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THOUSAND OAKS : Children Get a Taste of Other Cultures

Eight-year-old Evan Huff helped make a batch of a tasty, sugary Mexican dessert called bunuelos Wednesday morning. Then he and about 80 classmates promptly devoured them.

“They were good,” the Moorpark boy reported. “I had two.”

“One of them puffed up while it was cooking, just like a pillow. It was about to explode,” he added with a chortle.

Evan and the other children, all elementary school-aged, are finishing up a week of studying Mexican culture as part of the Summer Youth Cultural Program in Thousand Oaks.

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The classes meet every day for four weeks and are intended to immerse the children in the food, music, folklore and arts of different countries.

The summer sessions are sponsored by the American Assn. of University Women and began in 1976. A weeklong session costs $45 per child. This year students studied Ireland, Japan and India as well as Mexico.

Evan said he started attending the summer sessions last year because his father wanted him to learn about New Zealand.

“I think we might go there on a vacation,” he said.

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Tuesday’s lessons, held at the Arts Council of the Conejo Valley building on Green Meadow Ave., included traditional bark painting--though the bark was replaced with brown paper--and role-playing a story about the conflicts faced by immigrant children. The children also concocted bunuelos and danced to Mexican music.

Nan Young, who teaches the drama classes, said she was trying in Wednesday’s lesson to put students in the place of immigrant children, both in crossing the border and in adjusting to life in the United States.

Earlier this week the students made terra-cotta pots, patterned with designs of their choosing and, frequently, their own names. They also made bright paper flowers to go inside the pots. But Evan had a different plan for his creation.

“I’m going to give it to my mother for a candy dish,” he said.

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