Language Endangerment Can Affect Cultural, Economic, and Spiritual Goals

Language endangerment is a serious concern. For a variety of reasons, speakers of many smaller languages stop using them and begin using another language that may not reflect their heritage. Parents may begin to use only that second language and gradually the inter-generational transmission of the native language is reduced and may even cease. If there are no speakers who use the language as their first or primary language, the culture of the people may be affected.

As we learn from the IMC e-Field Trip, language is constructed on the foundation of the culture. If an indigenous culture is taught to speak a language developed from another culture, the question is what is added and what is lost. How can the impact on the culture be measured?

Language development is the result of the series of on-going planned actions that language communities take so they can effectively use their languages to achieve their social, cultural, political, economic, and spiritual goals. Many native communities are taking steps to preserve the vitality of their languages and to find new ways of using them.

Here is an IMC People Group Fact:

Jula is the trade language of western Burkina Faso and northern Cote d’Ivoire. It is designated by the government to be one of five languages to be developed for literature. 

This graph shows the place of Jula within the cloud of all living languages. Each language in the world is represented by a small dot that is placed on the grid in relation to its population (in the vertical axis) and its level of development or endangerment (in the horizontal axis), with the largest and strongest languages in the upper left and the smallest and weakest languages (down to extinction) in the lower right.

Language Cloud for Jula

  • Purple = Institutional (EGIDS 0-4) — The language has been developed to the point that it is used and sustained by institutions beyond the home and community.

To learn more, visit the International Museum of Cultures. (IMC)

Why is Learning Through a Museum So Effective

We are reminded in the blog post called Memory and Storytelling, of an Indian proverb from a “stories-told” book, The Right Words at the RightTime by Marlo Thomas and Friends

“TELL ME A FACT: I’LL LEARN.
TELL ME A TRUTH: I’LL BELIEVE.
BUT TELL ME A STORY: IT WILL LIVE IN MY HEART–FOREVER.”

The artifacts in a museum all hold stories. And those stories are waiting to be released in a thunder within the minds of children that observe and, when possible, touch the artifact. This experiential effect stimulates further creative thinking leading to more questions and more answers.

A great example of an artifact that tells a story is the Talking Drum. The Talking Drum, called a nkul, is a wooden slit drum that reverberates at dawn around and through the trees and houses of the Ewondo people of Mekomba, Cameroon. When we think of drums being used to communicate, we often think of the drum as a musical instrument. Many cultures throughout history also used them to convey a signal. However, some native civilizations use drums as a speech surrogate. A Speech Surrogate replicates the tone and rhythm of oral speech, taking the ability of a drum to communicate to an entirely new level. Its these types of artifacts that take children to places they never imagined. (Refer to our previous post on Talking Drums where we highlight the book, the “People of the Drum of God – Come”.)

The Museum of International Cultures can bring this experiential learning to the classroom. The Student does not even need to travel to the museum. Some examples of the ways the Museum collaborates with educators are:

Discovery Boxes

Discovery Boxes allow students to experience cultures around the world in a unique and interactive way. Discovery boxes come in 12 different themes and include a variety of genuine artifacts from the museum’s collection. Students are be able to touch and examine the artifacts while completing activities and worksheets that encourage them to think critically about the world around them using Project Based Learning (PBL) methods.

Boxes include:

  • a teacher’s guide with detailed object descriptions
  • curricula covering TEKS for K-12 science, social studies, English language arts, fine arts, and math
  • eye-opening activities that guide your students through understanding the objects

Electronic Field Trip

The Electronic Field Trip is entirely online and is designed as an interactive learning tool.

  • A series of videos delivered over the Web that provide an entertaining tour of different sections of the museum. The tour focuses on the Peoples of Africa, South America, Papua New Guinea, Asia, and Mexico
  • Curricula covering TEKS for K-12 science, social studies, English language arts, and math.

For more information on the educational tools from the International Museum of Cultures, call (972) 572-0462.

Entering a New Era in Education

Entering a new year, we reflect on the changes that we have seen in the past to predict the future that is before us. There is one primary purpose for this activity. That is to prepare ourselves to be the most effective in an ever evolving world.

Museum of International Cultures, Dallas, Texas

Museum of International Cultures, Dallas, Texas

As a museum with a mission of educating others on diverse cultures, we understand how quickly social and cultural changes can occur. An example is the change occurring in our educational system in the United States. We are entering a new era in education.

This new era is spurring conversation and, consequently, partnerships. The Partnership for 21st Century Skills professes that the key for success in the United States educational system is to fuse the traditional 3Rs with the 4Cs.

  1. Critical thinking and problem solving,
  2. Communication,
  3. Collaboration, and
  4. Creativity and innovation.

As the Center for the Future of Museums in their blog states: “…museums are pre-adapted to be major players in the next era of education.” The Center depict the new era of education to be:

  • Lifelong Learning
  • Beyond institutions
  • Software-mediated
  • Teacher as facilitator

Museums provide a means to personally interact with the subject to be learned. This experiential effect can stimulate further creative thinking leading to more questions and more answers. When learning in a museum setting, discovery can also create a desire to share the experience generating further collaboration and communication.

The International Museum of Cultures offers the following Educational Tools for this new era of education. These tools are specifically designed to address the new means of learning while also assisted the smaller school budgets of the new year.

Electronic Field Trip

The Electronic Field Trip is entirely online and is designed as an interactive learning tool.

  • A series of videos delivered over the Web that provide an entertaining tour of different sections of the museum. The tour focuses on the Peoples of Africa, South America, Papua New Guinea, Asia, and Mexico
  • Curricula covering TEKS for K-12 science, social studies, English language arts, and math.

Discovery Boxes

Discovery Boxes allow students to experience cultures around the world in a unique and interactive way. Discovery boxes come in 12 different themes and include a variety of genuine artifacts from our museum’s collection. Students will be able to touch and examine the artifacts while completing activities and worksheets that encourage them to think critically about the world around them using Project Based Learning (PBL) methods.

Boxes include:

  • a teacher’s guide with detailed object descriptions
  • curricula covering TEKS for K-12 science, social studies, English language arts, fine arts, and math
  • eye-opening activities that guide your students through understanding the objects

For more information on the educational tools from the International Museum of Cultures, call 972-708-7406.

Language is Built on the Need of Its Culture

The language of a people defines its culture in many ways.

“The world in which you were born is just one model of reality. Other cultures are not failed attempts at being you. They are unique manifestations of the human spirit.”
-Wade Davis

Electronic Field Trip at the International Museum of CulturesThe Electronic Field Trip from the International Museum of Cultures discusses this concept. Below is an excerpt from the e-Field Trip on Mexico. It touches upon how a language is built upon the foundation of its culture.

◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊

Docent:

What language is spoken in Mexico?

Student:

Spanish. My mother speaks Spanish when she is mad at me.
(student laughter.)

Docent:

Yes, Spanish is the dominate language in Mexico, but did you know that there are 7 language families in Mexico and 298 of individual languages besides Spanish? The map on the back wall shows, in white, where Spanish is the primary language and, in the colors, where other languages are predominate.
(Cut to map)
Docent: (CONT.)
You can see that most of the non-Spanish speakers live in the southern part of Mexico. Some of the languages are tonal which means that the only difference between “I’m going, and I’m not going” may be the tone of your voice. Likewise, some are also nasal, and you must say a vowel through your nose. If you don’t, you might say “chili pepper”, like I did when you really wanted to say “horse’s tail”!

Student:
That could be a problem if you were trying to make chili and put a horse’s tail in the pot.
(student laughter.)
Docent:
You’re right. Languages, to some extent, are partially a result of need. Mixtec dialects can have as many as 20 different words for corn, like the Eskimos have many words for snow: soft snow, slushy snow, icy snow, etc. The Tzeltales in the state of Chiapas have 25 verbs for “carry”, depending on HOW you are going to carry something: on your back, over your shoulder, in a pocket, in your hand, etc.

◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊

As we learn from the e-Field Trip, language is constructed on the foundation of the culture. If an indigenous culture is taught to speak a language from another culture, what is added and what is lost? How can the impact be measured?

Contact the International Museum of Cultures for more information on the Electronic Field Trip and other educational tools.

How Native Australians Make a Didgeridoo

The Didgeridoo (Yirdaki)

The didgeridoo is thought to be one of the oldest instruments in the world, its usage dating back tens of thousands of years. The instrument itself is at the core of the historical, ceremonial, and cultural practices of the groups that use it.

Didgeridoo from the International Museum of Cultures

Although the didgeridoo has become a symbol of Australia Aboriginal culture throughout the world, it was originally only used by a few groups in the northeast part of Australia.

Some also call a Didgeridoo a Yirdaki. According to didjeridu.com,“the yirdaki is merely a type of didjeridu, a form that is used by the Yolngu people of north-east Arnhem Land. The yirdaki is quite different to other types of didjeridu because of its particular acoustic properties, though this in itself shows variance according to regional preferences and prescribed law among Yolngu clan groups.”

Its low, droning sound is thought to connect individuals with nature and the spirits of “Dreamtime,” or a time of the past when deities were involved in human affairs. Teachers also use the didgeridoo to imitate nature and animal sounds while teaching children about the world around them. Today, didgeridoos have gained worldwide appeal, but many feel like this is at the expense of their traditional sacredness. This didgeridoo, like the majority in the market today, has been produced for commercial purposes but is modeled after traditional designs.
   

Making a Didgeridoo by a Native Australian

To make these instruments the native Australians find a Eucalyptus which is partially hollowed out by termites. They remove a piece of bark and tap the tree to judge the sound before they begin cutting at the base of the tree. Once the tree is cut, and if the hollow inside it is the right dimension, the maker will then cut a 4-6 ft. long section of the tree. To ensure the wood does not crack, the log is cured, either by soaking in water for days or weeks, or by allowing it to completely dry out. All the bark is then stripped from the wood, and if necessary the walls are carved down to reduce the thickness, and sometimes the hollow of the log is better cleaned out as well. After this is complete, a mouthpiece is formed from beeswax, and the instrument is decorated, either with specific patterns for ceremonial use, or to the makers liking if for personal use.

You can learn more at the International Museum of Cultures  a unique anthropology museum. The museum is located in southwest Dallas County. However, the museum also provides transportable artifacts (Discovery Boxes) and an Electronic Field Trip for education on indigenous cultures from around the world.

Electronic Field Trip Demonstrated at the MPMA 2012 Annual Conference

The Mountain-Plains Museum Association had a successful conference in Corpus Christi October 1st through the 5th. The International Museum of Cultures (IMC) had the opportunity to explore the purpose of Electronic Field Trips with the attendees during a conference session. This was an excellent opportunity to also present the decision process IMC followed in developing its Electronic Field Trip (IMC Rocks!) and related Project Based Learning transportable artifacts (Discovery Boxes).

 

The IMC recognized the increased role that museums are taking in education. An important reason for this increased role is because learning during a visit to a museum is from personal discovery and individual experience.

 

When a student personally discovers new information, further thought is stimulated creating new questions and the need for more answers. The process of learning through discovery stimulates critical thinking in our young people – a capability that is incredibly valuable for success in this technically connected world.

 

Individual experience occurs when a student is able to actually touch artifacts that are not part of their immediate environment or culture. There is a great movement in Project Based Learning (PBL)  in the classroom because of the advantages of learning through personal experience. The IMC developed transportable artifacts (called Discovery Boxes) to provide this personal experience.

 

International Museum of Cultures Music Discovery Box

World Music Discovery Box

 

The IMC wanted to provide a means for students, which did not have travel budgets to visit the museum, to still learn about indigenous cultures from around the world. The IMC developed an Electronic Field Trip to accomplish this.

 

Electronic Field Trip at the International Museum of Cultures

 

The eField Trip is accompanied with a complete curriculum. The Discover Boxes come with projects for learning. These tools become an excellent way to transport students into the museum without actually traveling to the museum.
The cuts in school budgets throughout the country have created an increased need for eField Trips and transportable artifacts, so, students can still have the benefits of museums.

 

For further information about the Electronic Field Trip and Discovery Boxes contact the International Museum of Cultures.

Anthroplogy Museum Supports Our Teachers Doing Project Based Learning

Project Based Learning

Project Based Learning (PBL,)  is a method of education that provides the student personal involvement in the learning process.

The student does not merely hear and read the information, but, actually takes part in the learning process with personal experience. The Student generally participates in PBL as a team member. The team can dynamically change the path of the process to obtain the expected result. Often, the expected result is beyond the original expectation because the students are free to spontaneously use their creativity. This freedom promotes the development of strategic problem solving that is greatly needed to perform well in this dynamic world.

Students at the Museum of Cultures Dallas Fort Worth Texas

The International Museum of Cultures has taken steps to assist our teachers by offering two educational tools below that fit well into the Project Based Learning model:

  • Discovery Boxes: Discovery boxes come in 12 different themes and include a variety of objects from our museum’s collection. Students will be able to touch and examine the objects while completing activities and worksheets that encourage them think critically about the world around them.
  • e-Field Trip: A Virtual Tour of the International Museum of Cultures that occurs without the need to travel to the museum. The videos come with related Curricula.

As Edutopia’s Page called “Project-Based Learning: A Short History” states: “…(John) Dewey challenged the traditional view of the student as a passive recipient of knowledge (and the teacher as the transmitter of a static body of facts). He argued instead for active experiences that prepare students for ongoing learning about a dynamic world. As Dewey pointed out, “Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.”

For more information about the Discovery Boxes and Virtual Museum Tour provided by the International Museum of Cultures, contact us at (972) 708-7406.