Sampling the global village

Kids learn about crafts, food, wilderness living in weeklong session on cultures of the world


Armed with ideas of how to live off the land, Mariah Durrant, 11, imagines she would do fine if she had to survive in the wild for a week.

She'd go for the honey ants if she happened to be in the right part of the world.

But if she's real lucky, she'd have her cousin Ethan, 9, by her side - he knows how to hunt and could round up deer for dinner.

"I could live in the wild," said Mariah, who was born in northern China and adopted by a Carroll County family when she was 8 months old. "We would have Ethan's dad's bow and arrow to kill deer."

Mariah and Ethan found themselves talking about all kinds of ideas last week when they joined nearly 40 other children for the World Village program at the 12th annual Common Ground on the Hill at McDaniel College in Westminster.

World Village, held during the first week of the two-week Common Ground event, is designed for children ages 5 to 12.

Most of the children have parents or grandparents who are either attending or teaching at the dozens of artisan classes.

The program exposes children to art, music and dance traditions from various cultures through crafts projects and visits from Common Ground's teachers, who come from all across the country.

This year's theme for the World Village projects was food.

"We're looking at our relationship to food and how food comes to us," said Kate Taluga of Tallahassee, Fla., who runs the World Village program with her husband, Gus Johnson.

Projects included "Me Tacos," which were paper plates folded in half and stuffed with drawings of the children's favorite things.

Poking out of 5-year-old Sean Kronner's taco, for instance, were a television, an orange and monsters.

Other children shaped fruits and vegetables out of papier-mache, while some learned how to stitch felt cloth into the likeness of their favorite edibles for Friday's smorgasbord display.

Geoffrey Precht, 11, carefully weaved a needle and thread into and out of the white felt. He later stuffed it into the yellow felt that soon resembled a banana.

To make his creation appear more realistic, he planned to attach Velcro to the inner side of the yellow felt.

"That way you can pretend to peel it," he said.

Artist Barbara Neel, who was teaching the children how to stitch the felt fabric and has attended Common Ground classes for six years, marveled at Geoffrey's imagination.

For many of the children, a particularly memorable class visit last week was with Thomas McKnight, an expert on Appalachia, who talked about his experiences living in the wild.

"He told us how he made acorn bread, ate rattlesnakes and had to lick the dew off leaves to drink in the morning," Mariah said. "During the day, he would get juice from the grapes on the grapevine."

Johnson, who spent one morning cutting bamboo shoots into smaller sticks, planned to teach the children a "dice game" that has its origins in southeastern Native American culture.

The children sanded down the sticks and colored one side to help distinguish each side. The object of the game, he said, is to take six small sticks and throw them on the ground. Whoever has the most sticks that fall on the same side wins.

He said it was one example of the ways that children can learn about facets of different cultures and share what they learned.

"It's very important if you're going to carry on traditions for kids to be involved," said Johnson, who, with his wife, runs after-school activities through their School of Arts and Sciences Extended Day program in Tallahassee. "The most rewarding thing for me is working with kids and seeing them coming back the next year. I get to see if those little seeds [that have been planted] are working."

Johnson said one of the World Village's goals is to help children appreciate the similarities that can connect cultures instead of the differences.

"What makes this camp different is the relationships that are made between the people," Taluga said. "We're trying to talk to one another and get beyond the surface."

Georgiana Summers, 7, who attended World Village for her second summer, said she most enjoyed meeting new people and learning about other cultures through the planned activities.

"I'm learning how to do things I've never done," said Summers, whose grandmother is an art teacher for Common Ground. "If I could find the phone number for my best friend, I could call her and tell her about this."

Larry L. Brumfield, president and chairman of Common Ground on the Hill's board of directors, said the idea of sharing is exactly what he and the program's other founders, including Walt Michael, had in mind.

"The name itself - Common Ground - is about having a diversity of people so we can share each other's cultures," said Brumfield, a retired chemical company executive who is pastor of Westminster Church of the Brethren. "We have more in common than we do differences, and we need to appreciate each other."

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