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The world in a room

August 17, 2005

Sarah Hill

Clad in wigs, Santa hats and feather boas, children laughed and

marched around a room at the Olive Recreation Center to the beat of a

drum.

Others in an adjacent room made paper machete masks with glitter,

colored tissue paper and glue as part of a Mardi Gras celebration.

The children were participating in Festive Experiences week, the

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sixth and final week of Arts Experiences Camp taking place at the

Olive Recreation Center. The program incorporates art, theater, music

and dance with the study of other cultures.

"You get to be creative and show what you feel," said Kristineh

Melik-Kasumyan, 10, who wore a bright pink feather boa during the

parade.

In addition to learning about parades and Mardi Gras, Festive

Experience week includes Day of the Dead and New Years celebrations.

Each previous week the program had a different region of the world as

its theme. During an Asian-themed week, children learned to draw

different Chinese characters and practiced making origami. During the

week that covered Africa, they learned African dances and listened to

a speaker from South Africa.

"It opens their eyes to different cultures besides their own,"

said Norman Morales, one of the program leaders, adding that the

program is beneficial because it allows children to physically

participate in different cultural practices rather than just seeing

it on TV or studying it in school.

Tyler Brooks, 9, agrees.

"We can't really learn it in school, we don't get to actually do

the dances," said Tyler, who likes Japanese comics, and enjoyed

learning how to draw Japanese animation during the week that covered

Asian culture.

Elizabeth Mkroyan, 10, who wore a "granny" wig during the parade,

most enjoyed learning about the self portraits of Frida Kahlo, by

making self portraits of her own.

"It's easier to draw yourself," she said.

Alejandra Biolatto, a senior recreation leader for Burbank Park,

Recreation and Community Services, is in charge of the program and

believes it not only teaches children about art and other countries

but helps give them a greater appreciation for other cultures.

"It gives the kids great insight into different world cultures,"

says Biolatto. "It shows kids we're more alike than different and it

teaches them to get to know people from other cultures, and hopefully

makes them more tolerant human beings."

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