The expERIEnce Children’s Museum partnered with six New American families and a family from Puerto Rico to create a video series titled “expERIEnce My Home.” Each video welcomes the viewer to learn about a specific culture, from a child’s eye view. The viewer is invited to learn about the Bosnian pastry called pita, a traditional Syrian wedding dance, the celebration of Diwali, how Congolese carry a baby on their back, traditional Puerto Rican attire, and ancestral drumming from Nepal. Children share greetings in Swahili, Spanish, Arabic, Bosnian, and Tamang.
Families captured their own video and shared it with a team composed of museum staff, volunteers, New American teaching artists, and EAC’s Folklorist-in-Residence, Kelly Armor. Small groups met with each family to review their footage and interview them, and help them decide how to sequence the clips. The Children's Museum recognizes that allowing families to speak for themselves ensured authenticity, and centering on the children made for lively and accessible content.
Several parents shared that their children were better at articulating their traditions than they had previously realized. Merjem Garic, a singer and painter said, “The best thing for me was to talk with my daughter about our culture. We don’t usually have this kind of discussion. It surprised me what my daughter wanted to put in the video. I learned that she really likes our culture. She wants to go back to Bosnia now!”
Gyan Ghising, a rostered teaching artist with Erie Arts & Culture from Bhutan and Nepal said, “Adults know what it means to be from another country. Little kids don't really understand. These videos really help children see what it's like to be raised in a different culture. My own kids saw the other videos and now they have a better understanding of how important our culture is. It has shown them that our culture is rich! It has inspired them to keep it.”
Kelly Armor explains, “Culture is the way we live our lives, and when we are immersed in it, we often don’t see it. This video series is magical to me because it makes the invisible visible. It celebrates the richness Erie has that is hidden to many of us. It also has helped families become more conscious of how they maintain their traditions through food, language, music, and dance.”
The project has helped the Children's Museum develop relationships with diverse families. Nibal Abd El Karim, a project advisor and a singer from Palestine, added, “It means a lot to our Arabic speaking community to see our culture featured. It helps people feel good about the Museum. Just like when I came here to Erie, I would be so happy to see an Arabic sign in a store. I knew then that the store would have something for me. These videos show the New American families that the Children's Museum is for them, too.”
The Children's Museum staff benefitted as well. Ashley Markiewicz, Education Coordinator, said, “It was an honor to be a part of a project that educates learners of all ages about the uniqueness of humankind. The conversations I was able to be a part of are something I will always carry with me.” Breanne Daugherty, the Assistant Education Coordinator and Outreach Coordinator added, “I hope we can continue to work with these families, and many more, to truly make the Children's Museum a place where all families feel welcome to come play together.”
This was part of a long term residency project administered by Erie Arts & Culture with funding from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, and AHN-Saint Vincent Hospital. Support for this program was also provided from an Erie Arts & Culture Ignite Arts Grant, made possible by community contributions to the United Arts Fund and the Erie Arts Endowment.