At 10 am on March 3, 2016, a bus with 24 kids in the 6th, 7th and 8th grade, along with two teachers, arrived from the Environmental Charter Middle School in Gardena for a two-hour workshop on Persian culture at The Markaz. These students were reading the book Persepolis in their English class and studying the Iranian Revolution. Additionally, their teacher had been teaching them about the issues of diversity and cultural sensitivity. According to English teacher Ginnia Hargins, The Markaz was the only organization of many in L.A. she had contacted that responded to her request for a workshop.
Our new program director, Lynne Mangione, herself an educator, welcomed Miss Hargin’s class and gave them a brief history of The Markaz, explaining its mission statement. Students then listened to the personal story of Elham Kharabati, Farsi teacher at the Markaz, as she shared photographs of her life in Iran. Afterward, students had a 15-minute Q & A with Elham in which they asked many questions such as Who must wear a hijab? Why do they wear a hijab? How do people dress in Iran? Why did the revolution happen? How did the Iranian government treat people during the revolution? What kind of leader was the Shah?
Next Elham gave a 20-minute culture and Farsi lesson. She taught students about Nowrooz and the symbolism of the “Seven S-words.” She taught students how to say and write in Farsi: “Nowrooz Mubarak.” Then she taught them how to say hello and goodbye in Farsi. Students practiced saying these phrases with partners and quickly mastered them! Lastly Elham showed each student how to write her/his own name using the Farsi alphabet.
Students were then treated to a healthy snack: a small bowl of the Persian soup traditionally served at Nowrooz: ‘Ash e Reshteh,’ a warm bean and noodle soup.
After their snack, students participated in an arts & crafts activity. They created their own Nowrooz card to give a family member or friend. Using their newly acquired Farsi skills, students were able to write “Nowrooz Mubarak” and their names in Farsi on the card.
At the completion of the workshop, each student was given a small New Year’s gift: a gold coin with “Nowrooz Mubarak” engraved in Farsi, a symbol of a prosperous Nowrooz and a meaningful keepsake of their time at The Markaz.
At 12:00 the students enjoyed their own brown bag lunches at the center, while they played the doumbeks on display, browsed books in the library or played chess or backgammon with classmates. The students left The Markaz to return to Gardena at 12:30. —Staff Report