The project Era Uma Vez (Once Upon a Time) brings together students of Portuguese (Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures) from the University at Albany and Portuguese-speaking families in our area to promote the Portuguese language and Luso-Brazilian culture. In our meetings, the students and members of the community tell children’s stories, conduct diverting children’s games, sing traditional children’s songs, make fun crafts, and much more. Each meeting has a different theme and the activities are developed around that theme. The idea is to have an organic environment in which students of Portuguese, children, and members of the Luso-Brazilian community contribute and participate.
This project has given students of Portuguese an authentic environment for meaningful learning: Students interact with native speakers, learn about Luso-Brazilian culture and conduct entertaining activities with the children. In addition, this project has given students of Portuguese a unique opportunity to help the community by applying the language skills they have acquired in Portuguese classes.
Since we started (Spring 2015), we have had a total of 15 meetings (our meetings are held on Saturday afternoon at HU 354). This semester (Spring 2017), the themes were Carnaval, Capoeira, Primavera (Spring), and Dia do Índio (Indigenous Day). On Carnaval day, for instance, Tarcísio Ramos, a Brazilian musician, came to our campus, brought various traditional instruments, and taught the children and the students of Portuguese the basic rhythms of samba. On Capoeira day, the UAlbany Capoeira Club came to our meeting and taught children and students some capoeira moves, such as ginga. On Primavera day, a Brazilian family, including their six-year-old girl, decorated our room with spring ornaments that they had made themselves and told the participants fun stories with puppets. In the Dia do Índio day, a student of Portuguese and a Brazilian-American teenager told the participants a famous Tupi-Guarani legend about Vitória Régia, a gigantic flower from the Amazon River.
More information about Era Uma Vez can be found on our website here: https://projecteuv.wixsite.com/eraumavez-eng. We also have our Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/eraumavez.albany/ and our ListServ.
Era Uma Vez also has its own library with children’s books in Portuguese. Thanks to a generous Brazilian family, other Portuguese-speaking families can borrow books for free. This is specially important since Portuguese books in the U.S. are rare items.
This project has been possible thanks to the volunteer work of members of the Luso-Brazilian community: Lucia Arsky has taken care of our library; Angela Barbosa has created and maintained our website and Facebook page and has created our flyers, Ana Paula Malacrida and Bárbara Carvalho have helped organize the room and conducted the events. I am eternally grateful to them!! I am also grateful to CHEER Fund, which has funded much of our activities (e.g., CHEER has paid for our water, balloons, and materials for crafts). Finally, I am very grateful to my enthusiastic students of Portuguese, who have come to our meetings, participated, interacted with native speakers, and had fun!
Additional Pictures click to enlarge