To ensure the safety of students, teachers, and staff amidst the global COVID-19 pandemic, the National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) chose to make its summer program entirely virtual. The NSLI-Y Virtual Summer Intensive (VSI) program of 2020 was a virtual alternative to NSLI-Y’s standard summer programming that aimed to provide an intensive virtual language learning experience for NSLI-Y students. The program ran for five weeks from July 6 – August 7, 2020, with programs in Arabic, Chinese (Mandarin), Hindi, Indonesian (Bahasa), Korean, Persian (Tajiki), Turkish, and Russian.
In addition to providing an educational language learning experience for students, the Virtual Summer Intensive offered students the opportunity to meaningfully engage with the cultures of program countries. Students learned about history and art, food and crafts, dance and design, and more!
Below are some highlights of the cultural activities that NSLI-Y VSI students took part in this past summer:
NSLI-Y VSI Hindi students were taught by Mrunal Potnis how to create Warli art, a type of tribal art from Maharashtra, India, traditionally done on house walls during festive seasons and weddings, but which has recently become popular on canvas and fabric as well. These paintings often depict daily and social life or reflect a close connection between tribe and nature. Students were asked to create greeting cards or bookmarks modeled after Warli art, guided along by the instructor.
NSLI-Y VSI Korean students made different Korean traditional games using materials that were easily available around them in their homes. After making the games, they were able to use them to play with their family members. They used their artistic creativity to decorate colorful folded flip cards with different designs, drawings, and Korean words.
NSLI-Y VSI Arabic students watched various videos recorded by their Moroccan language partners, in which they filmed themselves making traditional Moroccan dishes and introduced NSLI-Y students to Moroccan cuisine. NSLI-Y students then had the task of making a video of themselves cooking a Moroccan dish. Guided by the recorded video, one of the students made a Morocco pancake called baghrir (بغرير), also known as the “thousand holes pancake.”
NSLI-Y VSI Russian students went on virtual excursions to learn about both the Daugavpils Fortress and the legacy of Latvian-born artist Mark Rothko. The tour guide, Janis, told students about the structure and history of the fortress and its role in delaying the advance of Napoleon’s army in 1812. Students also took a virtual tour of the Daugavpils Mark Rothko Art Center, a multifunctional center for contemporary art, culture, and education. Students learned new words related to the military and visual arts and asked questions in Russian after the tour.
NSLI-Y VSI Persian students learned about regional dances in Tajikistan. After learning about the regions of Khujand, Kulob, and the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO), students enjoyed demonstrations of Khujandi, Kulobi, and Pamiri dance styles. These demonstrations were led by guest dance instructors who also wore regional dresses for the occasion. After the demonstrations, students were led through each dance by their instructors.
NSLI-Y VSI Indonesian students took a cooking class where they prepared two typical Indonesian dishes: Bakwan Jagung and Tumis Buncis Wortel. The participants followed a recipe in Indonesian with the guidance of their teachers and used their family members as taste-testers. One participant mentioned in her reflection of the activity: “My family loved both meals and wants to add them to our weekly meal rotation! I will definitely be making these again!” Another participant commented that “the addition of sugar to both dishes interested me because sugar isn’t really used in many savory dishes in the US.” The participants enjoyed sharing their cultural learning with their families and experimenting with new recipes.