Saturday, December 31, 2011

Naming Place - A New BMCT Eco-Art Project Collaboration in Udaipur

Water in the World & the Neighborhood
9-year-olds Exchange & Explore Ideas

Project Summary
Naming Place extends the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine’s mission of learning through play to schools across the world to facilitate cross-cultural educational collaboration. The project will give two fourth grade classrooms – one in Portland, Maine, USA and the other in Udaipur, Rajasthan, India – the opportunity to learn about themselves and another classroom across the world. After completing investigative studies of their own schools and lives, students will have the opportunity to share their findings with their partner classroom across the world. At the completion of the project, students will have a new awareness both of their own communities and how they relate to the rest of the world as fellow human beings.

Meeting Community Needs
While advances in technology and transportation have globalized communication and culture, often children’s and adults’ only lenses of foreign cultures are through global media. A commonly distorted and oversimplified perspective – for example, Bollywood and Hollywood – provide little substantial insight into the meaning of a people and a place. A healthy sense of identity and origin is essential to facilitating positive socio-cultural interaction; when we learn to understand ourselves, we can begin to understand others. Naming Place seeks to instill a curiosity about world cultures and a sense of place in fourth graders on two continents, giving them a stronger sense of their own cultural identity and how they relate to unfamiliar cultures around the world.
Water is, inarguably, one thing that connects every living being on the planet. Water shapes the way we build our cities, how our bodies function, and how we interact with the natural world. Our water is a metaphor for the interconnectedness of the global ecosystem and can illustrate to children the ways we – both positively and negatively – interact with our environment. For these reasons, we have chosen water as the theme for our classroom activities.

The Naming Place concept is the result collaboration between Jamie Andrew, Educator and Community Engagement Coordinator at the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine, and Rita Dixit-Kubiak, founding trustee of Big Medicine Charitable Trust (BMCT). Jamie’s position at the Museum & Theatre brings the experience with hands-on learning to the partnership, along with the institution’s connections to hundreds of area schools and over 100,000 visitors per year. Her current pursuit of an MA in Cultural Sustainability from Goucher College will inform best culturally sensitive practices and inquiry throughout the project. Rita is the primary conduit of information to and action in Udaipur and is connected to numerous schools, artists and NGOs who will all contribute to the success of the project. BMCT has undergone many projects since its inception, including Greening India, devoted to supporting sustainability efforts in Udaipur and its schools. These two individuals are the driving force behind Naming Place.

In Portland, Jamie will work with a fourth grade classroom at Presumpscot Elementary School. In Udaipur, Rita (who travels back and forth between homes in Maine and Udaipur) will work with Maharana Mewar School. Both schools have teachers who are enthusiastic about the project, making them ideal settings for a pilot program that can serve as a model for future participants.

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