Hundreds of men, women and children burst into applause as dozens of 8 to 12 years old students, clad in colorful costumes, performed a dance number, ‘Taare Zameen Par’, and spoke humorous dialogues in Hindi. The children were performing on the final day of a three-week summer camp to learn Hindi and practice Indian culture.

The camp, known as ‘YHS STARTALK Hindi Language and Culture Program 2014’ was hosted by North Penn School District at Nash Elementary School in Harleysville, PA and organized by Yuva Hindi Sansthan, a New Jersey based non-profit educational and cultural organization. “It is a heartwarming experience to see the younger generation of Indian Americans to demonstrate knowledge of Hindi”, commented Shambhu Amitabh, vice consul, culture, Consulate General of India in New York.

Expressing his happiness over the wide range of activities that took place during the camp, Amitabh said that his office was very happy to support the cause of Hindi in the United States. Ambassador Dnyaneshwar Mulay, Consul-General of India in New York sent his special message congratulating Yuva Hindi Sansthan for organizing the camp and complimenting students for learning Hindi. A colorful T-shirt, made by a student, Pragun, was presented to the consulate official as a token of respect towards the native country of the Indian American community.

“This is the fifth year in a row for Yuva Hindi Sansthan, to have won federal award for conducting STARTALK student program for Hindi learning”, said Ashok Ojha, program Director, YHS STARTALK Hindi 2014. “We have trained hundreds of students speak, read and write Hindi and in the process helped them connect with India and its culture.” About 45 heritage children between the ages 8 to 12 participated in the program based on an overarching theme, ‘Crossing Borders: Bringing India Alive’, during which they engaged in a variety of interpersonal conversation leading to creative work by students in classroom as also on computer.

North Penn School District provided the school facilities where all classrooms were Internet connected and dozens of laptop computers were made available for all students. “Students learn about India and Indian culture during the camp using Hindi language”, said Mamta Puri, classroom teacher of elder students. “They practiced speaking in Hindi while exchanging ideas, doing research or explaining their presentations.”

They presented their work about India’s food, geography, science and scientists and family like at an exhibition on the final day of the program, which were liked and appreciated by parents and guests. All five teachers presented their classes at the concluding day event when students’ work was shown on big screen. “We introduced a number of songs and opportunities to experiment with the Hindi language during the program”, said Rashmi Gupta, lead instructor of the program.

“Once they learned vocabulary terms of a lesson and practices sentence structures, they could use and experiment with the language on their own.” Varsha Naik, a New Jersey based choreographer, Sandhya Bhagat, an Atlanta based stage director, along with Sanjyot Tatke, Alka Singhvi, and Usha Mishra trained students of different age groups and grade levels. “I wish this program continues for a longer period”, said one parent who thought the program was very useful for young learners to learn about their native culture.

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