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Culture Presentations

By Halee Wood

Confident humility is the quality required to successfully pull off an adoption or culture presentation in your child’s classroom at school, church or another event. Humility that you do not know everything about adoption or your child’s place of heritage, yet confident that you and your child can develop something together that they and their peers will enjoy! I have given many of these presentations for children ranging from 3 years old to 12 years old, and, with each opportunity, it bolstered our boys and has, at times, reduced some of the curiosity questions from classmates.

The presentations can range from simple to more complex. My encouragement is to do what works for you! Don’t let lack of resources or complexity hold you back because this can be a really special opportunity for you and your child.

Below are some variations of things I have done in the past. Again, I want to reiterate – make it your own!

1. Involve your child! I highly encourage soliciting your child’s input about topics they don’t want to discuss, whether or not they want to present, and how to handle potentially awkward questions from classmates.

2. Communication with the teacher is key! Teachers are typically welcoming of cultural presentations, especially if a parent has a habit of investing in the classroom. Get their input on time allotment, activities, food (not always allowed), and if there are any concepts being learned that could be reinforced during the presentation (i.e. “comparing and contrasting”).

3. Involve others from your child’s native heritage if possible. Involving other families in the school or community that have the same native heritage is invaluable. Ask if anything you are planning to present is insensitive or incorrect, and ask if there is anything they would like to contribute. As an added bonus, they may be willing to write the classmates’ names in the native language!

4. Time – lots of options! Depending on complexity and age of the class, the time can range from 15 minutes to an hour and a half! For Kindergarten and up I prefer at least 1.5 hours so I have time to teach and complete hands-on activities. The teachers often feel uncertain about this much time, but once they see how engaged the students are, they have, at times, asked me to return because the time didn’t seem like enough. I have also done the presentation over 3 separate days in much shorter segments of time with a unique focus for each day. If this much teaching time feels intimidating, just work with the teacher and find something that works for both of you!

5. Presentation – lots of options! Here are a few “musts” when I do an oral presentation:

  • I iterate that I am not “all-knowing” and what I share is limited to my experiences and what I have read and learned from other Koreans/Korean Americans.

  • I iterate that the things I am teaching may not apply to Koreans living in America.

  • I give guidance on respectful responses in case they learn something “weird” or “gross” to them. For example, eating squid may seem gross, but Korea is surrounded by ocean rather than farmland filled with cattle. Rather than saying “that’s gross”, they can respond with “How interesting!”.

  • My go-to topics are geography, language, food and customs/traditions. History and politics are also appropriate for the older classes, and I always include a lot of pictures.

6. Activities – lots of options! Hands-on activities can be used to break up the presentation or be done after the presentation. Providing stations for kids to rotate through with a team can be very effective. Some activity ideas include:

  • Chopsticks – Use chopsticks with and without cheaters to move beads from one bowl to another.

  • Writing – Provide 4 or 5 words (or their names) they can practice writing in the native language.

  • Singing – Teach a popular children’s song. YouTube is a great resource.

  • Games – I use “Kawi, Bawi, Bo”, the Korean version of Rock, Paper, Scissors.

  • Native clothing – When possible, I provide Hanboks for the kids to look at or try on.

  • Instruments

  • Money

  • “Look but don’t touch” – I am very clear with the kids how important these items are to our family, and I have not had anything broken yet! Some items I bring are a tea set, Korean flag, and art work.

  • Food – Incorporate food if possible! Teachers and parents always prepare me for picky eaters, but only once have I had a child refuse to try the food! If I do more than a simple snack, parents are often willing to provide a small donation as well as help on the day of the presentation.

Our sons’ peers and teachers ask year after year if I can return to their classrooms for the presentations. The students and teachers have developed such a fondness for South Korea, and it’s an incredible opportunity for learning and emotional growth for our boys. I’m so grateful we’ve had opportunities to share, and I hope you can, too!

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