Making Cross-Cultural Connections While Exploring SD History

When Mahli returned from the Courthouse Museum in downtown Sioux Falls with her students, I knew things had gone well.  She was beaming and talking a mile-a-minute.  “They loved it,” I heard several times as she showed me pictures from her camera of students trying on conductor hats, talking excitedly about a loom, and exploring historical coins.

Level 3 Citizenship students are all smiles posing inside the Courthouse Museum with Instructor Mahli Garry and Volunteers Brenda Ling and Frank Boerema.

Level 3 Citizenship students are all smiles posing inside the Courthouse Museum with Instructor Mahli Garry and Volunteers Brenda Ling and Frank Boerema.

“I wanted the students to visit the museum because it showed South Dakota history and the history of Sioux Falls.  I also wanted to facilitate a learning experience outside the classroom and have my students interact with the community.”  Mahli’s 20-25 learners who come every Saturday for citizenship class from 9:00 to 12:00 are from a variety of countries including Bhutan, Liberia, Sudan, Eritrea, and Ukraine.  All are studying American civics and government in preparation for passing the USCIS naturalization interview and test.

“I visited the Courthouse Museum a couple weeks before to let them know we were coming and asked to see their brochures and literature for visitors.  The staff were excited about our visit and offered to make a special pamphlet for our class, a unique guide with pictures of the exhibits.  We talked about the pamphlet in class before going.”

Exploring older modes of transportation.

Exploring older modes of transportation.

Students made connections with the Native American bead work they admired.

Students made connections with the Native American bead work they admired.

Students were fascinated by the American Indian Artistry Exhibit, which showcases cultural and historical artifacts used by Native Americans including bows and arrows, saddles, beaded purses, and a loom.  “The students connected the exhibit with their own experiences of using looms or their grandfathers using bows for hunting.” The City on Tracks exhibit was also enjoyed as students had ample opportunity to interact with the train exhibit.

"All aboard!"  Mahli and Baheru, a student from Ethiopia, take a break from their busy schedule as train conductors to pose for a quick picture.

“All aboard!” Mahli and Baheru, a student from Ethiopia, take a break from their busy schedule as train conductors to pose for a quick picture.

“I’m so thankful to the Courthouse Museum staff for welcoming us and creating the guide and the LSS volunteers who accompanied us.  This is a field trip I definitely want to do again!”

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