A dragon twisting across the floor. Maracas clacking. Grass skirts swaying. Get ready for “World Culture Day,” an event presented from 6-9 p.m. April 9 by Ninilchik School’s K-12 students, under the direction of Bonnie Pierce and Jane Beck of Project GRAD.
“We’ll have music playing and little cultural camps set up,” said Beck. “The gym will be divided into six areas and the kids will become teachers and have fun sharing what they’ve learned about these cultural areas with their families. There’ll also be games, art and activities that people can participate in.”
Creating the event has been an avenue for studying other cultures, while enhancing the school’s multi-grade culture.
“We divided the world into six cultural groups and the kids were assigned at the beginning of the year to one of the groups that they’ve learned about,” said Beck of focusing on the broad regions of North America, South America, Asia, Africa, Europe and Australia.
The students created the flags of their countries of choice, made hats representative of the area and designed tribal shields with a crest representing their personal connection to the countries. They also baked bread.
Spanning Ninilchik School’s kindergarten through 12th grade, the project provided an opportunity to pair older and younger students.
“That was an interesting benefit,” said Beck. “Younger kids look up to the older kids, so we had the older kids help younger kids as a way to just enjoy each other and bring some joy into the school.”
The project also was a way to focus on research-based qualities that positively impact young people’s development and help them be caring, responsible, productive adults. These assets include such things as caring neighborhoods and schools, safety, boundaries, positive peer influence, parent involvement in schooling and time spent in creative activities.
“The more assets that youth have, the more likely they are to be confident, independent, fulfilled, satisfied human beings that give back to the community,” said Beck. “We want them to feel supported by adults, spend time with adults, engage in activities that are healthy and pursue their passions in a healthy way. … We want these kids to feel valued and honored, to loosen up and not take everything so seriously.”
As for the dances, shields and hats, Beck said, “That’s all kind of secondary. That’s been a back-door way to have fun with the kids.”
McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.