International Curiosity and National Pride
- Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Bulgaria
- Grades 3-5, Grades 6-8
- Cross-Cultural Understanding
Students will look at their own culture and at Bulgarian culture to identify national, local, or ethnic traits, while at the same time attempting not to over-generalize about any particular group of people.
After studying the letter and engaging in activities, students should be able to
- Identify at least three important characteristics of their culture that help make it unique.
- Compose a list of questions for a Bulgarian visitor to their class about life in Bulgaria.
- Name three media sources people in the United States use to learn about others, and assess the accuracy of the information. Explain how common characteristics and unique features of two places promote cross-cultural communication. >Explain why representatives of a foreign country should avoid unwarranted generalizations about their country and its people.
- A shoebox or another small box to hide an object for "20 Questions."
- Peace Corps information on Bulgaria
- Reference guide(s) to your area, such as a state almanac or county history
- Lyrics to songs such as "America the Beautiful" or "God Bless America," or other songs that list American characteristics
- Music and lyrics to the song "Finlandia" (Google "This Is My Song")
- Tell the students that they will be reading a letter titled "International Curiosity and National Pride." Ask them what they think "national pride" means, and tell them they will be doing some activities that will help them learn about it as it applies to the United States and Bulgaria.
- Distribute song sheets for patriotic American songs, such as "America the Beautiful," "America," and "God Bless America." If you are musically inclined, sing the songs with the class. If not, read the lyrics together as a choral reading. Ask the students what they think makes these songs uniquely American. Have the students reread the songs, focusing on the positive characteristics of America in the lyrics. Have the students identify the characteristics mentioned, and list them on the board or overhead. Ask the students how the characteristics could be classified, and group them on the board or overhead according to climate, land forms, plants and animals, and human values or other features of culture. Help the students see that as people identify with these positive features of a place, and as they live there as citizens, they feel pride in the place they consider their homeland.
- Distribute the lyrics of "Finlandia." Sing or read the first two verses of the song. Ask the students what message the writer is trying to convey. (See the list of materials, above, for a source for the lyrics.) Help the students see that national pride is not a unique characteristic of one place, but that it exists in many places. Many different places have positive features (symbolized by blue skies) that people appreciate, and this appreciation builds national pride.
- Optional: Ask the students to identify some sources of pride for them in their own state, region, or community. Divide the students into small groups for this activity, and assign each group one of these categories: climate, landforms, plants, animals, human values or another aspect of culture. Have the small groups brainstorm positive features in their category, and have them use reference guides (paper or electronic) to broaden their lists. After each group reports to the class on their findings, make a class chart titled "Sources of Regional Pride," which you can display in the hall or classroom. Groups also could illustrate positive features of the region to liven up the display.
- Ask the students to focus on the concept "International Curiosity." Show them Bulgaria's location on a globe or map. Show them its European neighbors and ask the students if they have any knowledge of Bulgaria, and, if so, how they learned about the country. Record their contributions on the board to keep for later use (using a three-part chart that lists what students know about a topic, what they think they know about it, and what they want to find out about it).
- Next, play "20 Questions" with the class. Hide an object in a shoebox and have the students ask "yes" or "no" questions to help them identify the hidden object. Tell them the game will give them practice for the next assignment, which is to write 20 questions they would like to ask a visitor from Bulgaria who is coming to speak to the class. After students have identified the object in the shoe box, have them write 20 questions on Bulgaria. Advise them that this is their chance to find out what Bulgaria is really like, from someone who lives there.
- Give the students time to write their questions, and at the end of the exercise ask them for some examples. Help the students see that the thought process behind their questions, "International Curiosity," concerned two major categories: ways that Bulgaria is different from their region, and ways that Bulgaria is the same as their region.
- Read the letter "International Curiosity and National Pride" with the students. Point out the thought process of Elizabeth's Bulgarian friend Christian, when he is trying to identify characteristics of Bulgaria that are different from America's because of his national pride, and how he uses questions to identify those characteristics because of his international curiosity. Ask what it would be like to be Elizabeth (Vernon) Kelley when Bulgarians want to know what America is like, and she has to give an answer that represents an entire country. Point out the regional differences that exist in America, and that regional differences also exist in Bulgaria, such as those listed on Elizabeth's biography (link). Write the word "generalization" on the board and define it. Help the students see that Elizabeth and her Bulgarian friends have to deal with this concept when talking about America, just as the students would have to deal with it if a Bulgarian visitor came to their classroom. Finally, discuss the power of movies and music forming mental images of America and Americans in Bulgaria. Contrast the knowledge Bulgarians had about America with the knowledge the students in America had about Bulgaria. Review the concept of "generalization" and show the students how Elizabeth describes this concept in her letter.
- Ask the students to do an experiment to find out what music and movies tell them about America and Americans. Divide the students into groups of two or three and assign each group a popular movie each student in a group has seen. Have them write down what Americans are doing in the movie, what the American characters talk about, where they live, what they own, and what they seem to value?what is important to them. Have each group report their observations to the class, and record the information on a chart on the board. Ask if the movie portrays American life realistically. Determine if there are things that seem relatively accurate. (You can do the same with songs, if students know the lyrics to popular songs.) Help students see that generalizations drawn from a single medium from only one source of information may well not be valid. Discuss the value of the Peace Corps for providing people such as Elizabeth to deepen others' understanding of America and Americans.
Frameworks & Standards
- The media play an important role today in helping people form an impression about a country and its people.
- It is important to avoid unwarranted generalizations about a country and its people.
- All communities, regions, and nations have characteristics that make them unique places. Characteristics that make them distinctive include landforms, plant and animal life, climate, and culture.
- What qualities of a place help to influence a person's identity as a citizen?
- How are one's impressions of other people and places formed in everyday life?
- What factors are likely to promote dialogue with others from a different culture?
- Invite a Bulgarian citizen or immigrant to visit your classroom to talk about his or her country and, perhaps, to discuss Elizabeth (Vernon) Kelley's letter. Check with a local embassy or consulate, if you are near a large urban center, for a possible guest. Also check with local Bulgarian cultural groups or Bulgarian students at local colleges and universities.
- Have students research images of Bulgaria in U.S. media. They can check news channels for information on Bulgaria and look for articles in local or national newspapers. Try to find movies made in Bulgaria, or that portray Bulgarian life. Discuss what is included and what is missing.
- Have students research Bulgaria's imports and exports in its trade with the United States, and share the information with the class. What is the economic impact of Bulgaria on the United States, and vice versa?
- Ask the students to conduct a poll that asks people what features of America make it unique. Tally the results and share them with the class in the form of a graph or table.
- Research the art and music of Bulgaria, especially north-central Bulgaria, where Elizabeth lives. Compare the art and music of Bulgaria with that in your own part of the country. Share what you find with others.
- Locate the most popular patriotic songs of Bulgaria, such as the national anthem. If English translations are available, make a list of the positive features of Bulgaria mentioned in the songs. Compare that list with the list from the United States made during the activities above. Students should report their findings to the class.