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Grade 3 Students Learn Cultural Heritage and Traditional Knowledge from Indigenous Peoples

Grade 3 Students Learn Cultural Heritage and Traditional Knowledge from Indigenous Peoples

By Fish Tung, Assistant Communications Officer

In an effort to promote inclusivity, cultural awareness, and a deeper understanding of their local and global community, Grade 3 students and teachers recently embarked on a learning journey to explore the Indigenous cultures of Taiwan and the Pacific Northwest Coast. 

Using hands-on experiences, workshops, and events with guest speakers, this comprehensive approach was designed to foster respect for cultural differences while highlighting the interconnectedness and complexity of Indigenous communities worldwide. As part of their social studies curriculum, Grade 3 educators endeavored to connect their students with local cultures, develop awareness, and promote intercultural competency. 

The journey of cultural discovery began with the Grade 3 team immersing themselves in hands-on experiences. On February 7, two local Amis artists, along with 33 Upper School students from English Language and Literature classes, led an Indigenous Crafts Workshop for over 150 Grade 3 students. They learned how to make bead key rings using traditional braiding techniques and gained insight into the cultural significance of certain patterns. 

Additionally, on March 14, students received an introduction to the 16 groups of Taiwan Indigenous Peoples, focusing specifically on the cultural traditions, events, music, and dance of the Amis group, also known as Pangcah. This session was led by Ms. Yuen Yuen Hsu, an Upper School English/Greek & Latin Assistant, who hails from one of the Amis tribes in Hualien. 

From learning traditional dances to understanding the significance of cultural rituals, these initial workshops set the stage for a deeper exploration of Indigenous cultural heritage, including further sessions on the Indigenous Peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast. 

“Our focus this semester was to broaden students' perspectives and cultivate a deep sense of inclusivity and respect for diverse cultures,” explained one of the Grade 3 teachers. “By exploring Indigenous cultures locally and globally, we aimed to nurture mindful learners in an interconnected world.” 

Shortly after spring break, the Grade 3 team had the privilege of learning from guest speaker Ms. Samantha Biasca, also known as K’_alaag’aa Jaat, who shared insights into her heritage as a member of the Kaigani Haida, Tlingit, and Inupiaq tribes. 

Ms. Biasca's presentations provided a window into Haida geography, tribal social structures, the significance of the Potlatch ceremony, artistic expressions, and traditions of her tribes, offering valuable insights that transcended the confines of the classroom. It was a unique opportunity for students to understand more about the ancestral wisdom of Indigenous Peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast and how these communities thrive in the modern world. 

“We hope to broaden students’ perspectives and deepen their appreciation for diverse cultures, starting from our own local Indigenous communities,” shared one Grade 3 teacher. “By learning about Ms. Yuen Yuen Hsu and Ms. Biasca's heritage, we hope they not only gained knowledge about distant cultures but also recognized the shared values of Indigenous Peoples across the globe.” 

While their learning journey continues, the “Traveling Museum” session on April 25 marked a wrap up for this semester. Representatives from the Taiwan Indigenous Education Center delivered a lecture about traditional clothing, artifacts, and captivating legends. A translator from the Shung Ye Museum of Formosan Aborigines, Jane, facilitated communication to ensure language barriers did not hinder the exchange of knowledge and understanding.  

Reflecting on the broader significance of these educational endeavors, the Grade 3 team emphasized the importance of honoring the land and its peoples: “By learning from Indigenous communities, we hope to foster respect for the environment and the diverse cultures that inhabit it.” 

The community support for these learning initiatives is greatly appreciated. With each lesson learned and cultural exchange embraced, Grade 3 students are taking meaningful steps toward building a more compassionate community and shaping globally-minded individuals. Through their exploration of Indigenous cultures, they are enriching their educational journey and paving the way for a more inclusive and understanding future.