Different = Equal

Review

of an Exhibition

by Devora Liss

Published on April 22, 2013, Modified on April 26, 2013

  • Description:

    As a part-time/freelance employee at the Adam Institute for Democracy and Peace, I encountered this exhibition as a facilitator. This is not an exhibition in the traditional sense (artifacts in a museum), but rather an interactive, educational experience, which enables people of different cultures to meet each other. The students who visit the exhibition are usually in 3rd-7th grades.

    Modeled after an exhibition from Spain, this exhibition facilitates an encounter between Jewish, Arab and Bedouin children. Facilitators (one Jewish, one Arab/Bedouin) lead the group through ice-breakers, name games, and other team-building activities. All instructions are given in Hebrew and Arabic, and the children help each other write name tags in their respective languages. Next, the children are prepared for the exhibition. Besides the usual stuff (don’t push, don’t draw on the wall, etc), they are given a booklet and divided into pairs.

    The exhibit has eight sections, and is entirely bi-lingual. The booklets come in two languages, although the written Arabic is harder and takes the children more time than their Hebrew-speaking peers. The exhibit covers a wide range of topics, including: prejudice, jumping to conclusions, opinion vs. fact, scapegoats, difference, generalizations, and more.

    At each station, the booklet guides the children how to interact with the exhibition and each other. Below are a few examples:

    Generalizations: has tubes, with true/false questions on either side. Children ask, answer, and correct each other through the tubes (Are all parliament members men? No, there are such and such women members).

    Stereotypes:, students read statements (“women cannot drive a bus” or “blind people cannot work”), and then flip the card to learn about someone who defies the stereotype (e.g. Stevie Wonder).

    Jumping to conclusions: the students are asked to describe a situation based on part of a picture. What at first seems like a cow turns out to be a man.

    After about an hour and half, the children return to the classroom to debrief. The facilitators guide the children towards discussing how all people are equal, even if they are different. The kids board buses, and return home.

    A few thoughts, in no particular order:
    It is extremely hard to facilitate an encounter when kids do not speak the same language. Kids are not always patient enough to sit through translated instructions or skilled enough to find other ways to communicate. It is extremely challenging for Jewish and Arab children to work as a pair, and so they go through the exhibition with a classmate. While their comfort zone definitely helps facilitate learning, they have very minimal one-on-one interactions with the “other” students. Perhaps a game such as charades, which is based on non-verbal communication, could be played at the beginning.

    Cultural differences can also present snags: the Arab children laughed at Jewish boys with long hair, while the Jewish children thought the Arab boys were losers because none of the boys had girlfriends. These issues may seem minor, but they can snag the flow of activity.

    One remarkable success is getting children comfortable with each other. While the kids display an uncanny ability to end up sitting next to their friends no matter how many “mixer” games we play, they at least warmed up to the presence of other children in the room.

    Another observation I had was based on gender. During recess, the boys played soccer, while the girls shyly admired each other’s pink accessories (I’m only slightly exaggerating). I wondered whether ultimately, the gender divide was greater than the language/cultural divide. The next time I facilitated, there were only boys – Jewish and West Bank Palestinian soccer teams. Although they shared a hobby, and all admired the same international teams, there was much less interaction during recess, perhaps because there were no girls to avoid…

    In summary: Any exhibition/activity/initiative that helps children learn about others, while teaching them basic humanistic concepts and life skills is great. I think this program would benefit from a little tweaking and/or research.

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