Academic Excellence

Cultural Journey Around the World –– Second Stop: India

by Amy Liu (Class of 2023)

Usually, people think of history lessons as boring and the perfect time for a nap. But here at DVGS, things are a bit different. On February 28, 2018, the high school World History class joined the junior high for an Indian culture exchange. It featured a funny and charming adaptation of an ancient Indian epic story, the Mahabharata, in puppet show form, which was presented by the junior high students;

History in Action: The Mahabharata Puppet Show

and short, interesting lectures on the Mughal Empire of India by the high schoolers. This educational gathering was complete with a taste of traditional Indian lentil soup and one of the highlights of the culture exchange –– a live demonstration of the “spice explosion.”

The purpose of this culture exchange was to delve further into the exploration of one of the six Habits of Mind, “Come to understand other perspectives and cultures.” This cultural journey around the world was continued from last month’s event, but this time, it was focused on India. Through this sharing of knowledge, both the junior high class and the four high schoolers learned about the ancient Indian way of life, including the literature, food customs, and some of its governmental ancestry.

Long before the performance, the seventh and eighth graders were constructing unique puppets, writing intriguing scripts, making creative props, and practicing diligently. The large class of sixteen had split into groups of two, and the lengthy Mahabharata was, in turn, divided into eight parts. Every group’s puppets, props, and script were made with much thought, hard work, and originality. Eighth grader Yee-Kit Chan reflects, “Making the props, as well as practicing, was one of the most interesting aspects of the production of the puppet show.” In addition, the plot of the ancient epic was one full of adventure, war, and intrigue. Indeed, this was a one-of-a-kind learning experience.

Paper Bag Puppets

After the amusing and captivating puppet show, the three sophomores and one junior gave their history presentations on the Mughal Empire and its rulers. “[The presentations] were informative and creative,” Jane Zhang, a seventh grader, remarks. The short lessons were complete with interesting, new knowledge, like the iconic Sikh turban, and familiar names, such as the historic Indian queen’s grave, the Taj Mahal. The high schoolers also discussed the ancient, political and complicated relationships between father and son, and how religious conflict often ended in war. All in all, the informative, albeit brief, history presentations were interactive, engaging, and educational.

Next came the highlight of the culture exchange, the event many anticipated –– the food. Ms. Kravitz, the high school World History class’s teacher, had kindly prepared a large pot of lentil soup, and Ms. Mark, the junior high History teacher, demonstrated the fascinating traditional spice proceedings, also known as the “spice explosion.” She sizzled many customary Indian spices and oils in a small pot. Finally, came the explosion. Ms. Mark poured the yellow, crackling, and deliciously-smelling spice mixture (turmeric, flax seeds, coconut oil, olive oil, Himalayan pink salt, etc.) into the lentil soup. A burst of golden-yellow erupted as it reacted with the calm lentils. The classes looked on in amazement and awe. While the soup looked good, it tasted superb. Many of the students went back for seconds and even thirds. The crunchy, smooth, and lightly spiced texture and taste made it delectable.

In brief, the culture exchange was a success. The history classes understood more of the specialty of cultures while having fun. Looking back, sophomore Ding-Er (QQ) Hu said, “I got to explore many different [perspectives and cultures].” Thuy Nguyen, an eighth grader, described the experience as “interesting and enlightening.” To sum it up, the second stop on the cultural journey was a joyful and educational occasion.

Junior High Class with Puppets