Lake Grove Elementary becomes 'Land of the Morning Calm'

Teach what you know - that bit of advice can make all the difference in the success of a project.

And that is just what Karen Ha Chi and Rhonda Joyce did. The women, who are of Korean descent, chose to focus on the country of South Korea for this year's cultural travel experience program at Lake Grove Elementary.

'We knew we wanted to do it,' said Ha Chi. 'And we wanted to do the program while our children were at Lake Grove.'

The cultural travel program is put on by the school's parent organization. The annual event is a way to introduce the student body to different cultures and foster an appreciation for all people around the world. And just maybe what they learn will spark an interest for them to study or travel abroad later in life.

Ha Chi and Joyce made sure the students' Korean experience was representative of all the richness of the culture. They sought out the assistance of the Oregon Korean Culture Art Center, Korean Society of Oregon, Portland State's Institute for Asian Studies and the World Affairs Council and even connected with John E. Bates, the Honorary Consul General of the Republic of Korea.

With the help of many parent volunteers a portion of the school's library was transformed into Korea, complete with a royal palace and country style café.

To kick off the event, Seunghee Ji, president of the Oregon Korean Culture Art Center (OKCAC) and dancers from the organization, performed traditional Korean dances.

This week, parents dressed in hanbok, (traditional clothing), welcomed students and visitors to the Korea they had created.

Students learned many things about the country, including the fact that Korean is also known as Chosun, which means 'Land of the Morning Calm.'

They learned where Korea is located in the world, some history, and facts of its economy. They learned that taekwondo, a martial art form popular with many of the students, is Korean, and focuses on training and disciplining the mind and the body. Students learned that many sports stars are Korean, including golfers KJ Choi and Michelle Wei. They learned that archery is a sport at which Koreans excel in the Olympics.

The students were interested to learn that many household electronics and cars were made in Korea.

They ate and enjoyed Korean foods: bap (rice), gim (seaweed laver), bulgogi (barbecued beef), bae (shingo pear), ban chan (bean sprouts and spinach), shik hae (sweet rice drink), kim chi (spicy fermented cabbage) and yu gwa (traditional cookies).

'The kids get super excited (about the cultural travel experience),' said parent volunteer Michelle Neumann. 'And they are quite adventurous - they aren't shying away from the kim chi.'

Among the visitors to the exhibit on Monday were Katherine Morrow from PSU's Institute of Asian Studies, Sarah Lah, president of the Korean Society of Oregon and John E. Bates, Honorary Consul General of the Republic of Korea, all of whom had had a hand in making the exhibit a success.

'We recently held our Korean night (at PSU),' said Morrow, who had loaned hanbok and other artifacts to the school for the program. She was hoping other schools would create a similar exhibit using the resources Ha Chi had found.

'There are lots of resources in this community,' said Ha Chi, whose father was a professor at Lewis and Clark in international affairs. 'It's been wonderful to have the community collaborate on this project.'

'It will be hard to top this next year,' said Neumann.

That may be true but there is trust that someone in the Lake Grove community feels as passionate about their culture as Ha Chi and Joyce do, and will step up to share it with the students next year.

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