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Local students learn about Asian culture

Disney World might imply that “It’s a Small World After All” but, for about 300 local fourth- and fifth-graders, it’s a big world and they got to experience it in a small way at “Experience Asia for Kids” on Thursday.

“Look at that fake lizard,” one boy said as the Japanese Dragon paraded on stage.

Students from Banks, Pike County, Troy and Luverne elementary schools participated in “Experience Asia for Kids,” which is a part of the ongoing “Experience Asia Festival” at Troy University Sept. 18-20.

“Experience Asia for Kids” included storytelling, a Kung Fu demonstration and a variety of arts activities but, perhaps, most importantly, it gave kids from South Alabama a chance to interact with international university students.

Deborah Davis, Troy University director of international student life, said the “Experience” was a win-win experience for both groups of students.

“This was a wonderful opportunity for our international students to interact with American students,” she said. “By working with young children, they learned more about what it’s like to be a part of life in America. Language is a big difference and they also had an opportunity to practice their English.

“As for the children, they learned a lot about the Asian culture. Experiences like this help us to learn to live together with respect. Everybody benefited from this experience. I don’t know what it will mean 20 years down the road but I would hope that it would help with international relations as our world becomes smaller every day.”

Dr. Maryjo Cochran, dean of the Troy University College of Communication and Fine Arts, said she was overwhelmed by the response of the fine arts and international students.

“We had about 50 volunteers who gave several hours of their time to ‘Experience Asia for Kids,’” Cochran said. “It was a wonderful experience for them. I think they had as much fun as the young students.”

Cochran said the collaboration between the international and Alabama students is a step in the right direction in Troy University’s international initiative.

Dawn Key, teacher at Pike County Elementary School, said “Experience Asia for Kids” was a unique experience for the students.

“This is the first time we have participate in an event like this and our students were very excited,” Key said. “And, I know they enjoyed it because they were so quiet during the storytelling. When students are quiet, you know they are listening and enjoying what they are hearing.”

Key said that, for many of the students, it was their first time interacting with international students.

“They recognized the students as Asian but they had never actually seen an Asian person,” she said. “This was a broadening experience for our students and they will benefit from it.”

The “Experience Asia Festival” will continue today with a performance by the Ronin Taiko Drummers at Troy Elementary School and with a public performance at 7:30 p.m. Saturday night at the Claudia Crosby Theater.

Tickets are $5 for children and students and $10 for adults. Tickets will be available at the door.

The Ronin Taiko Drummers are back by popular demand and are sponsored by the Troy University College of Communication and Fine Arts and the Confucius Institute.