Legend of Son Tinh (Mountain Spirit) and Thuy Tinh (Sea Spirit)
“Legend of Son Tinh (Mountain Spirit) and Thuy Tinh (Sea Spirit).” Photo credit: Vietnamese Legends and Folklores, www.geocities.com.

Every summer the same dilemma arises: “What am I going to do with my kids this summer?” Should you plan to get away with your kids, spend time with relatives, or stay home all summer long? Frequently this question poses more of a predicament for parents than children. However, now parents need not be stumped. Helping Link has a fun and culturally inclusive learning experience for the summer.

Helping Link is a non-profit organization providing educational, social, and cultural programs to empower and support Vietnamese immigrants and refugees in the greater Seattle Area. Support from the Seattle School Bilingual Program and the Lucky Seven Foundation made it possible for kids ages six through twelve to develop reading comprehension, writing, and math skills while encouraging students to value their culture. The students listened to folktales in Vietnamese and learned vocabulary words in both languages. Thanks to Samantha Welte, the curriculum author, as well as teachers and volunteer tutors, the program was a success. The youth developed their knowledge of Vietnamese culture while improving their English vocabulary and grammar skills. In order to work on these skills, literature had to be chosen through which both groups of students would find relevance and engagement. Vietnamese folktales were chosen and were, in fact, the perfect medium. The older students developed their writing process skills, starting from brainstorming and outlining, through learning how to revise and edit; culminating in a 500-word essay of the student’s own making.

Folktales included: the Watermelon, the Legend of Ngan, the Mountain Water Genie, Tu Thuc Meets a Fairy, and the Legend of Sword Lake. Much like American fairytales, such as Cinderella and Snow White, each of these folktales explained valuable lessons within a magical context. When asked if the kids were familiar with the folktales, many were not. Thus, reading these stories not only allowed for an increase in vocabulary, but also allowed for cultural enlightenment.

To supplement reading and art activities, the youth participated in several field trips. The Wing Luke Museum gave youth a chance to appreciate other Asian cultures and compare their traditions to those of Vietnam. It particularly addressed the immigrant experience, which all of our youth are experiencing. The students were exposed to the fact that many Asian families have experienced the same kind of immigration tribulations their families have. To engage the group even more, the group experienced a scavenger hunt throughout Little Saigon to familiarize themselves with the community they live in.

The students were also taught by six talented artists who volunteered their time and efforts weekly to inspire them to use the folktales to create art pieces. A group of students worked on a wall mural to be hung in “Little Saigon” for the community to enjoy while the younger students made a collective painting featuring the symbol of the three regions of Vietnam to present as a gift.

Next time you know children looking for a fun summer into which knowledge is “sneaked-in,” bring them over to the Helping Link Summer Program. Additionally, Helping Link hosts several other programs which include: English as a Second Language classes, U.S. Citizenship classes, Computer education classes, after school youth programs, Vietnamese language classes, cultural preservation, and links to community resources.

More information is available here..

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