RIDGEWOOD, N.J. — Julia Vogman, of Glen Rock, remembers how she conceived the idea for an interactive World Explorers Club to teach 5- to 8-year-olds about other countries.
After Vogman returned from a trip to Italy with her husband and two older sons, her 4-year-old boy had nothing but questions.
“What do they eat in Italy?” he wanted to know. “What’s that tower (of Pisa) about? What do they speak there?”
As a music and theater teacher, Vogman got to thinking about answering such questions about the whole wide world for all children.
“I wanted a program about countries,” Vogman said, “but I also wanted children to learn to be friendlier and more open minded.”
So the World Explorers Club, taught at two Ridgewood locations Sunday mornings as well as Monday and Tuesday evenings, was born.
This week, the club begins meeting, but it took plenty of legwork and curriculum planning to get it off the ground. That’s where Anastasia Bard of Ridgewood, Vogman’s friend and partner, came in.
Bard, who hails from the Ukraine, also has quite the international sensibility. She speaks four languages – French, Ukrainian, Russian and English – and ran the foreign desk at Fox News. She also has two daughters.
From the get-go, the friends, who immigrated here some 20 years ago, knew the international nature of Ridgewood made it a perfect place to start.
“Because we’re from overseas and speak another language,” Bard said, “we have an ‘in’ on how to learn about another country and another culture. We already had to do it here.”
Immediately, interactive programming ideas started flowing between the two friends.
What if, on the first day, the children were made to feel as if they were in an airplane looking at a movie and flying to their first destination?
That would be France.
During September's open house month, children will learn French songs, words, landmarks, foods and holidays. They’ll do that in four, 75-minute weekly sessions during the month.
In October, those who sign up will interactively learn about Israel. In November, Mexico. And so on to England, China, Russia, Egypt, Japan and Greece.
In June, the children will enjoy a World’s Fair.
Each month, each child gets a travel journal to record what he or she learned, according to Bard. The travelogue will help the children remember the countries long after they’re no longer in the club.
For more information or to sign up, click here .