Artondale Elementary celebrates world cultures

May 14, 2014 

Artondale Elementary’s second annual International Festival was a celebration of world cultures through unique foods, native crafts and cultural performances. Showcasing various countries, it invited children to appreciate the world around them.

Event founder Mandy Afrassiabi said, “Organizing and celebrating this for a second year has been a pleasure. Our goal is to promote love and friendship between children of different backgrounds, to share this with our community, and to spark an interest in learning the beauty of other world cultures.”

To begin their “trip,” each child received a passport to stop at Brazil, Ukraine, Iran, Germany, Australia/Oceania, Japan, Polynesia, Uganda, Peru, Sweden, Greece and Native America. Some kids dressed to represent their own heritage or a “country” they visited. At each country table, they learned three facts to receive a flag sticker for their passports.

Festival performances included a Persian New Year presentation; Nobleza Folklorica, a Mexican dance group; an act from Pineapple Jam Kids Aloha Camp; and a Polynesian group from Kalele Yoga. Children danced the hula and a New Zealand-style dance accompanied by ukulele. Even the audience, including Artondale principal Jacque Crisman, tried out some hula moves.

“This is such an amazing family night,” Crisman said. “It focuses on our diverse community. It gives kids and families a chance to learn about different cultures together.”

Clare Hotchkiss, fourth grade, “enjoyed the Native American booth most. I got to make a dream catcher,” she explained.

Second grader Adam Hurley said his favorite part was learning origami at the Japanese table. “I liked how this showed me things are different around the world. I made a paper crane.”

His classmate, Taylor Robinson, carefully traced his hand while doing a craft to represent cave drawings at the Australian table. “I didn’t know I’d learn so much,” he said.

Germany’s table was a favorite of first grader Morgan Jump. She “got to decorate a nature scene.”

“At the Brazil table I learned to say ‘Como vai’ which means ‘How are you’ in Portuguese,” said fourth grader Emily Moller.

Parents, community members and school staff set up the festival. Many students researched a country of their choice and created posters and flags to adorn the gym walls.

International foods were sold at nominal prices. Offerings included Swedish meat balls, Greek chicken souvlaki, Japanese sushi, fresh Thai spring rolls and Mexican fiesta food.

Event planner Buffy Via said her desire is for kids to come away with a new appreciation for others. “The festival is about sharing cultures and traditions students might not otherwise experience. With experience comes understanding. That’s the goal.”

“Children need to know that life is not the same here as it is for children elsewhere,” agreed Afrassiabi. “They need to know where they come from and be proud of their heritage. Children around the world are innocent, pure, beautiful, and worthy of being treated with love and kindness. We hope this event will grow into a district-wide celebration supported by all parent-teacher groups. After all, the world is our community.”

Hugh McMillan is a longtime freelance writer for the Gateway. He can be reached at hmcmnp1000@centurytel.net

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