Preserving a Culture

[small_title header_text=”Laura Tempini, a college senior majoring in Early Childhood Education, isn’t just completing her last college assignments to pad her resume — she is changing the world.”][/small_title]

Laura Tempini

Laura Tempini (credit: Alexandria Shubert)

She is working with the Champlain College Publishing Initiative (CCPI) to illustrate a children’s book—one of the first of its kind—for indigenous children in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh.


“Laura’s work is vital to a project that is the biggest and most important we have ever undertaken,” explained Tim Brookes, CCPI’s Editor-in-Chief. “The illustrated children’s books we’re going to send out to Bangladesh are going to be the first books of any kind these children will have seen that are published in their own languages. They’re going to revolutionize education in the region, and save an entire generation from cultural collapse.”


The Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) is home to 13 indigenous peoples, each with their own culture and language, but the one-language education policy implemented by the Bangladesh government has endangered their language and their cultural identity.


In a January 2014 article in Seven Days, Ethan De Seife writes, “Few people speak Mro, Marma, or Chakma anymore, even in Bangladesh. Political and cultural forces have confined these languages to small geographical areas, and to members of specific ethnic groups. Mro, for instance, has fewer than 20,000 speakers. Bangladesh has one official language: Bengali, in which all business and education are conducted.”


With this in mind, CCPI has teamed up with collaborators all over the world to produce educational materials in these indigenous languages. Tempini has leaped into her role as children’s book illustrator with an enthusiasm that shows how much the values of the project are reflected in her life’s work.


Throughout her many travels studying and volunteering abroad, Tempini has already developed hands on experience with children around the globe.


Tempini Drawing

(credit: Laura Tempini)

Tempini’s amazing journey began in the summer of 2011, when she taught English-Language Learners (ELL) at two schools in Cambodia. One such school was Phare Ponleu Selpak in Battambang, a non-profit, creative association that works alongside vulnerable children and young adults traumatized by war. The association, “…interweaves three fields of intervention: Art schools, social support, and educational programs.”


The other institution was located at The Floating School on Tonle Sap Lake outside Siem Reap, and is suspended on wooden planks, because the students’ classrooms are often flooded and damaged.


Tempini’s adventure continued in Fiji where she volunteered at a local school on Naviti Island.


Following that, in the spring of 2013, she studied through The Education Abroad Network in Dunedin, New Zealand at the University of Otago.


In these school books for the communities in Bangladesh, Tempini has included illustrations of animals, specifically lions, as the images on the pages will pertain to the CHT children and their culture.


“They are traditional, spiritual stories told by grandparents to their grandchildren,” said Tempini. “They connect generations and provide a collection of literature the students can relate to. I am extremely interested in how illustrations in art influence education.”


Last semester, through her internship, Tempini practiced this well-known concept with her students from Nepal and Somalia.


This semester, Tempini is student teaching through an ELL Step Program with the Integrated Arts Academy and building her capstone once a week for her major’s required portfolio.


“I am interested in integrating art, bringing it to the classroom and using it as a tool,” Tempini said with a huge smile on her face. “Art in the elementary classroom is very important as it helps children develop their cognitive, social, and motor abilities. But what’s more inspiring about the arts integration in a classroom is an ability to spark creativity. Children largely use their own imagination to learn about the world and to foster this can be extremely powerful.”


Photo gallery images credit to Laura Tempini