Vacationing offers so many benefits for families, including a greater understanding of the world. Real world adventures let kids and parents, too, step outside their neighborhoods to experience firsthand different people, environments and cultures.
However, traveling abroad can come with a hefty price tag, especially for families with multiple kids in tow.
But Akash Patel, local teacher and founder of the World Experiences Foundation, said families can experience a variety of cultures without ever boarding a plane.
Patel, originally from India, came to the United States as a college student studying for a degree in education. After graduation, Patel went on to teach at an elementary school in Oklahoma City.
“When I first started teaching in the public school system as a fourth-grade teacher, only one of my students had ever traveled outside of the U.S.,” Patel shared in a TED Talk presentation at UCO. “That is when I realized that my job as an educator was to broaden my student’s horizons and bring the world into their classroom and their community.”
He expanded his teaching experiences and started a foundation that offers multicultural and multilingual educational resources for educators from around the world. Families can use many of the same important and intentional strategies the foundation uses to create new perspectives of the world while still right here at home in Oklahoma City.
“We use shared experiences like food, music, dancing and more to celebrate global partnerships and learn more about cultures from around the world,” Patel explained. “Multiculturalism is a good thing. It teaches us to be grateful for what we have and for others and helps reduce stereotypes and misconceptions.”
You can start learning about other cultures using tools already available to you. Patel suggests starting your “trip” at your local library.
“There are so many books about different cultures and languages sitting right on those shelves,” Patel said. “There are also traditional English books written in other languages that can help kids relate to world languages.”
Multicultural and multilingual movies are also a fun way to bring other cultures into your home, Patel suggested.
Once you’ve done a little research about a particular culture of interest, Patel suggests getting creative in the ways you choose to learn more and to further immerse yourself in the experience. The Oklahoma City area has cultural hubs that families can explore the world’s diversity with no airfare required.
Dine at a local taqueria to sample authentic Latin flavors, shop at an ethnic grocery and use adventurous spices for an evening meal or find a nearby cultural festival to explore.
“Festivals are a great place to ask questions and interact with people of diverse backgrounds,” Patel added. “There are a lot of events happening across Oklahoma organized by people who want to share their culture.”
Bringing a worldview into your home might take some creativity, but with a few inspiring ideas available right here in our state, your family can bring the world to you.
Here are some cultural experiences happening throughout the year in the Oklahoma City area:
Yukon Czech Hall hosts weekly dances on Saturday nights. Families can enjoy a live polka band, dancing and food from 8 to 11:30 p.m. Special events also are hosted throughout the year including Masopust and Czech Day. For more details, visit www.czechhall.com.
Shops and restaurants are open daily in the Asian District in Oklahoma City offering families an accessible way to explore Asian cultures.
Lunar New Year at Myriad Gardens happens Feb. 16 and is a great chance to get acquainted with how the new year is celebrated in China. Kids in attendance can take part in crafts and watch lion dancers. Calligraphers will be on-site to write your name in Chinese and traditional foods and beverages will be served.
The Red Earth Festival, hosted annually in June, features some of the nation’s most celebrated Native artists and dancers, showcasing their heritage through contemporary and traditional examples. For a detailed schedule, visit www.redearth.org.
Hosted in the Historic Capitol Hill business district each September, the Fiestas de Las Americas is a celebration of Oklahoma’s rich multicultural heritage featuring the colorful Parade of the Americas, food, games, music, art, eclectic vendors and more. To learn more, visit www.historiccapitolhill.com/fiestas-de-las-americas.
The Jewish Muslim Film Institute shares a selection films throughout the year to inspire dialogue about the similarities of the religions and all people. Screenings are free and open to the public. Registration is required, as seating is limited. For more information, visit www.jewishmuslimfliminstitute.com.
If you’re up for a drive…
Visit the Chickasaw Cultural Center in Sulphur. This museum invites families to explore a traditional village and an exhibit hall to learn about the Chickasaw story. The Aaimpa Café uses vegetables grown right in the campus’ Spiral Garden to serve up authentic, fresh dishes.
Experience a taste of Scotland at the annual Iron Thistle Scottish Heritage Festival in Yukon in the spring or at Scotsfest in Tulsa in the fall. Enjoy traditional foods, dance troupes, pipe bands and highland games. For a full schedule of events, visit www.unitedscotsok.com or www.okscotfest.com.
Enjoy three days of multicultural entertainment including food, shopping, concerts and activities for kids that showcase a variety of local, culturally-focused organizations at Lawton’s International Festival, hosted annually in the fall. For more details, visit www.lawtonok.gov.
Another great way to connect with other cultures is through food. Here are some internationally-inspired restaurants recommended by MetroFamily staff:
- Cafe Kacao
- La Casa de la Abuela
- Inka Trail
- Cafe do Brasil
- Panaderia la Oaxaqueña
- Pho Lien Hoa
- Pho Cuong
- Goro Ramen
- Muu Shabu
- Royal Bavaria
- Fassler Hall
- Ingrid’s Kitchen
- La Baguette