Local school hosts an evening celebrating international societies
The students of East Elementary School are taking a trip around the world in their classrooms. The evening of Dec. 9, the Monroe school hosted “Multi-Cultural Night” for its students and their families.
This academic year marks the first time East Elementary has hosted such an event. The idea was born out of a school improvement team, which includes teachers and staff that represent each area of the school.
“In Union County schools, there’s a real push for education about global issues,” Media Specialist Lisa Bush said. “Our idea was, ‘Let’s take one night and celebrate lots of cultures.’ ”
The students spent weeks learning about various countries and cultures. Each grade studied a different continent, with the exception of first-graders and kindergarteners, who learned about the United States and general information about the entire world.
Within each grade, different classrooms studied a specific country from their assigned continent. Besides studying geography, culture, and customs, the students tasted their country’s ethnic food and learned basic words in the country’s language.
Fifth-grade teacher Kristie Scholz focused on South Korea. Scholz, whose husband is South Korean, spent part of a unit teaching ethnic recipes and incorporating the ingredient measurements into math lessons.
A long-time studier of tae kwon do, Scholz also transformed her classroom into a martial arts gym, where her students learned some basic self-defense moves. “We decided to focus on health and nutrition by studying the recipes and learning beginner moves” of tae kwon do.
Others, such as first-grade teacher Carrie Terry, used literature to enhance the learning experience. Terry’s students have been reading a series of books about Flat Stanley, a tiny character who was accidentally flattened and mailed across the United States. “The students have been reading all of the Flat Stanley books,” Terry said. “We’ve been tracking Flat Stanley across the USA.”
At the same time, Terry and her students have contacted friends and family members in other parts of the country, who have cooperated by sending postcards and other souvenirs. “This has been a great learning experience for the kids,” Terry said. “It gives them a chance to experience something outside of Charlotte and Monroe and to learn that there’s a great, big world out there.”
When the time came for the cultural fair, East Elementary made sure those attending got a multi-cultural experience. The halls of the school morphed into international territory, and the classrooms became the countries and continents that the students studied, offering posters, maps, virtual slideshows and samples of ethnic food.
For the first 45 minutes of the evening, families were free to wander the halls and visit the classrooms. Each student and family member got a “passport,” with pictures of the United States, Africa, Australia, Europe, Asia and the world printed in sectioned areas. When a person visited a certain country or continent, a greeter would stamp the passport at the door.
The entryway was filled with live international music, which included a guitar, maracas, and three vocalists.
Some teachers chose to dress in the clothing of the country their class had studied. Scholz wore her tae kwon do uniform and offered martial arts demonstrations.
After the open house period ended, families migrated to the auditorium for music, prizes and other presentations. Students taught the audience how to say hello in various languages. Names were drawn for various prizes, including backpacks, jerseys, gift cards and coupons to local restaurants.
The fifth-grade band presented a sample selection of multi-cultural lullabies.
Perhaps the moment that captivated the audience the most was when a student named Sierra took the stage. Sierra, who speaks both Spanish and English, had been learning Japanese via Google Translate and sang an a capella rendition of a Japanese song called “Eternal Snow.”
The evening concluded with the kindergarten choir’s enthusiastic rendition of “It’s a Small World” and a standing ovation from the audience.
“I think this will be an annual event,” Bush said. “The kids do a lot of things this time of year with holidays around the world, so we kind of chose December on purpose. This time of year seems to work well.
“… Because there are so many cultures represented here (at East Elementary), it not only gives students a chance to show off their own heritage, but learn about different cultures as well. There’s such a strong emphasis on globalization today, so it’s important, looking down the road, for the students to appreciate other cultures and embrace both their differences and similarities.”