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WCU groups to spread cultural awareness with in-school presentations

Passing along to Western North Carolina teachers from our friends at Western Carolina University ...

Teachers and administrators from K-12 schools across Western North Carolina will have a chance to schedule in-school presentations on international cultures for their students as a reorganized outreach program gets started back up in Western Carolina University’s Office of International Programs and Services.

Beginning in April, teams composed of WCU students and faculty and staff members, along with international cultural “hosts” from the university, will be available to visit schools in the region to give presentations on various cultures, said Ling Gao LeBeau, who recently was appointed director of the WCU office. “These presentations will be designed to raise the cultural awareness of students – to provide an opportunity for them to get to know cultures on the other side of the world and to learn to accept and understand them,” LeBeau said.

The process of restarting the outreach program began in December when eight teams of students from a WCU intercultural communications class taught by Jim Manning joined with their hosts – WCU international exchange students and faculty, and international community members – in giving presentations on various cultures at Cullowhee Valley School and Smoky Mountain High School in Jackson County. Manning, an associate professor in WCU’s Department of Communication, oversaw the effort that provided eight presentations at the schools in less than a week.

The hourlong presentations included hands-on learning activities for the Cullowhee Valley and Smoky Mountain students as well as insights into the cultures of China, Macedonia, Saudi Arabia, France, Germany and South Korea. The presentations got rave reviews from the schools’ teachers. Smoky Mountain High foreign language teacher Suzanne Tompkins said she “loved” the presentation provided to her class. “It brings everyone out of the box and makes students think outside of their own culture and society,” she said.

Students of Cullowhee Valley teacher Gretchen McCue learned about the culture of Germany and constructed “St. Martin’s Day” lanterns that are a custom of that traditional Germany holiday. “The excitement of the presentation group was so contagious,” McCue said. “The students were excited from the moment the first slide appeared to the moment they saw their lanterns light up.”

The WCU student groups worked with their hosts to create learning activities appropriate for specific grade levels and learning abilities. One Smoky Mountain High class learned what it takes to become a French hip-hop artist and wrote rap songs in French, while other students had an opportunity to try on South Korean attire and write in languages such as Arabic and Chinese.

School teachers and administrators around the region who are interested in scheduling presentations should contact Ling Gao LeBeau at 828-227-3433 or [email protected].

Photo from WCU Media Relations - WCU international students take part in a flag procession during the annual International Festival held on campus. The international flavor of the university will be going on the road as WCU groups provide presentations in classrooms around Western North Carolina.

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