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East Midvale students celebrate world cultures at Living Traditions Nights

Feb 27, 2017 01:44PM ● Published by Julie Slama

East Midvale Elementary students learn an ancient music art form from the Salt Lake Kenshin Taiko Drummers during the school’s annual Living Traditions Night. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | julie@mycityjournals.com
 
When East Midvale students walked into the ninth annual Living Traditions Night, they received a passport to six different Asian countries, and were presented with such questions as: what is a traditional Indian dish and how many languages are spoken in China?
 
About 450 students and their families walked the school hallways Jan. 19 to see exhibits created by each grade.
 
“We have over 20 countries represented by our 600 students in our school so this is a chance for us to get to know some of them and celebrate the students’ countries which strengthen our diversity,” Principal Justin Pitcher said.
 
Posters of Bangladesh, little booklets about South Korea, nesting dolls from Russia and more decorated the hallways.
 
“I love it,” said Amber Rice, parent of Shaun, a kindergartener. “I’ve learned things I didn’t know and it makes it a more enjoyable experience when students are involved and learning from each other.”
 
Second-grade teachers Robert Carter and Katie Alvord incorporated comprehension and fluency in the booklets that they had their students fill out about South Korea. Alvord, who taught in South Korea, also introduced some of the culture to students by telling them about school, the Korean writing system, sports, hobbies and the Olympics that were held there.
 
Fourth-grade teacher Michelle Schultz had her students use computer research skills to tie into writing and art when, as a team, they created posters. Then, they gave oral presentations to their classmates.
 
“Fourth-grade curriculum addresses where they fit into the world,” she said. “We start with Utah history and then broaden it to the United States and this takes it one step farther. It fits into every grade level, such as kindergartners learn traditions and celebrations. It gives us a chance to embrace our world and each other.”
 
Fifth-grader Samantha Erickson said that she likes celebrating different customs and has learned more about cultures since a girl from Bangladesh is in her class.
 
“She moved here in October and has told us about different foods and clothes,” Samantha said. “They play soccer and have a bigger meal at lunch than at dinner. They have a festival where they spray colored water in the streets and it sounds like lots of fun.”
 
Samantha and other students made their way to the multi-purpose room where a Chinese dinner was served to families. Then, each grade level sang songs from different countries. Kindergartners and fifth-graders sang “Holi Re,” a song from India and Bangladesh. First-graders sang the Russian song, “Volga Boatman” and second-graders performed “Arirang” from Korea. Third-graders sang “A New World” from China and fourth-graders performed “Wandering” from Jordan.
 
Following the students’ performance, Salt Lake Kenshin Taiko Drummers performed an ancient art form of music. After their performance, they invited students to beat their drums.
 
The celebration also included international flags decorating the hallways, which was part of a Boy Scout Eagle project donated by TJ Smith, a Brighton High student. Walls were covered with students’ interpretations of “What Diversity Means to Me,” which also were hung earlier at TOSH, the school’s business partner.
 
Community School Facilitator Shelley McCall said that during the week several families from other countries came into classrooms to share their culture and customs.
 
“It’s neat how we are learning each other’s differences so we can appreciate and have a greater understanding of one another,” she said. “It brings our community richer and gives our students a positive light of a bigger world.”

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