The Past Meets the Present

LSS adult English learners got a taste of South Dakota history a few weeks ago when English teachers Emily Koo and Diana Streleck took them to visit the Old Courthouse Museum in downtown Sioux Falls.

And what the students discovered there surprised them. Many of the antiques on display were items they were using in everyday life before they found refuge in and immigrated to the United States.

Emily explained that the students, who have moved to the U.S. from different parts of Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and Central America, really enjoyed “seeing the old replica of the house, store, and campsite in the museum. There, they saw antique coffee grinders, butter churns, cooking over a fire, buffalo yokes, and stove. Students were able to take these images and tell others about their life in their country.”

fireplace flag
LSS adult English learners recently visited the Old Courthouse Museum.

Diana said she was happy when a student walked into the museum and, upon seeing the old building structure, said, “I had forgotten Bhutan. Now I remember it.” 

“That really touched me,” Diana said. “It was so amazing to hear her say that.”

Emily said the women, especially, liked seeing the large loom in the main hall. “Students related very well to the loom and talked about the different textiles that they had made back in their home country for personal or business use,” Emily said.

loom                 
The loom in the Old Courthouse Museum reminded many adult English learners of their home countries.

The purpose of the field trip was to expose students to local and state history as well as to give them an opportunity to practice English in the community and find places where they could bring their families at a later date. Emily said that “part of the followup activities included a lesson on bringing their family to the museum on a weekend.”

Emily said she enjoys seeing how historical museums help her students realize how much they have in common with Americans.

“I always love and enjoy seeing my students make those connections when they see old equipment, a loom, a sod house, a bearskin coat, an antique car, when they can say, ‘Oh, we have those in my country’ or ‘In my country, I used this every day,’” Emily said.

coins  buffalo     The fieldtrip to the Old Courthouse Museum gave students a taste of South Dakota’s past – and reminded them of their own.

Emily pointed out that her own grandmother and the Bhutanese grandmothers in her class have both used looms to make rugs or skirts. “My great grandfather would grind coffee in a hand crank grinder like they have. It’s such a wonderful experience when they learn that we have these similar experiences to unite us,” she said.

It’s helpful for immigrants to see that their new country is not so different from their native one, and stories like these are always a nice reminder to us 2nd, 3rd, and 4th generation immigrants that we all have more in common than we realize

Here’s to butter churns and hand-cranked coffee grinders! : )

Posted by Julie Boutwell-Peterson

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