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Global Education

Engaging Students through School-wide Cultural Events

With so many unique cultures in the world, there’s always a holiday to celebrate. Our ambassador teachers share how their schools host cultural festivals and events, and how these events impact students and families. Read on for ideas and inspiration for hosting your own!

Events led by ambassador teachers

Martin Hughes, ambassador teacher from Scotland at Western Union Elementary

At Western Union Elementary, all fifth grade students celebrated “Scotland Day” to learn about the culture and traditions of the country.

In the morning, students created fabulous artwork, inspired by the landscapes and famous artists of Scotland. One class constructed Loch Ness Monster origami pieces, another produced tartan (plaid) designs. Some classes created collages of the St. Andrew’s flag, Scotland’s national flag. I also taught students about artist Charles Rennie Mackintosh, whose architecture can be seen around the world. Students even designed an Art Deco rose in the MacKintosh style!

The work was displayed at the school’s global festival in March.

Later in the day, students solved Scottish fraction word problems as they participated in a Highland game treasure hunt. In reading, I shared the story King Robert the Bruce and the Spider while students later read about the myth of the Loch Ness Monster!

Students then went to the gym to partake in traditional Scottish Ceilidh dancing! They learned the Gay Gordon, the Highland Barn Dance and the St. Bernard’s Waltz. Finally, students sampled traditional Scottish food: Irn-Bru and shortbread. This was one global journey students are unlikely to forget!

Students learned about the culture and traditions of Scotland, while also making their standard-based learning engaging and fun. Many students commented about their wish to one day travel to Scotland to experience it firsthand.

I was glad students had an opportunity to share their global learning with parents at the school’s global fair. I believe I have ignited a lifelong curiosity about different cultures and an appetite for students and their families to travel. Administrators and parents commented on how engaged students were throughout the process and how students are always asking to do more international-themed work!

Simone Brown, ambassador teacher from Jamaica at Cliffdale Elementary

One afternoon at Cliffdale Elementary, the cafeteria was decked out in Jamaican colors, the sound of Bob Marley jamming in the background and the lovely aroma of spices and herbs filling the air as the jerk chicken and curried chicken awaited the taste buds of the guests.

Teachers, parents, and students came out for an evening of “Jamaican Extravaganza.” They walked around to view samples of Jamaican clothing and sandals along with poster boards featuring the Prime Minister, Jamaican currency, famous athletes, and Jamaica’s national symbols.

A group of students was taught a Jamaican dance routine. They put on their best performance to the great Bob Marley song “Lively Up Yourself.” After, the audience viewed a slide presentation showing our white, sand beaches, words to the Jamaican National Anthem and National Pledge, various famous Jamaican people, and some Jamaican traditional dishes. They also showed the similarities and differences between schools from Jamaica and classrooms in the U.S.

The feedback at the end of the evening was tremendous. The teachers, parents, and students said they enjoyed the ambiance and the overall presentation.

Jhor Chavez, ambassador teacher from Colombia at Southwest Middle School

My Spanish students at Southwest Middle in Onslow County worked hard on a cultural project called “Meeting Different Cultures.”

The objective was to involve parents, students, staff, and the community in the world of different countries’ cultures.

Students were divided into different groups and were assigned a country (20 in total). They talked about the music, dance, food, costumes, sports, currency, national symbols, famous people, national sports, etc. of the country they were assigned.

Creativity was important because they were assigned a table they had to decorate with posters, tri-fold boards, flags, and other cultural items that represented the country. They also wore traditional clothes from their country or clothes that were the color of the flag.

The program was divided into two parts. In the first part, my students danced two typical dances from Spanish-speaking countries, salsa and merengue, and one traditional dance from Colombia, cumbia. It was exciting to see my students dancing! The second part of the program was done by grade level. In this part, everyone had the chance to walk around the tables to learn about the different countries each group of students had prepared.

This was a great opportunity for parents and teachers to see what their children had been working on for about two weeks in the Spanish classroom!

See Jhor’s photos from the event here!

Yan Ji, ambassador teacher at Stough Elementary from China

During the Chinese spring festival, we had a school-wide celebration. The Chinese classes and the entire first grade gave a performance to all the teachers and students, as well as the potential parents who would like to join the Mandarin dual language program next year. Our first grade students had a great performance, dancing and singing a Chinese song, “Youngness.” After that, they read a Chinese book, I Am Confident. This was a great way to show the Chinese language and culture.

We also had the grade-level rotation to introduce Chinese New Year culture and customs. We created a lot of Chinese activities for students that included making dumplings and Chinese noodles, trying on traditional clothing and learning about one of the most important Chinese characters, Fu.

Students really enjoyed these activities because they learned a lot and now know more about Chinese culture. It was not only an opportunity to introduce Chinese culture to students but also a chance for their parents to learn about it as well.

We got feedback from a lot of proud parents and some said that their kids were excited about telling the story of Chinese New Year to them. Most of all, students in the whole school, including traditional English classes, now have a stronger interest in learning Chinese.

For more, see why cultural exchange is a two-way enrichment experience.

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