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Name of the tool

Project about different (gypsy) cultures                                    

Links to the keystones
The tool raises awareness of the richness of other close but generally unknown cultures and about the differences and commonalities one can experience studying other cultures; helps the students to have a more positive attitude towards minority cultures which are often seen negatively in the wider society; and learn by action, get knowledge on the cultures which they live next to.

Aim of tool/ Brief overall description
Students discover the richness of (gypsy) minority cultures present in their areas by their own study and experience. It would help them to look at their own culture and at the culture of others from a new point of view going beyond stereotypes and understanding how the culture of a minority group can be complex and rich.  

Brief overall description

Students divided in groups of 3-4 members choose one of the gypsy minority cultures (e.g. Romani, Beash, Sinti) or a group inside a culture (like the groups of ancient professions) and do research about the chosen culture: consulting books, articles; going to places where they live, observing their life style, asking people with interviews about their cultural experience, etc.
The main points of focus are: language (or dialect), costumes, traditions, values, communication, education.


 

Main methods

    • Project method.
    • Collaborative learning
    • Interview, research used in the learning process

Description of the process and the possible stepping stones

Step-by-step

1. The teacher briefly explains the students the goal of their task: knowing better the different cultures of (gypsy) ethnic groups in their context, and explains what they have to do: some kind of final product that illustrates, as detailed as possible, the culture of the chosen group; some methods used to discover it. The teacher can help students in a more indirect way to understand how we can know another culture better, and how they can arrive at some conclusion by themselves about products, methods, etc.

2. The students divided into groups choose
- a culture (a group) to study,
- their final product (ppt, depliant, booklet, posters, description, etc)
- their ways (methodology) of “research” 
Then they make a plan dividing their tasks and designing a time schedule. The teacher can help them in this process, and should check and approve the final plan.

3. The students work on their project, and they regularly report on the process to the teacher. As for the form the teacher can organize classes where students share the progress of their projects, or consulting hours for each group.

4. At the end of the process (generally after min. 3-4 weeks) students present their final product and discuss the different results, share their feelings, learning, difficulties faced during the study. The teacher should help them to reflect on what they have learnt, at different levels such as knowledge, attitudes, skills.

 

Reflection and evaluation

In Hungary there are different gypsy groups with quite different cultures. Hungarian people and students have generally strong stereotypes of gypsy people but they generally don’t know their cultures at all! This tool is created in such a context.

This project is very useful to get deeper knowledge by common action (in a project group) and to meet another culture very directly. It was designed originally for gypsy cultures in Hungary but it is quite transferable to other contexts also, where students have no or only superficial knowledge of minority groups/cultures living in their context.

During the process the teacher should take in consideration all the methodological criteria for project method leaving autonomy to the groups, but facilitating their work.
The accompanying process is quite important in this regard.

Some specific criteria for this very project:

  1. students can choose their methods, but teacher should push or even compel them to consult books & articles on one hand and on the other hand to have a direct experience (if possible)
  2. the teacher should help students to go beyond their first impressions and interpretations because the process itself can reinforce their stereotypes, stereotypical interpretations
  3. the teacher must help students to recognize culture, cultural elements and factors without a total “culturalization” (not every actual custom, action is a deeply rooted cultural element, e. g. some smaller marginalized gypsy groups deal in stolen metal, but it is certainly not part of their cultural tradition!)

We tried this tool with our teacher trainees in a course of sociology of education. We faced a lot of difficulties during the process:

  1. students weren’t used to this method and they didn’t dedicated enough time for that
  2. they didn’t take seriously the necessary consultation during the process
  3. they didn’t dare to go and have at least some personal experience among gypsy people in their neighborhood.

Some lessons from this experience:

  1. it is better if the whole class is working on similar (related) projects like we described here (in our course the students could chose very different topics, and only one of them had this specific task about one gypsy culture)
  2. it is necessary to be clear about the requirements of time and consultancy
  3. the teacher should help the students if they face difficulties in making direct contact with people from the chosen group (accompanying them or finding people who are available for interviews or can introduce them to the place, etc.

In spite of these difficulties and problems the students made nice, complex presentation of the studied gypsy culture (with videos, images, texts) and they acknowledged that they hadn’t thought about that group as such a culturally rich ethnic group.

 

Equipment

Collection of books or a library with the necessary books
Dictaphone
Camera
Posters (papers for the presentation)  and/or PC/Projector (for PPTs) and/or papers and printer for the booklet, etc. as the students’ choices require.

 

Requirements

It is necessary that the students want to be involved in such a project, and have enough time and tools to do it with the help of the teacher.
The students have to prepare a final product and present it to the other students. Each of them is required to be involved actively in the whole group-work process.

 

References

Author
György Mészáros

 

Institution

Eszterházy Károly College, Eger, Hungary