depth study of the host country and/or of your home country. Getting into the history of the area and biographies of important people is a good idea at these ages. They can begin to compare and contrast the way of life in your home and host countries and see how those are related to the geography, environment, and historical background of each. Older children can go more in depth to understand how a nation’s character and place in world affairs has developed over time, both in their home/host countries as well as other nations of the world. By following the same basic outline of topics as they study each place, students will develop a rich understanding of what makes up a country and its character. This will aid them in developing cross-cultural skills… knowing what kinds of things to look for when they enter a new place, so they can understand, appreciate, and adapt to living there better.
As students study a country/culture following this guide, they will develop the important ability to ask the right questions. They should brainstorm what they think they already know about a place/culture, then make up questions that fill in the gaps and/or help them check to see if their ideas are correct. They need to then decide how to best find the answers to their questions – through direct observation, interviewing knowledgeable people, and/or using printed or Internet resources. Even very young children can develop keen observations skills, especially if they have a list of items they are looking for as they take walks around the neighborhood and go on field trips and they are given opportunity to discuss what they are seeing along the way. Higher thinking skills develop as students compare and contrast and speculate on reasons behind similarities and differences. They should learn to develop and organize good lists of interview questions to ask appropriate people. They should learn to evaluate who might be the most reliable and knowledgeable resource people for information on different topics. If children become involved in learning many aspects of the local culture – the language, songs, customs, stories, crafts, games, etc. – it will help them live more comfortably and appreciatively in a place.
Demonstrating What Was Learned
Children can demonstrate what they have learned through oral presentation (discussing, reporting), developing visual representations (drawings, photos, samples, maps, graphs, dioramas, models), doing a demonstration, or preparing something in written form. Children of all ages need opportunities to organize, prepare, and present information in all of these formats, according to their ability level. It is highly motivating for most children to prepare their presentations for an audience (the family, other children, fellow workers, sending copies to grandparents…), particularly if they can do it through a newscast, puppet show, play/skit, or demonstration.
Scrapbooks – Many children have found it fun and useful to demonstrate what they have learned by preparing a scrapbook of the host country and culture. Each child can prepare his own book, or all the children can cooperate to prepare a family scrapbook covering the topics they have studied. Or, separate booklets on the different topics can be made, possibly comparing/contrasting two countries/cultures of interest. These scrapbooks are excellent visuals to take on furlough to help home country relatives, church friends, and school peers understand where the children have been.
Besides including drawings, photographs, samples (of local fabrics, products, pressed leaves/flowers, etc.), maps, charts, and graphs, the scrapbook could also contain children’s writing about the topics. Different types of writing could be included – captions, explanations, “how-to” steps, stories, poems, interviews, posters, newspaper articles, etc. Because these scrapbooks will be viewed and read by relatives and friends, there is an obvious reason for children to revise, edit, proofread, express themselves well, and do neat work so their good information will be readable, understandable (think of the audience), and interesting to others. Other valuable skills such as organization and learning the parts of a book can also be developed as children prepare their scrapbooks. For many children, this project has turned into a product that is treasured for many years.
Possible Topics to Explore (adapt to child’s age/ability level)
- Surrounding Countries and Bodies of Water
- Latitude/Longitude, Size
- Physical Features – mountains, plains, deserts, jungles, rivers…
- Natural Resources – land, water/seas, minerals, vegetation/forests…
- Political Subdivisions
- Agriculture – types of crops, types of farming
- Sources of Electrical Power
- Seasons, types of storms, moderating influences
- Rainfall, temperatures
History and Politics
- Important people and events/eras, ideological influences, heroes (values shown)
- Political symbols (flag, seals, on coins/currency, etc.) illustrate values
- National Parks and Monuments – what celebrated? Why?
- Type of government (national, local), historical development, how leaders are selected/identified, types of responsibilities of government/indiv. citizens, requirements/privileges/responsibilities of citizenship, how laws are made, how laws are enforced
- Participation in world or regional organizations/alliances
- Population, distribution, growth
- Races, people groups
- Languages – national, local
- Industries, imports and exports; Tourism?
- Families – organization, member roles/jobs, methods of discipline/training
- Homes – structure, use of natural resources
- Food – typical meals, special foods, cooking practices, how food acquired, nutrition
- Clothing – daily dress, traditional/ceremonial dress, jewelry/adornment, hairstyles
- Market – goods offered, services offered, bartering?
- Transportation – types, availability
- Money – currency/coins, exchange rate, typical prices
- Ceremonies – birth, coming of age, marriage, death
- Communities – organization, people of influence, jobs
- Schools – curriculum, organization, type of teaching/studying, levels, grading
- Methods of showing respect, customs of politeness (greetings, eating, talking)
- Language Expressions – greetings, numbers, folk tales, traditional stories
- Music – songs, instruments, uses of music
- Dance – special, traditional
- Games – what children do for fun, sports, other types of recreation
- Festivities and Celebrations – rituals, meanings/origins, values demonstrated
Permission is granted to copy, but not for commercial purposes.