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The City Journals

Carnival immerses Bluffdale Elementary families in Brazilian culture

Mar 23, 2020 04:23PM ● By Jet Burnham

Two-year old Jalen Archuleta joins the drumming circle of Brazilian rhythms. (Jet Burnham/City Journals)

By Jet Burnham | [email protected]

The Bluffdale Elementary School PTA hosted a Brazilian culture night as exciting as a carnival you’d find in the streets of Rio de Janeiro, with Brazilian music, dancing and food.

“It's just fun to be able to have the whole student body learn about a different culture in an interactive way, where everyone can be immersed by that culture,” said Roquel Lubbers, who planned the event held Feb. 24.

Bluffdale Elementary is the home of Jordan District’s Portuguese Dual Language Immersion program. The last time the school hosted a Brazilian cultural event was to introduce the DLI program. Those initial first graders are now in middle school.

“It's a whole new population since then,” Lubbers said. “It's time we do another event to share different cultures for all the families to enjoy, regardless if they're involved in the program or not.”

First grader Noel Lewis talks a lot about what she learns in her DLI classes. Her mother, Kara Angelos, said their family enjoyed learning about Brazilian culture to better understand what Noel is learning but that the family night was a good experience for all students, not just those in the program, to learn about the culture.

“It's more exciting to see everyone be a part of it,” she said.

Brazilian performance groups added to the immersive experience with performances and interactive mini classes. Children joined in a traditional dance with Aquarela do Brasil, tried their hand at drumming with Samba Fogo and experienced capoeira—an Afro-Brazilian martial art with dance and music—with Utah Valley Capoeira.

“So many times, we get to see performances, which is really awesome,” Lubbers said. “But kids, especially elementary kids, are just at that age where they're willing to take risks. They're willing to get up and dance and try to sing. They don't have that embarrassment that older people tend to get as they age. So, I just thought, let's take advantage of that adventurous spirit that the elementary kids have—not just have them watch something but participate in something.”

There were also hands-on crafting projects for children to make drums, tambourines, shakers and hats out of recycled materials.

Attendees also got a taste authentic food catered by Tushar Brazilian Express. Their free samples of Brazilian cheese bread, Pão de Queijo, drew long lines.

Because they have two children learning Portuguese, the Sirrine family eats at Brazilian restaurants often. They have even tried to make some authentic dishes.

“We tried to make coxinhas—deep-fried dough with chicken inside—but it didn’t taste right,” said fifth grader Mary Sirrine.

Her mother, Janine Sirrine, believes her children benefit from the exposure to new languages and cultural experiences a DLI program provides.

Lubbers, who was born in Brazil, said it was important to her that her children spoke and understood Portuguese. She drives her kids from their home in South Jordan to participate in the Portuguese program. She was thrilled to plan the culture night.

“I will help in any way I can to bring the culture and do anything to enhance that part of the education that the kids get,” she said.

Jennifer Tolman is also from Brazil with a first and third grader in the program. She volunteers in their classrooms regularly and has conversations with the curious Portuguese-speaking students that she said are open-minded and capable of deep discussions.

Her husband, Josh Tolman, said his children get excited to learn about new people and cultures and that as they gain an understanding of an expanded world, they are willing to try new things.

Bluffdale Elementary has celebrated other cultures with a variety of family activity nights in years past. Tolman said he supports all of them and is interested to see what they have planned for next year.

“I would love to go to something like this for Indian culture or any of the many European or Asian cultures,” he said.