At Al-Bustan we believe that full appreciation of a culture requires knowledge of its written and spoken language. Similarly, the study of a language is inextricably tied to an enriched understanding of the multiple layers of its cultural context. Moreover, for those of Arab heritage living in the United States, exposure to the Arabic language is often a critical link to their cultural heritage and Arab identity. Arabic is taught daily at summer camp and in new program for teens, and throughout the year its integrated in arts instruction through choir and art at schools and in the community. Language instruction incorporates learning to speak, sing, read, listen and write Arabic in fun and engaging ways.
Al-Bustan Music includes a vibrant music education program led by Hanna Khoury, Director of Al-Bustan Music Program:
Weekly instruction (in and after-school) in percussion, singing, and general Arab music appreciation in several Philadelphia public schools
Residencies in-school at public and independent schools
Community music ensembles: Philadelphia Arab Music Ensemble and Philadelphia Arab Percussion Ensemble
Professional development for music educators
Visual art is taught at various settings throughout the year, from in-school art demonstrations to semester-long weekly art classes on the geometry and patterns of Arab/Islamic art and daily multi-media art sessions at summer camp each July. The students’ artwork is displayed at schools and in the community.
A series of collective artworks incorporating the Arabic alphabet has been created by participants at Al-Bustan Camp since 2006. Each year 28 letters of the Arabic alphabet are represented in artistic ways using different media related to the summer’s camp theme.
Teaching the literary arts of Arab and Arab American authors is an important part of Al-Bustan programs. Students are encouraged to explore their identity and heritage by telling their stories through creative writing. In reading and analyzing the works of various authors, they write poetry and prose in response, while grappling with their own experiences navigating their place in American society. Notable authors invited by Al-Bustan for public readings, workshops, and short residencies with youth have included: Naomi Shihab Nye, Ibtisam Barakat, Nathalie Handal, Suheir Hammad, Nada Bakri, and Human Writes Project’s Mark Gonzales, Omar Offendum, and Nizar Wattad.