Emerson students explore different cultures through annual International Education Week

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Throughout the week, Emerson Elementary students explored different countries and cultures by hearing stories, learning dances and sampling food with local tour guides.

Westerville Central High School’s student assistance counselor Azalea Tang reviewed facts and details about China and Chinese culture with students, sharing photos from her visit to the Great Wall, answering questions about the Chinese Zodiac and offering milk candy from China.

Claudine Morales, a district bilingual specialist in Spanish, recounted a story when she visited El Salvador as a child. Her mother had told her that kids in El Salvador weren’t allowed to go to school unless they owned a pencil and oftentimes, families didn’t have enough money for a pencil. So she and her family brought pencils to kids in the area where her relatives live so they could attend school. Morales then gave Emerson students pencils with the flag of El Salvador attached at its base.

EL Parent Liaison Lula Abdull Mohamed shared the sights and sounds of Somalia by showing images of its cities and landscapes and playing its national anthem. Students could explore a display table with different items that show life in Somalia, from its currency to books written in Arabic. Students were invited to take a bottle of mango juice to try. 

This year, Emerson teachers invited staff from across the district to share their cultural heritage during the school’s International Education Week. Previously, the school hosted speakers from Westerville and beyond to share their stories or play music tied to their culture. 

With COVID-19 health and safety protocols prohibiting visitors to the buildings during the school day, Emerson staff leaned heavily on the Westerville Way, Principal Chris Poynter said.

“WCS staff always answer the bell for kids,” he said. “They all took time out of their busy days to prepare wonderful, engaging presentations. It was pretty amazing to see.”

Speakers included Latresa Rieves, Educational Equity specialist (African American culture); Jill Fogel, Special Education coordinator (Israel); Guerdie Glass, director of Special Education (Haiti); Lorena Pickrell, health aide at Emerson (Mexico); Cathy Monteiro, a reading teacher at Emerson and Hanby (India); and Gosha Geary, an EL teacher at Hanby and Hawthorne elementaries (Poland).

The International Education Week also featured games and activities from around the world on Wednesday. Students learned about the Tinikling, a folk dance from the Philippines; the Mancala, a strategy game that dates as far back as ancient Egypt; and Luta De Galo, a Brazilian children’s game. 

On Friday, more than 70 families brought bite-sized, self-served dishes for students as part of the event’s international feast.

“The big takeaway from a week like this is windows and mirrors,” Poynter said. “Windows are moments, events, texts where we try to look into someone else's life experiences and mirrors are when we look into one that reflects our own.”

“We try to provide both for our students. One student's window is another student's mirror. From there we can have wonderful cultural conversations, cultural connections, and begin to build something magical.”