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Fort Campbell’s Barsanti Elementary School celebrates culture, diversity with fashion show, food on International Day
Written by Mari-Alice Jasper
Fort Campbell, KY – Students dressed in kilts, Hanboks, and embroidered dresses strutted across the stage during the Barsanti Elementary School fashion show March, 24th, 2017, as part of International Day.
This is the fourth year the school has celebrated International Day. This year, all of the students watched a fashion show, sampled exotic foods and visited exhibits about different countries.
Before music began for the fashion show, Xavier Mendoza, third grade, and his sister, Lily, first grade, anxiously stood on the side of the stage, dressed in spotless white traditional Nicaraguan attire.As they took to the stage, Lily said she became even more nervous when her brother started dancing to please the crowd.
“I was so nervous so I kept telling him to spin me,” she said. “He wasn’t listening, but he was holding my hand, so I just spun myself.”
Lily and Xavier said they had fun representing Nicaragua, because it is where they are from. Their maternal grandma bought the clothes and mailed them to the children just in time for International Day.
“It’s been really good to see everyone dressed up and everything,” Xavier said. “I’m really proud of myself and excited for the food. I want to eat everything.”
From the crowd, their mother, Jessica Agurre, cheered on her children. She said she was proud of them for representing their Nicaraguan heritage.
As the fashion show drew to a close, a fiery red Chinese dragon, accompanied by Amanda Tejkowski, kindergartner teacher and her educational aide, Rebecca Guglielmo, scurried across the stage. Their kindergarten class huddled under the dragon, helping it to dance.
One of those kindergarten students, Trinity Corson, said she is shy and was nervous to be on stage in front of everyone.
“I kept whispering to [my classmates] that we needed to go faster,” she said. “I really was scared.”
The Chinese dragon was created out of craft materials, a red sheet and a cardboard box. Guglielmo said the dragon was completely designed by the students, except using hot glue guns or spray painting the dragon’s head.
“We started with this idea when we decided that our class was going to study China,” she said. “We were studying about the Chinese New Year and all of the children were fascinated by the dragon.”
“I thought we should put a ball in the dragon’s mouth so it looked like the dragon was breathing fire,” Trinity said. “I also thought we should have sticks to hold the dragon up while we are walking underneath it. He could have spikes and poms poms all over him too.”
Over the past couple of weeks, Tejkowski’s class has learned several things about China by reading books and doing crafts.
“The Emperor lives in China and we learned how to say ‘hello’ in Chinese, ni hai, and more stuff, but I forgot some,” Trinity said.
In addition to the Chinese dragon, the students also created noise makers, paper koi fish decorations and paper cherry blossom trees.
Trinity said she had fun making all of the crafts, but her favorite part of learning about China was learning how to use chopsticks. The students practiced using chopsticks while tasting rice, noodles and egg rolls.
“I don’t use them like you are supposed to though,” Trinity said. “I just grab the two [sticks] and push them together. I don’t want to try and do it the right way, because my way is easiest.”
Down in the preschool students’ kitchen, parents, teachers and volunteers bustled about preparing sample cups of traditional foods from many different countries such as Germany, South Korean, Ghana and Puerto Rico.
“I’ve been refilling the cups and telling the kids what I am serving. I’m also making sure none of them have food allergies,” he said. “I’m just really trying to encourage all of the kids to try everything they can.”
Despite his efforts, Krug said some of the kids have mixed reactions about the curtido.
“One of the funniest reactions has been that I saw a kid come up here, pick up the cup, smell it and then they just put it down and walked away,” he said, laughing. “A couple of other kids were excited to get to my station because they have had this before.” Although Friday was his day off work, Krug volunteered to be part of the event even though he does not have any children attending the school.
“I have the mentality that it takes a community to raise children,” he said. “It takes a village, you know. I just want [these children] to grow up with some understanding of other cultures and what life is like outside the United States.”
“When I was a kid I never left the United States,” he said. “I never got introduced to this kind of stuff. So being able to help facilitate this learning has been very rewarding because I want them to get it even though I didn’t. It’s important for children to experience these cultures at a young age.”
Laura Adcock, English as a second language teacher at Barsanti, said being able to acknowledge different countries, their culture and differences, is a great way to celebrate the school’s diverse population.
“This is a military community and we have such a diverse population that we want to celebrate the diversity and prepare our students for a global community,” she said. “As they grow up and get jobs, the world is just going further in that direction.”
Adcock said this event seems to grow every year, because the students and parents enjoy it so much.
“A lot of parents tell us they look forward to this every year,” she said. “This year we have a lot of new parents that have participated. It’s nice to include everyone.”
This year, the fourth and fifth grade students created PowerPoint presentations about different countries across the world, while the kindergarteners studied China and the first grade students studied Italy. In Missy O’Dell’s third grade class, her students learned about Japan.
During the exhibits portion of the event, her classroom was transformed into Sado Island, Japan, where students could watch videos and learn the techniques and rhythms of taiko drumming.
O’Dell, who has been an educator for almost 40 years, said activities like these help students to better understand material by applying it to a hands-on activity. O’Dell said it is important for students to learn about other countries at a young age, because it helps them to be more accepting.
“I want our students to realize that the United States is a country that has always welcomed everyone. It’s a country of diversity,” she said. “I want to instill acceptance and understanding in children. Just because [they] come across something [or someone] that is different, it isn’t always a bad thing.”
Hugh McKinnon, Barsanti Elementary School principal, said although this is his first year participating in International Day, he has enjoyed every moment of it.
“It’s just been absolutely amazing,” McKinnon said. “We’ve been very pleased to have all of the parents and volunteers in the building. We have a great partnership with the community and appreciate their support.”
McKinnon said this event is an opportunity for students to gain a deeper, hands-on understanding of many different countries they have been studying in textbooks on online.
“This event helps us celebrate that which is America, which is a melting pot of so many wonderful cultures that bring so much to the table for our students every day,” he said.
TopicsAmanda Tejkowski, Barsanti Elementary School, China, Elisabeth Adamski, Fort Campbell KY, Hugh McKinnon, International Day, J. Robert kalsu, Japan, Laura Adcock, LIly Mendoza, Mari-Alice Jasper, Missy O'Dell, Nicaragua, Nicholas Krug, Rebecca Guglielmo, Sado Island Japan, Shanida Hatcher, South Korea, Trinity Corson, Vicky Shuler, Xavier Mendoza
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