American Culture Class
Published: July 19, 2017
This class engaged villagers in the American way of life through various lessons and activities: visits to art museums and downtown city attractions, critiques of popular movies, discussion and analysis of sports in American culture, and an overview of American geography and tourism. This class also aimed to generate fruitful discussions by exploring controversial topics such as American politics, art and literature, and the American education system.
On July 4th, we had our first lesson: Independence Day! We discussed America’s national holiday and each villager shared about their home country’s national holiday traditions. Villagers learned that July 4th marks the United States’ birth date back in 1776 when the Declaration of Independence was signed. In addition to learning about this important American history and its patriotic symbols, villagers reviewed current holiday customs such as wearing red, white, and blue clothing, having barbecues or picnics with traditional summertime food, watching parades, and going to a fireworks show at night.
Our second lesson was an overview of an internationally popular topic: American movies. We analyzed how popular stories are structured with interesting characters, intense conflicts, exciting action, and satisfying resolutions. Our class’s discussion became very lively as all the villagers were able to think of examples from their own favorite movies.
American movies are such a big topic that we had to continue our lesson the next day. Villagers got creative this time by developing their own movie idea. Their idea had to have a well developed plot, characters with different personalities and motivations, conflicts and complications, and a big action climax to end their movie. To share their story, villagers made a film poster. Everyone got VERY involved with their posters! Villagers had fun discussing their movies with their partners and revising the details as they drew colorful scenes on their poster paper. At the end, every pair shared their poster with the class. It was one of our most memorable classes.
Culture Class, like all other Collegetown Prep programs, was not limited to the classroom. We visited the Plains Art Museum and viewed regional American art. This was a unique experience, as the museum had galleries for local Native American artists and themes. We also took a walking tour of the downtown Fargo area and observed how American cities design their downtown areas to attract people.
Next, villagers reviewed American literature. This class gave villagers a taste of an American high school or college English class. They reviewed major themes and styles in American literature through analyzing a variety of writings from America’s diverse, famous authors.
After American literature, we surveyed U.S. history. While reviewing major events, from Christopher Columbus’s voyage in 1492 all the way to the September 11, 2001 attacks, the election of Barack Obama, and current political issues, the class discussed why these events are influential today and how different Americans interpret them.
Do you know what numbers are lucky and unlucky in America? Why would Americans cross their fingers when they make a wish? Do Americans really believe in superstitions?
Villagers learned about the various superstitions and myths in America, and they practiced their reading and speaking skills by telling their classmates about an amusing American myth they had studied. One of our funny myths was about the local folk character, Paul Bunyan, a giant lumberjack who stomped around Minnesota to create the state’s famous 10,000 lakes.
The United States is a very big country with many regions, major cities, and famous sites. Villagers learned the layout of the U.S. map- going beyond cities like New York and Los Angeles. At the end of the lesson, villagers were able to see the geographic organization of the United States, with its rich variety of natural beauty and colorful cities.
Finally, villagers critiqued and discussed a very popular topic for high school students in America and abroad: sports and high school. There were so many similarities and differences between student life in America and our villagers’ home countries. We were able to compare our different cultures and ask critical questions about the importance of sports and after-school activities in student life, as well as how students are benefited by extracurricular activities compared to academics. This was such a rich topic, and our villagers had so much to say. Some were surprised by how early American students finished their school day, and by how enthusiastic and outgoing American students seem to act. Everyone was so excited by this topic- it was too bad that it was our last class, as we would have liked to spend more time exploring daily life for young Americans.
The American Culture Class covered so many things that it is hard to sum up. Villagers were able to go beyond major holidays and traditions- they engaged with topics similarly to American high school students, and they developed their creative thinking to ask questions and form their own stories about the American way of life.