In one of our newest classes, our staff members Jenna and Katie are teaching our Friends about different cultures. “Cultures Class” is where our Friends explore new languages, art, food, writing, and traditions from different countries around the world.

Friends with Year of the Monkey WorksheetsWe launched Cultures Class by learning about China. From the Chinese Zodiac to making their own dumplings, the Friends are learning new concepts and practicing new skills. We love the opportunities this affords our Friends. Studying other cultures gives our Friends insight into their own lives, and helps them compare their own cultural experiences with those of people they may encounter in our bustling city. They’ve made paper lanterns and watercolor paintings using the Year of the Monkey as a theme. And soon, we’ll take a trip to the Asian market to sample dumplings so the Friends know how their own should taste.

We’ve made several exciting changes at Friends Life Community over the last few months, and those changes have included piloting new classes like this one. As with everything we do, we hope it will strengthen our efforts to help our Friends develop socially, grow personally, and enjoy being part of the Nashville community.

Our new “Current Events” class aims to do the same. Using a resource called News2U, every Friend gets an article appropriate to their reading level. Not only does this class help our Friends develop their reading skills, it also helps them initiate conversations with other people about diverse, relevant topics.

During the first Current Events class, the Friends read to each other about Scott Kelly, the astronaut who just returned from a year in space. They watched videos, like this one, to learn about what he did while he was on the space station. They discussed whether or not they would enjoy being in space. And the next day, several Friends came in and told us they’d watched his return that night with their parents.

Just as the class intends, the Friends were able to talk with their family members about Scott Kelly’s return, and they even had new information to share.

For people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, moments like these can be rare. Our Friends struggle sometimes to talk about topics others are interested in (a struggle many of us can relate to). Our Friends possess the gift of intense focus, but that focus can be hard to redirect, and sometimes those without intellectual and development disabilities have trouble knowing how to talk to our Friends.

Armed with new, exciting ideas, our Friends can speak about relevant topics and inspire others to learn more, too. Whether it’s launching into space and contributing on a grand scale to human exploration, or taking your mother’s dumpling recipe to the market for sale, human interactions are risky. But these are risks our Friends believe are worth taking. And our Current Events and Cultures classes help bridge this gap.

That’s what we intend to do every day at Friends Life Community—foster personal growth and inspire dynamic relationships for our Friends and the people they meet in Nashville. We believe friendships rooted in learning are the first steps toward greater understanding. Understanding not just of a subject, but of each other. From there, the possibilities are endless.