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CultuRama's learning focus

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Cathy Jones
Vice Principal High School, UWCSEA East

Before joining UWCSEA, Cathy has been privileged to have a variety of teaching and leadership experiences, both in terms of location and educational levels. She has worked with students in China, New Zealand, South Africa and England, at middle school, high school and at tertiary level, and in international, public and private schools.

A Geographer and English teacher, Cathy has also enjoyed working with students as they develop leadership skills through a range of service activities, on field trips and excursions and in activities such as Model United Nations (MUN), the publishing of the year book, 'Roots and Shoot's and student leadership groups.

Travel and photography are her favourite holiday pastimes, and she hopes to visit Antarctica when someone works out how to get there cheaply, without being seasick.

CultuRama's learning focus

It is difficult to find a skill or quality of the UWCSEA profile that is not addressed through participating in CultuRama

When two students approached us three years ago about initiating an East Campus festival celebrating our panorama of cultures, many ideas were floated as to what we might do, and what students might take from such a festival.

Through planning what became CultuRama, we recognised an opportunity for students to not only learn about one another and themselves, but also to learn and develop through the very process of organising and executing a large-scale community event. As CultuRama has grown over the past three years, so has our understanding of the many ways in which students learn through the experience.

Having a group of students from many different backgrounds join your dance, and learning the steps and hearing the music of your country, has given dance leaders an opportunity to talk about particular and specific traditions. For example, what is the meaning behind the use of a scarf, or the style of dress?

Sometimes dance leaders have had to learn about a culture other than their own to ensure that what the dance portrays on stage is both accurate and appropriate. There are many hours of research through YouTube to check steps and routines, or appropriate gestures for men and women! Why is it that women cannot participate in a traditional haka, or men use certain steps? Cultural knowledge is built as students experience dances from cultures other than their own.

It is difficult to find a skill or quality of the UWCSEA profile that is not addressed through participating in CultuRama. There are the obvious ones—creativity, collaboration and communication seem to be intrinsic—but resilience, self awareness and self management are essential too, when you have many hours of rehearsal while juggling academics, other activities and service. Empathy and problem solving are also a part of leading and producing such an event, and dare we say the need to be principled when the tickets come out on sale!

As an audience member, CultuRama has been an invaluable reminder of the mosaic of our humanity. The expression of culture through dance often shows us something of the geography, history and beliefs of peoples across the world. Mauritius followed by China, New Zealand preceding Georgia—contrasting dances indeed, showing contrasting cultures. But there were the connections too, showing how we have influenced each other through migration, colonisation, assimilation and proximity.

In the end, the most valuable aspect of CultuRama has been the learning that students gain through their efforts to build a unifying community event. With almost a third of our High School students involved in one way or another, with teachers, administrative and facilities staff supporting, and with parents participating by providing food to be shared, it has become a tradition that brings us together while learning to appreciate each other’s differences.

So what does CultuRama mean to the students who dedicate themselves to organising and performing it? It means learning new skills, often acquiring new knowledge, developing deeper understanding and connecting with our community.



21 Dec 2015
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