Hand painting American Sign Language

February has rolled around, and clubs are beginning to set up for the new semester. Minnesota State University is home to over 200+ recognized student organizations that enrich campus and one of them is the American Sign Language Club, an RSO that allows MSU students to learn ASL through activities. 

Third-year student Anna Symens is the president of the ASL Club. She shared how hand painting ties into educating and celebrating ASL through arts, crafts and community as a way to have students feel welcomed. 

“Hand painting is one of our more fun activities that we have decided to implement in our club this semester. A lot of our meetings are typically more lecture based for students to come and learn ASL, but then have a fun activity the following week such as hand painting,” Symens said. “So students can look up, or if they don’t have one already, a fun sign, a word in sign language and paint it on their hands. It’s just like a fun way to implement arts and crafts into our meetings.”

ASL is a language that is shared between the Deaf community and is taught among schools and institutions. Hearing students such as Symens explain how important ASL is to both the hearing and Deaf community. 

“I’ve been given permission by a member of the Deaf community to speak about this on their behalf. As I am a hearing student myself, that is very important. American Sign Language is important to the Deaf community because it is a culture, it is not just a language. That is really important. It is just like our language, anybody has a language. It is important to communicate, being able to talk with other people,” she said. 

Through its hand painting activity and other events, the ASL club hopes to spread awareness of ASL and learn more about Deaf culture. 

“This semester, we have decided to start implementing more about Deaf culture in our meetings, which Kari Sween, our advisor, has offered to speak more about Deaf culture since she is a member of the Deaf community. She has decided or offered to speak more about that since that is part of her culture,” Symens said. “That is one way that we’ve been implementing it more, but she also has given us permission to teach the basics. Those of us who have gone through or are currently going through the ASL program, we teach basic numbers, basic words and other things.”

Symens also explained ways that hearing students can spread ASL awareness and how to learn more about the Deaf community and culture. 

“The best course of action is to learn ASL and sign up for an ASL class. One of my biggest things that I would be mindful of would be not pretending to know everything about it. One thing that our advisor talks about is interpreters, like if you’re not a licensed interpreter, do not say that you can interpret. It’s just being mindful of your surroundings and it’s crucially important to be aware of your skills,” she said. “The other one would be to ask them. People in the deaf community, what I found, this is only from speaking to Kari and a couple other people, but from what Kari has said to me is ask because they’re more than likely to talk to you about it. They really want you to be aware of it.” 

For more information about the ASL Club and their events, visit https://mavcentral.mnsu.edu 

Write to Anahi Zuniga at anahi.zuniga@mnsu.edu

Header Photo: The American Sign Language or ASL Club met to paint their hands to match their favorite word in ASL Wednesday. They painted food, animals, bugs and more. (Alexis Darkow/The Reporter)

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