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Friday, March 13, 2015

Teaching Diversity

by Airman Connor J. Marth
366th Fighter Wing Public Affairs


3/13/2015 - MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- Students of Stephensen Elementary dove into the Singaporean culture as Lt. Col. Tham Yeow Min, 428th Fighter Squadron senior Republic of Singapore Air Force officer, gave a presentation on food, growth and history to the children on Feb. 23.

The assembly presented students the opportunity to experience the unique cultural differences of not only their classmates, but more than 5 million Singaporeans around the globe.

"Our goal is for the children to understand and appreciate different cultures, and have a broader mindset when they get older," Tham said. "It's always better to start young, when children are much more impressionable."

The presentation instantly engaged the children - opening with Singaporean music videos and plenty of dance moves. The children seemed to enjoy the pictures of unique holiday celebrations and food that scrolled across the screen.

Tham explained the meaning behind selecting different animals to represent each new year and how it differs from other new year celebrations. While it was obvious this culture is very different from what most of the students had experienced, he made it clear there are many things that bring cultures together.

Tham noted how close America and Singapore are becoming through trade, population and influence as the nations mature. He continued by telling the story of the attack on Pearl Harbor, a battle that claimed many American lives and is remembered to this day. Only hours after the infamous bombing, the Japanese military turned their sights on Singapore and bombed its cities - wounding hundreds of civilians. For the next four years, Singapore would see massive changes in their government - ultimately resulting in the unified Republic of Singapore in 1965. The U.S. and Singapore have had an increasingly stable relationship ever since.

The somber note changed, however, as he asked the children with Singaporean descent to stand and a resounding applause erupted. He explained that different cultures are everywhere, even in their classes.

"We want our students to realize it's not just about the Singaporeans," said Phil McCluskey, Stephensen Elementary principal. "It's about introducing the differences and similarities of all nationalities and all people."

Tham closed his presentation with a question, "Are you ready for a surprise?"

The children's faces lit up as two traditional lions danced across the gym floor to the loud thumps of drums.  Kids in the front row reached out to pet the majestic creatures as the flightline workers inside controlled the beasts. The performance will surely be hard to forget for the kids of Stephensen Elementary.

Having such a unique and diverse squadron, MHAFB is able to involve the 428th FS to help teach children the importance of understanding different cultures and prepare them for the ever changing world ahead.

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