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Midvale Journal

East Midvale students explore Africa during Living Traditions week

Mar 07, 2018 11:48AM ● By Julie Slama

East Midvale students and families create African paper dolls as part of Living Traditions night. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

East Midvale students didn’t have to travel to Africa to learn about its countries, cultures and customs.

Through the school’s Living Traditions week, students in each grade level learned about an assigned country and created posters that featured facts, customs, flags, animals, places to visit and more. Several classes also had fellow classmates speak about the countries where they once lived.

Third-grade teacher Keith Piccolo said students from Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Kenya talked about their countries, their language, weather and other facts about the countries.

“It gave our students a greater appreciation of the demographics of our school and we’re able to have a better understanding of cultures and traditions around the world,” he said.

Families of about 600 students, many who moved here from other countries, crowded the hallways and multi-purpose room Jan. 18 during the 10th annual Living Traditions night. 

When the students arrived, they received a “Passport to Africa” to eight countries — Madagascar, Uganda, Ghana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Egypt, Botswana and South Africa — and were presented with finding answers to questions such as which endangered animal is found almost entirely in Uganda and what would you typically eat for dinner in Botswana.

Community School Facilitator Shelley McCall said those countries were selected since the school has students who came from Uganda, Ghana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Botswana.

Kindergarten teacher Carrie Dumas said that her students were introduced to the different food, clothes, traditions and beliefs of Madagascar during the week, but the night allows them to see what others learned during the week.

“It’s an opportunity for families to come to school and learn about different places in the world, many that create our diverse student body,” she said.

Her students appreciated learning about lemurs and created their own paper replicas in class.

That night, students also crowded around the second-grade table where they had a chance to make an African paper doll.

“Students can make it dressed traditionally or as themselves, but it gives them a chance to express themselves as they explore other cultures and see the world from others’ perspectives,” said second-grade teacher Tanisha De La Espada, who came up with the paper doll activity.

Colleague Pam Leonard, who also teaches second grade, said that having a hands-on activity in the hallways was new this year.

“It’s a great opportunity for our students and parents to engage while learning about others and their traditions,” she said. 

At the table, first-grade twins Jashlyn and Joanna Sevrano were making dolls.

Their mother, Cony Perez, said that she hoped they were learning about the Ghana culture.

“I want them to learn about the culture, what they do, what they eat, and wear as they learn about making dolls typical of the Ghana people,” she said translated by her seventh-grade daughter, Emily Serrano, who said she appreciated Living Traditions nights when she attended the school.

Others in the community got involved, McCall said.

CHG Healthcare is participating in the Adopt-a-Classroom program through United Way of Salt Lake

“They came in and read with two classes—a kindergarten and a fifth-grade class,” she said. “They also supported making multicultural dolls with our after school students.”

Food services provided a traditional African meal with black beans, rice and curry chicken while a teen dance troupe, “Because He First Loved Us,” performed several cultural dances from Africa.

Student Jayden Graham said she was having fun learning about different countries.

“I learned Egypt’s big river is the Nile and the blue monkey lives in Rwanda and the Congo,” she said. “The Congo borders nine countries, spinach and pumpkin are common in Botswana and Oudtshoorn in South Africa is known as the ostrich capital of the world.”

Fourth-grade teacher Jessica Iverson said her students were motivated to learn about Egypt.

“I asked them to find 10 things about the country and they became so excited, they kept running up to me and saying, ‘I have another fact,’” she said, adding that they also watched a documentary about ancient Egypt and tried writing in hieroglyphics.

Iverson said that a student who lived in the Sudan spoke to her students, teaching them how to say “hello” in Arabic.

Third-grade teacher Adam Genovese had students who lived in Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo share about their homelands.

“One of them just moved from a refugee camp to the United States two months before school began and she told them this was her first experience in a school and couldn’t believe when she came that there was a school with teachers and books that was for her,” he said. “It gave our students an understanding of others and how different their world may be from Midvale.”

He said in his classroom, there are students who have lived in other countries — Iraq, South Sudan, several Latino and Hispanic countries as well as from the continent of Africa.

“Our classroom is from around the world,” he said. “This week teaches us to embrace that.”