Letting kids bridge cultures

Updated: 2014-11-29 06:29

By AMY HE in New York(China Daily USA)

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Letting kids bridge cultures

Children at the Boston Children's Museum learning about young kids and their lives in China. The exhibit, titled "Children of Hangzhou: Connecting With China", runs through April 2015 before traveling to other US cities. Provided to China Daily

Kids in Boston can now learn about how their counterparts in their Chinese sister city live, through a new exhibit called Children of Hangzhou: Connecting With China at the Boston Children's Museum.

The multi-media show is designed to engage children and their families in the day-to-day lives of children in Hangzhou, which was designated as Boston's sister city in 1982.

"China has become a global power. Global transportation and telecommunications have facilitated the fast flow of goods, services and ideas around the world. But now visitors can get behind the glare of the headlines," the museum said in a statement. "Children of Hangzhou is devoted to expanding knowledge, understanding and appreciation of contemporary China."

It's important for children to "learn about other cultures, and specifically to learn about China, especially at a time when there's so much controversy in the news", said Leslie Swartz, senior vice-president for research and planning at Boston Children's Museum.

"We think it's really important for kids to connect with kids on a personal level, so they can develop their own impressions and understandings of Chinese culture, and the similarities and differences between kids. We think about the kids as ways to bridge cultures," she said.

In the show, visitors get an up-close, behind-the-scenes tour of Hangzhou through the lives of four children. In one section, the home life of a child named Weicheng is explored; in the next, children visit a middle school and learn about Chinese education from a child named Gangzheng; in the third, Qianyun describes traditional Chinese opera; and in the fourth, Doudou introduces everyone to the countryside.

The exhibit was originally mounted at the museum in 2008 to coincide with the Beijing Olympics, and recently received funding from the Freeman Foundation to be expanded and revamped, Swartz said. It is part of the Freeman Foundation Asian Culture Exhibit series.

With the funding, the stories about the four Hangzhou children were enhanced through re-cutting and re-editing, Swartz said.

"We made the stories stronger, so that for each of the kids, you come away with a very strong message about a value among kids and families and society," she said. "In one area, it's the importance of the family, and in another, the importance of education, in another it's the importance of agrarian roots of many Chinese families, and tradition and change in performing arts."

The museum was also able to strengthen the geography section to make it more interactive for kids and adults to learn about the topography and landscape of China, Swartz said.

When the museum was developing the exhibit, the staff thought of trying to give audiences a sense of all of China, but decided against it and chose to highlight one place instead.

"It's too confusing to have Xinjiang to Shanghai, it's just too confusing," Schwartz said. "You can't understand that. But what you can understand is on a kid-to-kid level. This is how this kid in this city at this time of his life lived."

The exhibit, which opened last week, will run through April 26, 2015 before embarking on a three-year, eight-city US and Canada tour.