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The City Journals

Families bond through learning and activities during East Midvale’s Living Traditions celebration

Feb 21, 2019 12:10PM ● By Julie Slama

East Midvale Elementary families gather to listen to the Alpenhorns that were featured at its Living Traditions celebration. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

On a mild January evening, 113 families held passports to Europe as part of East Midvale Elementary’s Living Traditions program.

Students with their families rotated through booths, learning about Spain’s flag and capital city, what Norway is best known for, favorite foods of the Irish, the languages spoken in Belgium, dry summers in Italy and how long the Queen of England has reigned along with taking part in several crafts and activities, and even seeing if all the family members could fit in a British telephone booth.

“The living traditions festival is done to celebrate diversity and learn about other cultures and countries,” Principal Matt Nelson said. “With 13 different languages spoken at East Midvale, the living traditions festival gives everyone at the school, especially the students, a chance to see their cultures, countries, and unique heritages displayed and celebrated.”

Nelson said every year the festival focuses on different parts of the world. Each grade level focuses on a country, which they research. The students then display their findings through artwork, writing and projects that are displayed throughout the school. During the Living Traditions festival, students benefit and learn from their peers’ posters on display and complete the passport filled with questions.

Fourth-grade teacher Andrew Farley appreciates the annual cultural night, now in its 11th year.

“Living Traditions is a chance for us to celebrate our culturally diverse school,” he said. “We appreciate the different countries and their cultures our students bring and through this night, we can learn and share more about the richness of our diversity.”

Farley was helping at the Belgium booth, where students learned about their favorite soccer teams as well as that Brussels is the capital of the EU. His students also learned about windmills in the country, river transportation, tourism, dances, and languages spoken in Belgium. 

After more than 400 people wandered through East Midvale halls, they could enjoy an Italian dinner courtesy of the school and take part in Basque dancing and listen to Swiss alpenhorns.

Jake Hill attended the event with his preschooler Elsa, first-grader Damon and third-grader Margaret.

“It’s good for the kids to see how others live, their traditions and learn some of their history may have begun in other countries,” he said, adding that his wife’s background is Swiss, so he was glad his own children could hear the alpenhorns. “We’ve had lots of firsts coming to the Living Traditions nights. This is the first time they’ve seen the Basque dancers, and two years ago was the first time they’ve seen Japanese drummers. It’s been a lot of fun.”

Last year, students had a Passport to Africa and the night featured eight countries — Madagascar, Uganda, Ghana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Egypt, Botswana and South Africa.

Aubrey Lewis brought her two children, kindergartner Della and fifth-grader Chloe, to learn about different countries and cultures.

“This has been so incredible,” she said. “There are fun interactive activities, beautiful music with both the alpenhorns and the Basque dancing and a super friendly atmosphere. It’s good to see other families and get to know one another. My kids are learning a lot about the world. My fifth-grader studied about England – about the queen, author JK Rowling, rugby and the British words lift for elevator, trousers for pants and rubbish for trash. It’s been a great family time.”