I am super thrilled to have had the opportunity to organize our very first Annual Cultural Day Celebration. I have been wanting to put together an event like this for years but never quite got around to it. Thankfully, I teamed up with our Spanish teacher who was willing to help execute our vision. We also had the advantage of collaborating with several contacts at our local university and teachers at our school who were willing to perform.
Culture Day Celebration: The Event
Our Culture Day Celebration involved two parts. The first was to have students research and create a board to reflect a country of their choice. Some students chose their native countries, while others choose countries or cultures that interested them. The goal was to have students share what they have learned or know with their peers and the community. We displayed these boards in the office foyer so that guests, visitors, and the school community can enjoy. On the day of the celebration, we had student volunteers from our local university assist in our board exhibit and had our own students dress up in clothing to reflect their assigned country.
The second component of our celebration included two variety shows. For these shows we enlisted the help of more volunteers to perform either a song or dance from a different country or culture. Our performances included a bagpipe player, an Andean Colombian song played on a traditional flute, and a sing along to Japanese and French children’s songs. The shows also included student performances. Our 6th grade strings students played folk songs from India, Israel, and Jamaica, our Pre-K class danced to La Raspa, a folkloric Mexican song, and our music students led a sing along to the song, Funga a la feeya (in Swahili).
I involved my own gifted students in the planning and execution of the actual event. While the majority of my students completed boards as a group, I selected a few students to assist me in several tasks. My 4th and 5th grade students researched and created a slide show to present each performer. Introductions included a brief country description, which was read, and a slide show that projected a map, pictures of famous monuments or landscapes, and people. My students rehearsed their introductions diligently and made the necessary revisions for these. My 3rd graders assisted in distributing programs to guests and also served as ushers during the event. I had one of my 5th graders record the shows on a camcorder, while my presenters took turns taking pictures of the performances. Throughout the show, I also had my presenters take charge of my laptop, where they changed slides, played music, and lowered and raised the screen. I even noticed one of my students take initiative by adjusting the microphone for another student presenter.
Involving my students served as a valuable lesson for them. It gave them the chance to see how much preparation, work, and collaboration it takes to organize a school-wide event. More importantly, their work was showcased to an authentic audience, which I think was the most valuable lesson of all. Although we ran into some technical difficulties during our show, this helped them handle and solve problems. I was very impressed by their focus and enthusiasm and hope to include this student participation in future events.
Overall, the process of planning this event was as much a learning experience for me as it was for my students. I am thankful for having teachers at my school who were willing to participate in the event along with community contacts who also supported our event. My vision to expose our children to different cultures was a success. Several teachers and community members have already approached me about how much their students enjoyed the shows and how excited their children were about completing their boards.